Launching the camera should be easy

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| July 15, 2013

As we find new ways to interact with our phones, whether its through gestures or voice or our wandering eyeballs, we're opening the door for designers and developers to create some interesting, if not completely off-the-wall methods for us to do things with our favorite gadgets. And, for the most part, they're pretty great in their ideas, even if some might consider them gimmicks, and others might not ever use them.

Which is why it's good that companies like Samsung, who have just about pioneered the idea of shoving a ton of "experimental" features into smartphones, are willing to give us new features that stand out, and change the ways of the old. While our devices may be marvelous feats of technological prowess and design, there's no doubt that we still may get bored with them from time to time, so offering up these new features is a good way to stymy that result. At least for a little while.

When I reviewed the Galaxy S 4, I noted that the features that Samsung included, like Air Gesture and the like weren't necessarily all that gimmicky after actually using them. I can admit that at face value, just looking at the laundry list of features that Samsung included, may make it seem like a gimmick, but after having used most of them, I found specific situations where they actually helped.

Of course, this came down to the features working, and working properly all the time. Or, at least when I needed them. If I'm using something that allows me to scroll with my eyes, or with a swipe of my hand, it needs to work all the time for me to think it's an actual useful feature. If it doesn't work, then it's a broken feature and I turn it off, to forget about it forever. Luckily for Samsung, in my usage, the features worked, and worked well enough for me to use them and not discard them entirely.

The other thing with these features is that they have to actually be useful. A feature just to have a feature is pointless. If the IR blaster in devices like the Galaxy S 4 or HTC's One didn't work as they were supposed to, it would have just been a wasted effort and an ultimate waste of money. If Nokia's Lumia 1020 doesn't take ridiculously good photos, then that 41-megapixel camera will be ultimately seen as a pointless endeavor, and that won't be good at all.

Features need to make sense, but not just on a piece of paper. They have to work, and add to the overall experience. Sure, some aspects of a phone can exist simply to show off, to brag about, but if you're asking me, I want my features to make my experience easier.

Which is why when reports of the always-on voice controls for an upcoming device from LG began to make the rounds, I wrote about how great that sounded. Being able to control just about every single thing on my smartphone through voice? Sure, I'll admit that I'd probably still use my fingers more often than not, but being able to do that is pretty cool. The feature would help in specific situations, I believe, and that's the goal we keep talking about.

A recent promotional video for Motorola's Moto X made the rounds over the weekend, and in it showed off the Moto X's voice-centric features. But, through the whole thing only one new feature stuck out to me: the way you can activate the camera. The voice-over says in just two quick twists of the wrist you can activate the camera, and actually seems to insist that sliding an icon or touching a button is "bad."

The video's voice-over makes it sound great, but to see it in action is just laughable. It's like the "shake to refresh" feature that's still around in some apps. It looks ridiculous. And then, even in the promo video, she waits a moment for the camera to launch after she does it. Launching the camera from the iPhone's lock screen, or from Android's lock screen widget, or from Windows Phone's physical camera button, or BlackBerry 10's camera icon on the lock screen is fast. Fast enough, considering I'm using a smartphone to take photos.

What's more, none of those options look ridiculous in action.

Launching the camera should be ridiculously easy. It should be as quick as the operating system allows, along with the coupled hardware. But, more than anything, launching the camera should be easy. I'm not saying that "twisting your wrist" twice isn't easy, but it's also not as easy as activating an icon on a screen. I'd venture to say it's not any faster, either, but I guess that'll be left up in the air until I can actually use it and try it.

I am all for new features, and new ways to interact with our phones, but as I outlined above, I want those features to make sense. To me, this method of launching the camera just doesn't make sense. Maybe I'm stuck in the old ways, and this new implementation is the way of the future. If that's the case, then I guess I don't mind sticking to the past. Not in this particular situation, anyway.

So what do you think of the way that Motorola wants you to launch the camera? I'm sure they'll have the more traditional ways in there, obviously, but do you think you'll use their method more than the others? Do you think it's the best new way to launch a camera since the physical camera button? Or do you think it's just a gimmick, and one that will disappear and be forgotten about right after launch? Let me know!

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