While the iPhone can already be considered beautiful in itself, there’s nothing wrong with adding some personal touches to it. Specifically, setting your own custom backgrounds – after all, it’s your phone so why not make it look like it belongs to you?
So far, for creating backgrounds on your computer, you had to manually set the size of the desired image (which at least for me involves Googling around a bit) and then send it in some awkward way to your iPhone. Not to mention setting images for your contacts.
With Ensoul, a nifty Mac application, you can create backgrounds and set images for your contacts with just a few clicks, work in a beautiful interface, and transfer everything to your iPhone easily. Meet your iPhone’s new beauty advisor!
Getting Familiar With the Interface
Ensoul is available from the Mac App Store, so you won’t need to worry about the installation process. When you open the app for the first time, you will be prompted to select the model of your phone. You can choose between a retina display or a classic display (retina starts with the iPhone 4 and means it has a higher resolution). Once you make your selection, you enter the main window of Ensoul.
On the right you have access to your own iPhoto library and your Pictures folder as well as to the images that come included with the app. To the right you will see your own wallpapers (after you have created them) and you can access all of your contacts (drawn from the Address book on your Mac).
Dominating the main window is the central iPhone simulator. Of course the screenshots cannot show this, but it’s animated! The “slide to unlock” bar, for example, behaves just like the real thing on your phone. This realism and level of details makes it perfectly easy for you to see how your final result will look like on your own phone.
No more guess work to imagine where the overlays on the lock screen will cut into your image. With Ensoul, you’ll see it right there on your Mac before you even transfer the images!
If you want to browse your images more comfortably, just click the tiny “+” button on the bottom left of the application window. It will bring up a file explorer that should satisfy your needs.
Now that you know your way around, let’s start to create some wallpapers. The obvious choice are of course the images that come bundled with the application. You can start with those to get a feeling for the app and the start adding your own images from the photo library, the pictures folder or via simple drag and drop.
If you add photos to your iPhoto library while Ensoul is open, it will not recognize the new import. You need to restart the app in order for the new iPhoto images to show up.
When you drag images into Ensoul that have been taken with an iPhone camera, they will already be properly sized. But if you downloaded images from the web or took them with a digital camera, they might very well be larger than your iPhone’s screen. You can use the Navigator, which will pop up as soon you select an image, to find the part of the photo that you would like to be displayed.
As you can see, there are a wealth of options available. Especially noteworthy is the editing window. It’s as simple as the controls you know from iPhoto. Just use the slider to tweak your image, but bear in mind that your iPhone’s screen and your Mac’s screen can have – most likely – different settings.
What seems to have the correct brightness on your computer may look washed out or completely black on the mobile device. Experimenting with one image and different settings will help you understand where the differences are, and you can adjust all future images accordingly.
There are additional controls available at the bottom of the app. They allow you to rotate the image, lock or unlock your simulator’s screen, resize the image or bring up the Adjust controls. Very simple and straightforward.
What I enjoy about Ensoul is that you are not limited to your lock screen. I personally dislike images with lots of details on my home screen where it creates too much chaos together with the app icons. So you can simply drag the slider on the simulator to unlock your phone and enter the home screen or use the bottom controls.
In order to see how an image looks on your home screen, you have to add it to your wallpapers first. The “Add to Wallpapers” button is then replaced by the “Slide to Unlock” option.
Checking this setting will help you to see if the details you like about an image will be properly visible on the home screen or if you should go with a different image altogether.
Setting Contact Images
As well as creating wallpapers, Ensoul also allows you to easily set images for your contacts which will pop up when you receive a call from them (along with being visible in your address book). This is, in my opinion, by far the easiest way to edit contacts; you can of course do it via the address book, but it’s so much nicer this way.
In order to assign a (new) photo to a contact, simply drag it onto Ensoul or select it from your photo library. Resize to your liking, assign to a contact and voila – that’s it already. With the next sync, the new contact image will be transferred to your iPhone.
Syncing Images to Your iPhone
Now that you’ve created all your wallpapers and personalized your contacts it’s time to move them over to your phone. Click the circular arrow icon in the lower left of the application window and a guide will pop up, walking you through the necessary steps.
Make sure to read it when you use the sync for the first time to ensure you have all the necessary settings correct.
I was admittedly sceptic the first time I heard of Ensoul. As an avid Photoshop/Pixelmator user I thought I wouldn’t need such an app; after all, why spend money on something that you can do already with your own tools. But after trying Ensoul for just a couple of minutes, it became clear to me that this app really is worth the $9.99.
It is incredibly easy to use and doesn’t require you to know anything about the resolution of your screen pixel-wise (other than whether your model has a retina display). You don’t need to know anything about cropping or about resizing. All you do is click through your images and see instantly how it will look on your phone.
One of the biggest advantages is that you don’t need to go through the painstaking process of setting images as background on your phone and then go to your home screen to see the effect properly. You can now do it all in Ensoul.
Add to that the ease with which you can assign photos to your contacts, and Ensoul is the perfect app for those of you who like to personalize your iPhone and enjoy the process thoroughly!