Blur Studio: Perfect iOS 7 Wallpapers, Every Time

I’ve been giving some thought, recently, to many of iOS 7’s design changes. I’ve noticed that some of them have been seeping through into my own professional design — partially because I admire the work that’s been done and partially because I spend so much time on my iPhone. What we live with is often what inspires us, and sometimes not in the ways we expect.

There are three areas of iOS 7’s design that most strike me, though: the depth, the blurs, and the translucency — in other words, the subtlety with which layers and a nearly-tangible sense of depth is created in a virtual OS. It’s pretty incredible. I love the way, in particular, that wallpapers work within the system, and have spent a little more time than I’d care to admit selecting my own for a few weeks at a time before changing them just to see a new “effect” with the blurs and transparency effects. Although it’s not the only (or even the first) app to play with wallpapers and iOS 7-like blur effects, Blur Studio is my favourite. Read on to find out why.Like the article? You should subscribe and follow us on twitter.

Design Standards

Blur Studio is a very simple app, but one that looks like something Apple would have made. It allows you to choose photos from Flickr, take a picture, or import one from your library to get started, but if you just want a simple and beautiful wallpaper, it’d be hard to go wrong with the demo they provide.

While other apps simply offer a toggle that allows you to blur a background, Blur Studio goes quite a bit further and makes the whole thing a much more involving process. The different photo effects and processes are easily navigable on the bottom of the screen, and the iconography is simply gorgeous.

This is the first step.

This is the first step.

The buttons, which are more like thin glyphs, are white, but easily legible against darker or vibrant and colourful backgrounds (what the app is clearly made for). Sadly, the buttons don’t hold up as well on white backgrounds. The app isn’t smart enough to test the hexagonal value of a colour and change the glyph colour accordingly, which is a shame because I’ve encountered situations where they’re virtually impossible to see.

When they are visible, which actually happens most of the time, I suspect you’ll be pleasantly surprised by most of the functionality. The main Blur tool works exactly as you’d think it would. You adjust an onscreen slider from left to right to increase or decrease the blur on a photo. The button with three circles in it allows you to apply a different filter to your photos, with each filter lovingly made to look similar to its corresponding colour on an iPhone 5c (that’s what I call smart attention to detail). If you have an iPhone 5c, I guarantee this app is going to make your wallpapers amazing.

Step 2.

Step 2.

The onscreen Home button reveals what your home screen would look like if you were using it with the picture you’ve been editing. I love that touch. Think of it like an in-app preview for the photo. The check mark, of course, will save the image to your Camera Roll, but if you slide to the right you’ll get another couple options. Namely, there’s an optional slider for Saturation (it sits beneath the Blur slider, which is obvious thanks to a great animation), a Share Sheet for sharing your edited photos on social media, and a brief Settings menu.

Step three: apply a filter.

Step three: apply a filter.

When you’re done editing your photo, nine times out of ten, you have beautiful results that really make a home screen sing. This means the app works as advertised, but I also think it’s a slight problem.

The Problems

Of course, I’m not about to write a review if I’m not prepared to talk about some of the flaws with this whole setup. First of all, as I mentioned, I’m not a fan of the white glyphs on a white background. They look awful, if they’re visible at all, and that’s a serious problem.

Step four: adjust saturation.

Step four: adjust saturation.

The app also does have a small problem with communication. The Saturation slider is great, but it has zero labelling. While it’s obvious to me that I’m saturating an image, I’m not sure it’d be obvious to everybody. If I pass my phone off to a friend, would he or she automatically know how to use the interface? They wouldn’t, and that makes this feel a little counterintuitive.

But finally, the real problem (as I briefly alluded to above) is pretty simple: either iOS 7 looks better with blurred backgrounds, or you’re going to lose a sense of individuality with your wallpapers now. This is clearly a first world problem, but neither solution is entirely preferable.

You can even test how it'd look on a stock iOS 7 home screen.

You can even test how it’d look on a stock iOS 7 home screen.

If the problem is that photos need to be blurred to look their best as home screen wallpapers, then that fault lies with Apple and not with the user. In that case, Blur Studio is exactly the app you need. But I beg to argue that photos don’t have to be blurry to look amazing as iPhone wallpapers on iOS 7. I’ve been cycling through different photos for month, all of them from my own personal collection — nature shots and concerts I’ve been to, mostly — and nearly all of them have looked incredible.

The big design problem: good luck making out white glyphs against the white part of the image.

The big design problem: good luck making out white glyphs against the white part of the image.

That’s not to say blurring the pictures couldn’t improve my experience with the home screen, but I’m saying that it’s not necessary to do so. In fact, in doing so, I would occasionally be robbing the photos of their values as stories. Right now, I have two pictures from a concert I went to set as wallpapers. My lock screen is a desaturated picture of a bassist in the de fact rocker’s pose. My home screen is a vibrant photo of the band’s lead singer, the whole picture draped in the blue lights of the stage. The singer’s got one hand in the air with the devil horns raised, and I just happened to catch the perfect moment where it looks like he’s staring right at my lens — but I was using a telephoto zoom from the bleachers. Those little things make these pictures cool bragging rights, and valuable personal memories for me. Blur Studio doesn’t offer me the same braggadocio or nostalgia factors. And that, I think, is its most serious flaw.

Blur Away

But that doesn’t change the fact that Blur Studio does a great job at blurring photos. Just like it advertises, and in fact, the best on the App Store. But it’s a frivolity that you might not necessarily need. If you’re okay with that, then I have no problems recommending it — it’s a well-crafted app with good intentions. But despite that, it’s hard to recommend it for everybody.

This is one app purchase where I would say you likely already know what camp you life in — pure or filtered photos — and you can choose accordingly. But if you’re going to go with an app to blur photos, make it Blur Studio. It really is the best.


Summary

Blur Studio does exactly what it says on the label, but I'm not sure if it's a truly necessary app for most of us.

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