Why iOS Should Have Display Calibration

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As both a designer and a photographer, I’m particularly sensitive to viewing accurate colours. It’s kind of an obsession that has been drilled in to me by years of working with fussy clients. I suspect I’m not alone in that either. When it comes to Apple’s iOS devices, especially the iPad, the retina display equipped tablet has been a great addition to the average imaging professional’s toolkit. Despite the technological advances of Apple’s displays however, they can still present the same problem for anyone who needs accurate colour: inaccurate calibration.

All modern screens have variations in their white balance. No matter how good the manufacturing, this is still an issue. And it’s been an issue for many of us fussy people since the iPad came out. Personally, I had big problems with my iPad 3. It took me 3 attempts to get one that was acceptable, and even then, I wasn’t entirely happy with it. Many people have posted about having to deal with the same problem. In my case my screen was distinctly pink. The calibration wasn’t just a little off, but it was way off. It’s not just designers and photographers either who notice this. I’ve read stories of people returning iPads ten and eleven times before getting one without flaws. While there have been many other issues too (dirt under the screen etc) the number one issue with iPad and iPhone displays seems to be caused by badly calibrated screens.

These returns must be costing Apple a fortune. While it clearly can afford it, at the end of the day, most of these problems could be solved if Apple simply allowed the display on iOS devices to be calibrated by the user. It could be simple as a colour temperature slider, or as sophisticated as adding an SDK to allow third parties to develop proper calibration hardware that connects to the lightning port. If you’re thinking that, perhaps the hardware isn’t capable of handling this type of calibration, you’d be wrong. There’s already a software tool for calibrating the display of iOS devices on Cydia if you jailbreak your device. I don’t want to jailbreak my iPad though, and I suspect many others don’t either.

The iPad in particular has been a great tool for designers and photographers. This might seem like a minor issue, and it certainly doesn’t affect usability (except when the calibration is really off. )
A simple software calibration option would make a huge difference, especially if you’ve been unlucky enough to get an iPad or iPhone which as less than optimal calibration from the factory. In the post-pc era more and more people are using tablets as their primary or secondary computing device, or will do in the future. For imaging professionals, a correctly calibrated display is more of a necessity than a luxury. At the end of the day, a simple software fix could save Apple money in the long run. I just hope Apple will realise this sooner rather than later.

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