New iPhone 4 problem: Camera crashes, takes down FaceTime

FaceTime when the iPhone's camera doesn't work

FaceTime when the iPhone's camera doesn't work

You’ve heard about the yellow screen splotches and the wonky antenna that requires you to hold the new iPhone just right.

But now a new issue is coming to light: a faulty camera system that not only affects your ability to take pictures, it can foil your attempts to use FaceTime, the video chat feature that is the iPhone 4’s top talking point.

I ran into this issue over the weekend. Apple kindly sent me two iPhone 4s to test out. I’ve been trying to convince my wife that we need to upgrade our iPhone 3G’s to the new model, so I thought I’d show her how FaceTime works, figuring she’d be as wowed as I was when I tested it on a friend’s phone in the office.

But it didn’t work. While the phone I was using received my wife’s image, the small box that was supposed to display my image wasn’t showing anything. Meanwhile, on the phone my wife was using, she could only see her own image in the small box on her screen; she didn’t get any images from my phone.

FaceTime on the iPhone with the faulty camera; note the square that's supposd to show the forward-facing image

FaceTime on the iPhone with the faulty camera; note the square that's supposd to show the forward-facing image

I figured that I must have done something wrong or that there was a glitch, so I tried again. Same result. I tried turning off the phone and turning it on again. Same thing.

Wondering if there was something wrong with the camera on my phone, I called up the camera application. It seemed to work fine. I was able to take a few pictures. But when I tried to switch the in-use camera from the rear to the forward-facing one, the program locked up, showing an unchanging image.

I closed the program and tried to re-open it, but the virtual shutter refused to open. I couldn’t even use the rear-facing camera. The only way to get the camera working again was to turn off the iPhone (by holding down the power button for 5 seconds or so and sliding the slider to “power off” the device) and then restarting it.

It turns out that I’m not the only one that’s having trouble with the new iPhone’s camera. I’ve found four different discussions in Apple’s own support boards in which people have claimed having similar issues. It’s unclear yet how many iPhone 4s are affected by the problem and whether the camera problem is affecting FaceTime on other people’s phones.

The iPhone's camera app, locked and refusing to open.

The iPhone's camera app, locked and refusing to open.

An Apple representative I spoke with today said she was unaware of the issue.

Regardless, given the different issues that have come to light with the new iPhone 4, it sure looks like Apple’s quality control was asleep when the new gadget was being readied for store shelves.

How about you? Have you experienced this problem? If so, please let me know.


Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Share this Post

  • Andrew

    When using the camera taking photos, it freezes up and will only let me out of the problem by rebooting. Trying to go to home screen doesn’t work

  • RW

    No problems of any sort with my phone. Are you sure you just haven’t activated on of the iPhones lesser known new features…The idiot detector. Reset the phone – it is not rocket science.

  • Greg

    I’ve used Facetime a dozen or so times already with 4 different other users.
    Neither myself nor anyone that I’ve chatted with have had this issue.

    Then again I haven’t noticed any loss of signal reception (no matter how I
    hold the phone), or any yellow on the screen, or a cracked screen for that

    Maybe I got the only fully functional iPhone made?

  • patrik

    No problems yet.

    Maybe my phone is one of the 99.3% that works?

    Given that it’s Apple, 0.7% is enough to garner front page headline coverage.

  • robert rowell

    mindless loyalty? yup. there’s an app for that.

  • Chet

    Yea, I think it’s funny how my Palm Treo didn’t work more than it worked. My laptop and desktop at work have the blue screen of death at least once a week, and have to be rebooted every day, but it’s not big issue. My iMac is rock solid. I can’t remember the last time I had to reboot (to be honest I don’t think I know how to reboot my iMac!) But people continue to say that Mac stuff is crap, and iPhones are full of bugs… I did too for about 20 years (then I bought one.) One thing is for sure if Apple was asleep it was only a nap, and they will make it right. PC makers don’t even try!

  • Phil

    I have had these following problems over and over;

    Major proximity sensor issues, face dialed, face time lock up, hang ups, conference
    calls, random dialing. Intermitantly the phone turns on and off.

    When sending a photo, a six second delay to load an email address.

    Phone locking up and Freezing, have to re-boot.

    Looses Voice mail password frequently. Really bad.

    Forgets wifi passwords frequently.
    Apple is sending another phone, but acts surprised when discussed, but my
    partners are having similar issues. It’s really the poorest product launch
    I can remember. Major QC issues.

    We are Apple pro users and are really put off and shocked that it’s this bad.

    Even more shocked that Att&t is still the carrier.

  • i have not had any problems with the camera. i also don’t know anyone that i can do face time with but taking video and photos has worked so far. i will however say that when holding the phone a certain way it kills the signal even when im near a tower also 99% of the time i cant send or receive data or phone calls over 3g. even when i am near a tower. my old 3gs running the os 3.0 always had fantastic service in the Detroit area. i will say that after upgrading my moms 3gs to the ios4 she started having some trouble getting data to load over the 3g network too. a little bit of research shows a lot of bugs in the ios4 operating system which should be fixed with an update soon. and a build flaw with the iphone antenna in the iphone 4. most research shows that putting a case on the iphone 4 resolves that problem. i have also had alot of apps that are buggy and crash alot but that will be resolved when the app developers update the apps to work with ios4. i can only say that apple will have a riot on there hands if they don’t make right and fix the problems. i will be the first one to start the riot which i hate doing because i like apple and have never had a bad product from them.

  • just wanted to add that at&t is not the one to blame this time as i always got great service with them on my 3gs and when i got the iphone 4 it changed. this time its apples fault

  • Kurt

    no problems with iPhone 4 after new sim card. Received my iPhone in mail wed and had no problems until thursday afternoon – dropping calls. Went to ATT and got a new sim card and no problems since. However my wife has has dropped calls with hers. Similar issue with iPad – had problems with wifi, saw all the neg reports on the web, went to apple and they replaced it and no problems since. I think that putting out so many new devices so quickly to meet demand there are quality issues. So if yours doe doesn’t work, take it back.

  • ngoodman

    I have a problem receiving images on my new iPhone 4. I noticed the problem when I was not able to view images, which were sent as email attachments from others. So, I tried emailing an image to myself from one email account to another email account. The image I’m referring to was taken with my iPhone 4 and stored on my iPhone 4. Still, I was unable to view the attached image. Next, I tried emailing myself the same image to the same account that it was sent from. Once again, I was unable to view the image. I’m at a loss. What do you think?

  • Steve Jobless

    @patrik must be an Apple fan boy. Which hole did you pull the 99.3% out of?

  • harry

    One of the worst releases of apple, my camera just dosent work period, freezing all the time, foxconn and apple gave us a disaster this time

  • Jessica Schrody

    Me & my friend both experienced this exact same problem while an Apple technician was showing us the feature inside the store. When it didn’t work he took us to another table & used different phones.

  • sower

    My 3G’s camera doesn’t work either! I’m so frustrated, I knew i should’ve stayed at 3.1.3!!!!!!

  • Felipe

    Agree with Patrik, anything that doesn’t work for a couple of people out of millions turns into a headline just because is apple. The crows from the newspapers and etc just hungry of a bit of readers.

  • Ifoneusr

    Can it be possible that you and your wife were using the same wifi network? Which means both of the phone has the same wan ip address?

  • David

    My new iPhone 4 camera would not focus and the FaceTime application also did not work when I contacted Apple’s FaceTime demo link. After contacting tech support and backing up and restoring the iPhone, they agreed that it was a hardware problem. I was given a new, replacement phone and the new iPhone’s camera appears to work this time. I have not tested the FaceTime feature yet.

  • andrew

    My iphone 4 has worked immaculate since I opened the box, I have no complaints…I feel bad for those that got a faulty phone. A few phones out of 1.7million isnt bad what so ever. Big deal, all they have to do is go swap it out, the only unfortunate part is the fact they have to go through the hassle. Tough luck.

  • Mark

    I have the same problem you described. When I open the camera app, the picture on the screen is the rear camera, which works fine. But when I switch to the front camera, most of the time, it locks up the camera app. Occasionally, switching to the front camera does work. When I make a face time call, I can see the caller, but they cannot see me, and there is no image of me on my phone in the upper right corner. Also, touching the change camera button, does nothing during the face time call.

  • Alex Smith

    When over 600k devices launch there are always bound to be errors.

    A .7% error ratio is a bit of an overstatement.

    4 discussions on apples own forum I would assume, warrants at most 20

    My heart goes out to you on this. I know if my phone’s camera crapped out on me I would be more than inconvenienced, but if the problem where to persist I’m sure this is under by apple’s coverage.

  • Dave

    Yep, same problem here. Not only does my iPhone 4 crashes when I try to use the camera it shows a black screen and then the apple logo appears as if it was restarting.
    What a dissapointment.

  • revdren

    me n my gf just got our iphone 4’s yesterday morning. We let it charge the whole day, and then synced it to our itunes and then started playing with it. We ran our Facetime app and it seemed to be working fine. Then as she proceeded to press the button on her phone that changes camera direction, her Facetime call lost connection. We did it a few more times and her phone just drops the call. we alsol tried to use her camera just to see if the camera directional change would work, and guess what………..? the shutter did’nt even open, there was absolutely no image showing on her screen, just the image of the digital shutter. thats why im going to ATT now!!!

  • Anna

    My screen freezes just like yours, I can’t get it to work, but the camera for the facetime works just fine…it sucks

  • Chris

    Just got a new iPhone 4 and my camera app will open pictures but I can’t use the camera or video features, let alone get to FaceTime. Calling Apple soon. Sounds like I am not the only one with this issue.

  • Duncan02

    I had the same problem right out of the box. The camera on my iPhone 4 would do the following.

    1. Stutter and freeze on a frame for a few seconds and resume.
    2. Freeze altogether on a frame.
    3. Freeze when taking a shot (where the virtual aperture graphic is in the closed position)
    4. In video mode, the camera would exhibit all of these symptoms, too. I shot a 5 minute video and it stuttered several times, including an occasional freeze of magenta (purple-pink) lines going across the screen.

    I brought my iPhone to the local Apple Store. The Genius told me it could be a software issue, so she did a factory restore. Afterwards, I played around with the camera at the store and the exact same problems manifested. When I showed her, she gladly replaced my iPhone with a new one and so far, the camera works just fine.

    I’m not an expert at this problem but wanted to share my experiences… in my case, it seems to be more a hardware issue than a software issue.

  • Dana

    I received my iPhone 4 Friday and have exactly the same problem. Shutter
    locks up and then reboots the phone–or I have to to unfreeze the phone.
    Scanning the ‘net — see many, many complaints. Will call Apple today and
    let you know what happens.

  • Laurie

    I have had problems with the camera freezing up and not being able to switch to the front facing camera at all. Have not tried the facetime yet due to no friends with new iphone. I will be going to Apple store today.

  • shawna

    I’ve got the same thing, didn’t even get a change to try face time because it locks the whole phone off. No power at all.

  • James

    I have had this camera problem. Just got my phone in the mail. Took about 20 pics and then it started locking up on me. It takes restarting it for the virtual lens to open back up. Then it locks right back up. Had to happen to some one. Sucks to be that person!

  • Apple has put out an inferior product, end of story. It is one problem after another with this phone. The folks over at Motorola and Verizon must have big smiles on their faces with the pending launch of the Droid X.

  • Ari

    Same issues on my iphone plus the fact that if the camera tries to focus, the iphone crashes. I’m planning on taking it back to the store for a replacement.

  • Annie

    I just got my phone 1 day only and tried out the facetime. It worked for about 1 minute and freezes up. Tried reconnected several times but still freezes every time. Could it be the WIFI internet connection?

  • LondonUser

    I have the excact same problem (front camra, signal, and sensor issues) Apple’s QA sucks.

    it is not a coincidence. Apple are again shooting themselves in the foot doing exactly what they did in the 90’s going on their own, releasing buggy software shortchaning customers and eventually, every one drops them, except the addicts.

  • David

    I am having the same’s horrible!!

  • Chris

    My wife just picked up her iphone 4 today and it has the camera problem….and we were worried about making phone calls

  • Ryan

    It’s amazing how badly iPhone 4 sucks. It’s also amazing how Apple Fanboys will defend it until the end of time. I will freely note first off that I am not a fanboy by any stretch, however I do have the 3GS, which I love. I did buy the iPhone 4, and it was so terrible that I returned it and went back to my current 3GS. It was just that bad. It’s hilarious to me what Apple fanboys are saying in forums and blogs all across the web, defending this thing like it’s some sacred gem, pretending all its issues don’t even exist. Ridiculous. Check out the video I made on YouTube about “An Apple Fanboy’s view of Steve Jobs, the Iphone 4, and Life… “. It’s at

  • Roy671to415

    My camera is fine but I noticed that sometimes when I delete a photo and reopen the pictures the deleted photo is still there. I’d actually have to shut of then turn on again.
    Dosent really bother me too much, but it’s still a bug that needs a fix.
    My 3GS was not as buggy as my iPhone 4

  • BK

    I just got my phone and started playing around with it. I had this problem as soon as I started trying to use the front camera.

  • Nicole

    My husband just got his new iPhone today, and is having the same exact problem. He said it worked at the store (switching from back camera to front camera). We just synced his phone and updated to the new software update that was available (really? didn’t this thing just come out?? heehee), so maybe that is the culprit.

  • I have the exact same problem as the poster of the article. Started after about a week. Coincidently started after I upgraded to 4.01 so not sure if that has anything to do with it.

    In the middle of a FaceTime call the camera stopped working and ever since I have the same problem whenever I try to switch to the front facing camera

  • Tom Auriga

    My wife’s keeps getting error message, iPhone Facetime not completed setting up

    WHAT A RIPOFF, i’m taking BOTH phones back…

  • james braselton

    hi there your wrong face time works but you said that the other person uwas useing iphone 3GS 3GS dose not have face time you need buy the other person iphone 4 then face time will work

  • Cindy E

    My phone is brand new today. The camera freezes up and the screen displays pink lines in regular mode and in video mode. The FaceTime feature has numerous problems freezing my image sent to others and the pink lines often appear. AT&T recommended I restore the software. I did so, but it didn’t help. I’ll return it tomorrow. What a pain!

  • Joe

    I have the exact same problem on my iPhone. I can’t use the front facing camera and every time I try, the camera locks up and I have to reset the power. If you find a solution please let me know.

  • stephen

    I have an Iphone 3gs and since i updated it the camera opens, freezes, then reboots… can’t take pics….

  • kk

    I have the exact same problem on my iPhone. I can’t use the front facing camera and every time I try, the camera locks up and it won’t work even after reseting the power. If you find a solution please let me know.

  • Sarah

    I’m having the same problems described in the article. This sucks.

  • fran

    Front facing camera used to work. I have installed 4.01 and don’t know if it stopped working when that was installed. I can see others but they can’t see me.

    Tried Facetime with a friend in a different city so we weren’t on the same wifi network.
    Tried turning off Facetime and then turning it back on – didn’t work
    Tried turning off phone then turning it back on – didn’t work
    Deleted aps that related to camera – didn’t work

    Back facing camera works great!
    Any other suggestions?

  • Catherine Rodriguez

    omg mine too it hasnt locked but it turns off when i take a picture? is it a setting or a technicall problem? it was fine at first can i go to apple nd get a new one? or just get the 3g again ?

    help me plz