Review: ColorSnap for iPhone by Sherwin-Williams

So I’m going through my twitter stream a while back and I see several links from some former colleagues of mine, pointing to a new iPhone app called ColorSnap, by Sherwin-Williams. So what right? There are a million (ok, fifty thousand) iPhone apps out there—what’s so interesting about this one?

Well, two things. One, it was developed by my former employer, Resource Interactive, for whom I have the utmost respect and must also disclaim. Two, it is a tool of sorts, which I seem to be more interested in these days rather than just games or social networking. I wanted to check it out.

How it works.
You use ColorSnap to take a picture of anything (a room, an object, whatever). After the image is selected and zoomed in to the right spot in the application view finder, you move your finger over that image and a small square-shaped magnifier follows your finger around and shows a detail view of the color in that part of the photo. Once you find a color with which you are satisfied, you press the “palette” button and it identifies the primary paint color you have just selected and offers two secondary colors that go with it. For example, if you have a dominant object in a room, like a giant red leather couch, you could use this tool to find some supportive secondary colors for the walls and furniture surrounding it.

photoIn my case, I took a photo of the drab, tan filing cabinet above my desk at the office and ColorSnap suggested both Leisure Blue and Repose Gray as complimentary colors for my cubicle. Leisure Blue at the office? Oh the irony. This is great though! I am going to suggest to my bosses that a Leisure Blue leather love seat and a Repose Gray Teutonic wool rug be added to my cubicle. Hey, I asked Sherwin…I’m just sayin’.

Anyway, you can save that color set into the ColorSnap library and can also use the iPhone’s location services to automatically find the nearest Sherwin Williams store (or also search by old-school zip code, if you want), and then go and get your paint.

Initial impressions.
As a former employee of the place that built this app and in an attempt to remain impartial, I think I test drove ColorSnap harder than I normally do when testing apps and frankly the results were impressive. No crashes. No hang time. It really seemed simple and solid in use. But I still wanted something else impartial to base at least some of my measurements against. So I decided to also measure the app against the DotMobi Web Development Guide’s Mobile Strategy section as well.

Paraphrasing from the guide—successful mobile websites and apps should successfully answer the following questions:

1. “Why should it be mobile?”

2. “How does your audience benefit from a mobile presentation [of content]? What tasks will they accomplish with your mobile content? Does the immediacy of mobile help the user?”

Well, the first thing I ask myself about all iPhone apps these days is this: is it really useful or is it a bandwagon agency/dev shop move to prove competency in order to get into the mobile development game? With this application there is clearly a use that it fits and it’s not just eye candy. With regard to the question of “why should this tool be mobile” the answer is that painting is usually location specific and this tool helps people easily make color decisions, from place to place. Essentially, ColorSnap is a dynamic swatch book that also helps users pick out complimentary paint colors.

As far as benefits, ColorSnap’s mobile form factor is perfectly suited for being able to quickly move from location to location (say, in a house or apartment), choose and save color schemes for that place, compare them and then find the closest place to buy them, as paint. Its main benefit is that it streamlines that whole process without the clutter of unnecessary features. It is simple and clear and at a glance you immediately know how to use it. That gives the app depth and clarity. Just as one would take a portable set of color swatches through a room, ColorSnap is a natural-feeling alternative. Couple this basic use with the iPhone’s screen real estate and top-notch color depth you can see why it is a great choice of platform for this kind of tool. And besides, how many people have had advanced color theory training anyway? (Ok, bad example since half of all iPhone owners are probably flaky designer types). Um, well… who really wants to carry a laptop or a dusty color wheel around with them from room to room to process colors?

Is it lacking anything?
Color can be subjective and the app makes no bones about the fact that light source, individual perception or other factors could affect the results and therefore the color you see on the screen may not be a 100% accurate match to the paint suggested. A color-calibrated, exact-match, pigment analyzer it is not. But for “ballparking” your painting plans, ColorSnap really can help you make some basic color decisions and is a convenient tool for giving you a reasonably accurate palette of complimentary color schemes. In fact, my only gripe with the app at all is that I wish it skipped the short intro sequence when you launch it, but that’s just me. It is probably part of the loading sequence.

The Bottom Line.
ColorSnap is a useful and casual tool to consult when picking out color schemes for any painting project. Ultimately, rely on your own good sense when making your final decision on color (or your significant other’s if you are colortastically challenged), but this tool can help you get close and offer sound color suggestions. It’s fun to use too. Sherwin-Williams and Resource Interactive hit one out of the park with their development of ColorSnap for iPhone!