Panorama Wallpapers in Apple’s iOS 7

Posted by jesse | Posted in Tech | Posted on 12-06-2013

Example of the dynamic lock screenWe’re going to take a bit of a “technical” turn today, folks, as I have been messing around with the new iOS 7 on my iPhone 4S, and have noticed some complicated behavior with the new “Panorama” wallpaper feature included therein. Plenty of people have covered the fact that Apple has included some (so far, two, to be precise) dynamic wallpapers, which float bubbles and rays of light around the screen as you tilt your phone. They’re actually quite nice, and really not too distracting. It was also covered today that you can set a panoramic photo as your wallpaper (either on the lock screen or home background), and the phone will pan around the image as you tilt, as well. This is also quite pleasant, though I think the sensitivity needs to be adjusted a bit.

I wanted to try out the panorama wallpaper myself, so I headed to my “Photos” app and noticed that there is a dedicated “Panoramas” folder in your albums, including any panoramas you may already have in your camera roll. I selected one of them, chose “set as wallpaper,” zoomed it to fit, and told it go go for it. However, that just gave my a static shot of the zoomed in portion of the panorama. After some experimentation, I realized that you have to go into the “Settings” app, choose “Brightness & Wallpaper” and select the panorama from there. Sure enough, they work great, though my phone started occasionally rebooting when I applied a couple of them (not too surprising in an initial beta), so I removed them.

Example of an iPhone-taken panorama being selected as a wallpaperThe only panoramas I had in my camera roll were from a couple of runs I had done recently, and were relatively boring landscapes. Therefore, I headed off to the internet to find some more interesting panorama backgrounds. In particular, I wanted an interesting/detailed panorama for the lock screen, and a more subdued panorama for the home screen background. I found a bunch of candidates and saved them in a dedicated DropBox folder (you’re welcome). After launching my iPhone’s Dropbox app, I saved a few of the panoramas to my camera roll. Unfortunately, none of them then showed up in the special “Panoramas” folder, and if I tried to choose them as a panorama background, they wouldn’t work like the other dynamic panoramas. Dead end.

Next, I loaded up iPhoto on my MacBook and imported all of the panorama photos into my photo library, knowing that they would then end up in my Photo Stream (shared between my Mac, iPhone, and iPad). Magically, as soon as they were in the Photo Stream, some of them also appeared in that special “Panoramas” folder, and they were then available to choose as a dynamic panorama wallpaper via the settings app! But why weren’t ALL of them showing up in the “Panoramas” folder? It must have something to do with the aspect ratio, but what’s that magic ratio at which it decides to put it in that folder? Example showing how a panorama from Photo Stream doesn't work correctly.To figure that out, I took an image (of a Fisker Karma) that was 2000 pixels wide, and starting at 2000 x 1000 pixels (2:1 ratio, or 2x, which is clearly NOT panoramic), I made versions that were wider and wider, and loaded them into my Photo Stream, until I pinpointed what ration triggered the inclusion in the “Panoramas” folder. That magical ratio is anything wider than 5:2, or an image that is 2.5 times longer than it is wide. Specifically, in my test cases, if the image was 2000 x 800 pixels, it would not show up in “Panoramas,” but if it was 2000 x 799 pixels, it would show right up! So, to create a panorama that takes advantage of the height of your iPhone’s 4/4S screen, it would need to be at least 2401 x 960. If you were making one for the iPhone 5, it would need to be at least 2841 x 1136 pixels.

Now that we have the ratio figured out, I figured it was time to apply some of these cool wallpapers I had found as dynamic panoramas and enjoy them! Unfortunately, I hit my final stumbling block (so far) when I found that none of the imported panoramas filled the screen in the same way that the camera-shot panoramas did. They only take up about 2/3 of the vertical space of the screen, and they “pan” in a very jerky manner, which is distracting and not at all what I was hoping for. See below for a video comparison:




After further experimentation, I’ve discovered that if you save the panoramas from your Photo Stream to your Camera Roll, at some indeterminate point afterwards, they will begin acting like “proper” panorama wallpapers, just like the ones taken with the iPhone camera. So far, I’ve been unable to determine what makes them finally “activate” correctly, but I noticed the behavior when all of a sudden the one panorama I had saved locally suddenly started acting correctly. I’ve since saved the remainder of my panoramas, and… Actually, none of the rest of them have “fixed” themselves – dammit….

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