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While the Apple iDevices have come to have quite good screens since the release of the iPhone 4 and iPad (the earlier iPhone and iPod screens were pretty awful) – one major missing feature in iOS of interest to any image maker is colour calibration. There are no iOS facilities for colour calibration, which may limit the usefulness of the iPad as a serious portfolio display tool.
The good people of DataColor are attempting to rectify this with the release of the SpyderGallery app for the iPad (iTunes link). This app is free – if you have a Spyder3 (now Spyder5) and an iPad, then you should download it and give it a go.
First, you download and install the app from the Apple app store. You then click on the Spyder icon to get started, and it will email you a link to a desktop application you must also install (on to a computer on the same network as your iPad). This is needed because the iPad has no USB port so you can’t plug the Spyder in directly to take measurements – instead the Spyder gets plugged into your computer and the measurement data is sent back to the iPad via this small application on your computer.
Once everything is installed, calibration works much as normal – you start the SpyderGallery app in your iPad and choose the Spyder icon to kick the process off. It prompts you to place the Spyder on your iPad’s screen:
Click ‘OK’ and away it goes – a bunch of colours are displayed on screen and measured by the Spyder. The process takes a few minutes and requires no further user intervention.
Once it is done you can check the ‘SpyderProofer’ for some basic visual feedback on the results. In my case (I’ve tried it on two iPad2s) the improvements are quite noticeable but not earth shatteringly dramatic.
Note the calibration only works within this app – iOS offers no facilities for system wide calibration unfortunately, so you won’t see any improvement in Safari or your email, for example. But within the SpyderGallery app, all images are now displayed with colour management. You can also get it to automatically add a watermark to all of your images as an overlay when displayed – this can either be text or an image such as a logo or copyright symbol. This is a nifty time saver – you don’t need to watermark the images before sending them to your iPad, it can be just done dynamically in the gallery app. Nifty.
So – all in all, it’s pretty good and certainly improves the display of images noticeably from an accuracy point of view. Plus you can’t beat the price! That said, the difference with a new iPad is not dramatic and it’s debatable whether it will make a big difference to anyone but the image maker – likely people viewing the folio will not notice the improved colour as the default display is already very good. That said, as the iPad screen ages, the pre- and post-calibration results may widen so it may be that this app really shows its strengths in the longer term.