iPhone Apps Can’t Access Photos and Don’t Show Up Under Settings > Privacy > Photos

Photo by Dominik Dancs on Unsplash

Steps

Your apps can’t access your photos on iPhone. You’ve tried a half dozen supposed solutions but nothing works. Do not despair!

Follow these steps to grant apps access to your photos on iPhone:

  1. Settings > Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions > Photos > Make sure it’s set to “Allow changes”
  2. In the app you’re trying to grant access to your photos, try accessing your photos again; It should prompt you to give permission; Accept
  3. Now back in Settings > Privacy > Photos, you should see the app and you can give it Read/Write permissions, for example
  4. If you still don’t see the app in Settings > Privacy > Photos, here’s another trick that may work (this worked for WhatsApp): Take a screenshot; Click share; Share to WhatsApp; If prompted, accept granting permissions to access your photos; At this point, WhatsApp was already able to access the photos, no need to go back into Settings > Privacy > Photos

Note: This solution is confirmed to work for iOS 12 as of May 2020.

Commentary

iPhones used to have a reputation for being easy to use and great for those who aren’t technically inclined. Well today, iOS is one of the worst user experiences of any product I use day to day. Not to mention that iOS lags behind its competitors in nearly every aspect except security.

This issue is a perfect example: allowing third party apps to access your photos. Should be simple, right? Something everyone would want to do. The issue: when you go to Settings > Privacy > Photos, no apps show up. Or at least not the app you’re trying to grant access to. Some research suggests that an app actually has to request access to your photos before it shows up here. Well in my case, with a common app like WhatsApp, nothing I tried would make the app show up under Settings > Privacy > Photos.

Research also turned up something about checking Settings > General > Restrictions. Well in iOS 12 Settings > General > Restrictions doesn’t exist. Fair enough, the menu structure changed. But if it did change, surely Restrictions should show up using the Settings search feature, right? Wrong. The only result that shows up is Screen Time. Obviously not related to granting access to photos, right?

Well after digging for another half hour, I found out that the Settings search feature is just really poorly implemented because Restrictions does still exist in Settings, but now it’s under … wait for it … Screen Time! Of all places!!! Wait — that’s what showed up in the search above but seemed so obviously unrelated to granting access to photos.

So after about an hour of research, I found the apparent solution. But not so fast! There was still one trick required to get WhatsApp in this case to be able to access photos. See the solution including the trick above in the Steps.

By the way, as far as I can tell, the default iOS 12 setting is, incredibly, to “not allow changes” to apps which can access your photos (under Settings > Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions > Photos). What’s worse, there’s no indication whatsoever in any of the Settings screens to point you in the direction of this setting.

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Software engineer crafting full-stack, cloud-native solutions for enterprise

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David Good

David Good

Software engineer crafting full-stack, cloud-native solutions for enterprise

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