iPad Pro 9.7-inch and the Curious True Tone Display


Apple today introduced a 9.7-inch version of the iPad Pro, and I think it’s the next iPad for me. Although I really liked the larger iPad Pro (see my review in the Seattle Times), I found myself drawn more to the traditional size of my trusty iPad Air. It was better for reading and certainly better for carrying around (considering that the iPad is not my main computer; your mileage may vary).

The new iPad has just about everything the larger iPad Pro does: faster A9X processor, four great speakers, Apple Pencil support, a Retina display (at 2048 by 1536 pixels), better cameras, and—surprisingly important to me—a Touch ID sensor; my little iPad Air is the first generation, which does not have Touch ID.

But there are also two details that I’m looking forward to learning more about and experiencing in person. The iPad Pro page reads:

A color standard big enough for Hollywood.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro display uses the same color space as the digital cinema industry. This wider color gamut gives iPad Pro up to 25 percent greater color saturation than previous iPad models. So colors are more vivid, true to life, and engaging.

This sounds very gee-whizzy, and the optimist in me wonders if this could actually be a step toward having color profiles. The realist in me is pretty sure it means the display technology is just improved, and there’s just the one default (as has always been the case with the iPad models).

The other new feature, though, is even more interesting:

See things in the best possible light. Whatever the lighting.

People love using iPad everywhere. That’s why the new 9.7‑inch iPad Pro has a True Tone display. It uses advanced four-channel ambient light sensors to automatically adapt the color and intensity of the display to match the light in your environment. Which means reading is more natural and comfortable — almost like looking at a sheet of paper.

In theory, this sounds great! How often have we turned on the iPad and been blinded by brightness or the stark white of a minimalist app? Making the viewing experience more comfortable in a variety of lighting conditions is quite cool.

For photographers, though, this sounds like a giant hassle. If the color temperature of the screen is changing based on surroundings, that means colors are going to shift. Viewing and editing photos becomes more of a crap-shoot. I hope there’s an option to disable this feature (or maybe there will be an API call that would enable developers of photo-editing software to turn it off while the app is running). [Update: I confirmed with Apple that you can turn off the feature in Settings.]

We’ll see. I’m looking forward to some hands-on time with the device to check these out in person.

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  1. I totally agree. My first thought was: well, there goes even the possibility of color management! It seems like such a basic thing to me, and Apple has made it so incredibly difficult for anyone who wants to work in a color managed workflow.


  2. Here’s hoping there might be a way of disabling True Tone?


  3. I just confirmed with Apple that yes, you will be able to turn off True Tone in settings.


  4. Another interesting thing with the addition of the true tone display – they are adding 4 ambient light sensors to allow the ipad pro to detect the light. Do you think this will be able to be used by developers to replace grey cards? If you can accurately detect color temperature, it seems to reason that we could utilize this to give a wealth of information regarding light settings both out in the field throughout the day and in a studio if it were recording during lighting setup. 4 sensors though! It could be held by your subject for a test shot and give exact details on everything! Game changer?


  5. My biggest concern would not be the shifting of the white point – this could actually be great, because then the screen’s white point corresponds to the ambient light’s color temperature. This would be actually a good thing (if you want a “controlled” surrounding, just install D50 or D65 lighting at your workplace ;)).

    No, my biggest concern is the general lack of color management in iOS. There might be something, but it seems that nobody knows, and it can’t be controlled. The majority of apps does not do any color management at all, meaning that photos that are not in the sRGB color space are shown *with the wrong colors*! With the knew P3 color space on the iPad Pro 9.7″, it would be even worse, because *no* image would be shown halfway correct – who’s jusing P3 in photography???

    So far I have heard or read *nothing* about Apple addressing this in iOS. Rumors and announcements for iOS 9.3 have nothing in it that would even point in this direction. And what about all the old apps that relied on sRGB?

    I know of only one iOS photo (editing) app that actually respects color profiles in images (but gives no control): Lightroom for iOS. Even Photoshop Fix ignores profiles in images (the last I looked). So this will be interesting …


  6. I did some quick tests with iOS 9.3 and 9.2 (on two different iPads), but became some weird results concerning image color profiles, color spaces and color space transformations. I have to digg deeper, but it looks as if at least the Photos app on iOS 9.3 does indeed something with color spaces (as the OSX version does), but it looks not straight-forward …


  7. […] after Apple announced the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro, I wrote a very quick take on the new True Tone display feature. True Tone automatically adjusts the color temperature of the iPad’s screen to complement the […]


  8. […] after Apple announced the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro, I wrote a very quick take on the new True Tone display feature. True Tone automatically adjusts the color temperature of the iPad’s screen to complement the […]


  9. […] iPad Pro 9.7-inch and the Curious True Tone Display […]


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