Take command of color with ColorBurst

ColorBurstColorBurst (or, to give it its full name, ColorBurst — The Color Combining FX Booth) is a new iOS release from Fragranze Apps. It’s available now as a heavily ad-supported free download from the App Store, with an optional in-app purchase to remove all advertisements. The app is currently highlighted in the “New” section of the Photo & Video category on the App Store.

ColorBurst doesn’t set the best first impression thanks to a very tacky-looking main menu screen in which the option to actually begin using the app is the third option down, not the first in the list. The menu screen is also blighted not only by two banner ads at the top and bottom of the screen, but also with regular pop-up ads that appear at set intervals regardless of what the user is doing. Some of these are in small windows that must be dismissed with a tap on the close button in the upper-right, while others take over the whole screen. Ads may be removed by tapping the “Upgrade” option on the main menu and making an in-app purchase.

Upon choosing the “Start” option, users are then invited to either start a new session or resume a saved one. Upon starting a new session, the user is presented with their device’s photo library — there is no facility to directly take photos from within the app — and then load an image into the workspace. The image is automatically loaded and desaturated, and by using their finger on the touchscreen, users may selectively restore color to the image. The brush size may be adjusted and four variants selected — two with hard edges, two with soft. Another button allows the user to switch between a view of the image as it will look when finished and a view that highlights the area they have “brushed” in bright red, and another still allows the colored and desaturated areas to be inverted. Buttons at the top of the screen, meanwhile, allow users to switch between colorize and desaturate modes for the brush, or simply to move the canvas around to get a better view of what is going on. There is also an undo function, and a pop-up menu in the corner of the screen.

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ColorBurst’s core functionality is actually pretty good — the interface is intuitively laid out and the selective coloring/desaturation works well. Everything else about this app, however, completely destroys all the goodwill built up by that core functionality. The ads are the biggest problem — granted, they can be easily removed with an in-app purchase, but to allow, for example, pop-up ads while users are scrolling through their device’s photo library shows a wilful lack of regard for the non-paying user’s experience. On more than one occasion I was attempting to pick a photo to edit and ended up accidentally tapping on an ad which appeared between swipes — to add insult to injury, the app does not appear to support multitasking, meaning that having been thrown into Safari to follow the ad link, I then had to start all over again.

The app is also incredibly unstable, complaining of low memory on an iPhone 4S even when very few apps were running in the background. I also could not get the “Save Session” button to work even once during my time with the app — every time, it kicked me out to the home screen, losing my work altogether due to the app’s failure to support task-switching. This occurred regardless of whether or not I had received low memory warnings, and whether or not there were any apps running in the background.

On the whole then, what could have been a good photo manipulation app is completely crippled by some of the most aggressive advertising I’ve ever seen in a mobile app, making the whole thing a terrible experience for the user. In short, this app is a prime example of how not to use advertising to support your free app or nudge users in the direction of in-app purchases. Avoid.

You can follow ColorBurst’s progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.