iPhone’s Biggest Flaw: Vertically Oriented HD Video Recording

Dear Apple,

Okay, that’s it. I’m sick of this. Fix it, already.

As a long-standing iPhone user, I feel the need to bring to your attention a massive oversight that has slipped your attention with every OS revision you’ve released: enabling users to record vertically oriented video. Portrait mode is awesome for still photos, but not recorded video.

Never in my entire existence on the planet have I seen a video created by a user who intended on having that video recorded in a vertical orientation. Most consumer HD viewing experiences don’t work that way. Nobody stands their HDTVs in a vertical orientation, and an extreme few have vertically oriented monitors attached to their computers. Vertical video broadcasts can be equally as awkward. There’s really no need to enable either, anymore, but my beef is primarily with recorded video — with the portrait broadcast a close runner-up.

It is quite possible that the user intends to record the video in a vertical orientation to begin with, expecting the video would record precisely what is viewable on screen at the moment of capture. I could imagine you might want to do this if you were recording something that was more tall than it was wide. But… this just… never seems to work out.

Who embeds (wants to view) videos formatted in a portrait orientation?

I’ve had more than a few videos ruined because I was holding the iPhone parallel to a flat surface — like shooting an object on a table while hovering directly above it. I had always intended on shooting in a landscape orientation (and even held the phone in such a manner while recording). However, because I failed to check the screen orientation before pressing the record button, the result is not just a failed video recording, but a rather peeved user as well.

The answer isn’t “you’re holding it wrong.” Suggesting that the user is incorrect in this scenario is unfair, especially when the issue can be addressed with a software revision to the Camera app. I can’t imagine the feature would be limited to any iPhone that had been enabled to record video, either, because people have been recording vertically oriented video on the iPhone ever since you enabled them to do it.

Not being a UX expert, I can’t make formal suggestions as to how you might address this “problem” in software, but I’d imagine it would include some kind of new icon that would alert the user to an alternative recording orientation (along the lines of your excellent camera-flipping icon). Or, quite possibly, be set as a default of landscape recording instead of vertical if the user was holding the phone in a portrait orientation.

You require users to double-tap the screen to get a full field of view of the video dimensions, so it’s not like I’m out of line to expect that you’d also be able to figure out how to accommodate the death of vertically oriented HD videos.

While I haven’t done any kind of formal polling, I’d imagine that the vertical-happy faction of your audience is slim. The circular lens functions irrespective of screen orientation, so this is certainly not a hardware flaw. Fix it.

Thank you.

Article Written by

Chris has consistently expressed his convictions and visions outright, supplying practical information to targeted audiences: media agencies, business owners, technology consumers, software and hardware professionals, et al. He remains a passionate personality in the tech community-at-large. He's a geek.

  • http://twitter.com/TriforceEagle TheTriforceEagle

    Easy Fix, Just turn it on its side!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000061961790 Ian Jackson

      That’s not his point. It shouldn’t matter what orientation you record from, it should look great no matter which orientation it’s at. With it how it is, it feels really lazy. Like they made the camera, and then said “Screw it, we don’t need to fix this, next step.”

  • http://twitter.com/lhamil64 Lee

    Another thing I wish it would do:
    If the user hits record and THEN rotates into landscape, switch the orientation! I hate it when I’m forced to watch a portrait video, then find out they actually did turn it into landscape and I have to watch it sideways (although usually a video like that isn’t really worth watching anyway).

  • Metroview

    I hate when the orientation is wrong when I clearly set my iPhone horizontally to take a pic. Everything is so perfect at the moment the picture is taken only to see that the moment was captured vertically :(

    What sucks even more is when you forget the orientation lock is enabled, and prevents you from landscaping captures and snapshots.

    • Adam

      Actually, even with orientation lock enabled, the camera still orientates.

  • http://www.stevenwb.com swbuehler

    Whoever thought the iPhone should shoot vertical video needs to be shot. I can’t stand watching them.

  • http://www.stevenwb.com swbuehler

    Whoever thought the iPhone should shoot vertical video needs to be shot. I can’t stand watching them.

  • Kyle Polansky

    While I agree horizontal aspect ratios work better, I think Apple did a good job of giving it’s users choice. Either way, a quick 90 degree edit will fix everything.

    And BTW, I have used TVs mounted vertically (as computer monitors). It’s a lot easier to write code and view long web pages. Horizontal is better for watching videos and looking at pictures because your vision is wider than it is tall.

    • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo

      If the phone was held in a vertical orientation, a 90-degree edit would be… fruitless, unless you watched it while laying on your side. :)

  • michel404

    Glove and Boots did a nice episode on this issue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bt9zSfinwFA (they called it VVS)

  • http://twitter.com/LucidStrike (╯°□°)╯ Aaaw yeaaah!

    I get what you’re sayin’, but vertical video has its appeal. https://vimeo.com/videoschool/lesson/85/lets-get-vertical

    • olenholm


  • http://www.anthonyguidetti.com/ Anthony Guidetti

    On Windows Phone, when you click the camera button, it defaults to Landscape.

    • http://twitter.com/tWiZsHiZ sHiZ.us

      Really, I did not know that.

  • Vertical Video Noticer

    I’ve seen one use case for vertical video that made sense: fashion runway shows. They can make efficient use of the frame shot vertically, since the subjects are vertical (women wearing clothes) and then shown on vertically oriented HDTVs in the designer’s retail stores (where they take up less wall space this way). It makes sense in this scenario.

    I still agree with you. I’m just sayin’.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jbuell Jonathan Buell

    every camera in the world takes pictures the way your holding it. if you want a vertical shot hold it that way if not hold it the other way. you people need to get a clue and stop trying to make people change so you can continue to be an idiot

  • Jerry Davis

    You forget this is Apple and they only think in terms of their own walled garden. A vertical HD movie looks perfect on another iPhone, or even on an iPad. So if you’re making a video of a person’s talking head and it’s meant to be viewed on an iOS device, it’s fine. For the rest of the world it’s annoying.

  • lairdp

    Wow, what a stupid complaint! By default the iPhone does the right thing, which is to film in whatever orientation you’re holding your camera, and it shows you exactly what you’re doing. If you want to video something tall, hold your camera vertically. If you want to video something wide, hold your camera horizontally.

    Locking the screen so that it doesn’t rotate, and then complaining that the screen doesn’t rotate, seems unreasonable.

    And not letting anyone record vertical video just because you don’t want to also seems unreasonable. If you don’t like vertical video, don’t use it. But there are many things which are naturally vertical (e.g. people, buildings, trees), and photographers have been composing vertical as well as horizontal photographs since the 1800’s, so I think that humanity will (possibly with one exception) be able to adapt to shooting video that’s vertical instead of horizontal.

    BTW, switching orientation in mid-video is messy – the video formats encode the resolution in the header, so changing the shape of a video violates the format spec (and thus won’t rotate in mid-playback). But if you really care, you can easily load the video into iMovie (or whatever) and split the video and rotate the video when the camera was rotated.

    • olenholm

      have you ever watched a vertical video?

      • lairdp

        Yep. Do you own a phone made since 2010?

        • Tom Sittler

          Do you own a TV or a computer or a tablet made since… ever?

          • lairdp

            Sure, what’s your point? Do you own a tablet that can’t physically be rotated 90 degrees? Or that video can’t be rotated, scaled, letterboxed, cropped, etc., freely so that any aspect ratio can be displayed on any modern device?

            Look, the reality is that human vision covers roughly an oval shape. So the rectangular shape imposed on a video is an artificial imposition caused by it being easier to make cameras and displays that cover rectangles (and deal with x/y coordinates, scan lines, stacks of film frames in a projector, etc.). The ratio of those rectangles has changed over time, so different devices use squares, 3:4, etc., depending on their application. There are widescreen movies that are much wider than standard or wide-screen TVs – would you argue that you can’t watch those movies on any existing TV?

            Now that there are round LCD displays, perhaps we could all switch to using the natural shape of human vision? :-)

  • Paul

    I think a few people have missed the point here, if you want to record vertically that’s fine. All that is needed is a toggle switch to record in landscape mode even if the phone is held vertically, there Chris would be happy!

    • Jack Walsh

      Everything in life happens in landscape, that’s why our eyes are side by side and not, one on top of the other. On the EXTREMELY rare occasion that you need a TALL SCREEN video, THEN turn the thing on its side.. Video cameras have always been BUILT taller than they are wide, but default to LANDSCAPE. They have a landscape screen and viewfinder… All the tripod mounts made for the iphone are set up in LANDSCAPE MODE.

  • http://twitter.com/tWiZsHiZ sHiZ.us

    It’s not just iPhone, mostly all phones do that. I believe it should be in the settings, ‘Allow video portrait mode’. Every phone I’ve ever owned that shoots video, this has been an issue. Sometimes hitting the record button and needing to capture something really fast, the phone’s orientation at the time of pressing the button, the phone thinks it needs to shoot it portrait, I have lots of videos like that. It is annoying and I wish most phones have the option to turn that off.

  • http://mrcab666.livejournal.com/ MRCAB

    Unless the video is never to be seen outside the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad, there is no reason for this.

  • http://www.realtimeoutsourcingservices.com FerdinandFelix

    Definitely agree with you on this. Thanks for this post. Cheers.

  • BBaijnauth

    When you hold a phone you naturally hold it vertically. Most users who take videos want them to be viewed horizontal/landscape because all watchable screens are horizontal. Changing the way you naturally hold your phone just so you can get the right view is uncomfortable and the majority of the time the thought of you changing the orientation of the phone doesn’t cross your mind. It makes sense that the way you hold your camera that’s the way it shoots video; that’s how all other “real” video cameras work, it’s just not a problem because when you pick up one of those cameras you naturally hold it horizontally. We live in a society where video content is viewed horizontally but we use more devices that shot videos vertically; eventually one of these need to change. We either have more tv’s and movie screen in the portrait orientation or we start to walking around with phones that we have to use in landscape.

    • Ruudfood

      “…the thought of you changing the orientation of the phone doesn’t cross your mind”. Why? Because you’re too stoopid for rational thought?!

  • HateAppleFanboys

    I swear – iphones are everywhere now – therefore so are their videos – and these irritiating vertical videos makes me want to snatch every iphone video flooding youtube and flag it!!!

    Who the HELL was the retard who thought vertical video was a bright idea??

  • Coal Akida

    Do you know how nice it would be to slip the phone in your pocket and record in Landscape rather than portrait, it would be fantastic. Please someone make an app for this.

  • vowvoonrsq

    “Portrait mode is awesome for still photos”

    No, it’s not “awesome” for photos either.

  • Greg

    Flip the phone and move on. Get a clue.