Unfade: A photo scanning app from the makers of Scanbot and an Apple World Today Top Pick of 2016

My go-to app for making my world paper-free is Scanbot (free with in-app purchases). Every bill, statement, or document that comes into my house gets an immediate Scanbot scan, then is stored locally and in the cloud for future reference while the paper is shredded or recycled. Today the same company that developed Scanbot -- doo GmbH -- released a new app called Unfade ($4.99) that makes scanning, touchup and storage of old photographs as easy as scanning paper documents with Scanbot.

The scanning process is remarkably similar to Scanbot's, but easier. All you do is tap a button to start scanning, and then point the iPhone camera at printed photos one at a time. There are some simple rules regarding lighting that you need to follow, but once that's understood, it's as easy as pointing the phone at the photo, following any onscreen prompts (get closer to an image, can't find the photo so tap on it, turn phone 90°, etc...), and watching as the app captures the images.

"Orange" color-shifted original at right, Unfade scan at right. 

"Orange" color-shifted original at right, Unfade scan at right. 

The best thing about Unfade is that it is simultaneously analyzing the printed photos for any fading or color shifts, all of which are well-known from years of analyzing how photos react to light or being placed into photo albums. Filters to correct the fading and color shifts are then applied to each photo, and they're stored into the album. The image above shows an example. The original photo at right had a severe orange color shift; even a black cast iron rail in the back of the photo looked orange. Unfade was able to bring the colors back to reality.

Once photo are in an album, the album can be renamed (it gets a generic date stamp by default), and any photo can be rotated, cropped further (photos with rounded corners will sometimes show the color of the background material upon which the photo was placed for scanning), deleted, or the filter can be removed.

It's obvious that the developers took the years of experience with paper scanning from Scanbot and applied it to Unfade, because the app is fast, accurate and incredibly easy to use. I was able to scan 15 images from an old photo album in about 5 minutes, and none of them needed to be retouched. Similar apps have always required manual cropping or application of filters to get rid of the faded look; not so with Unfade.

After trying a number of iOS apps that promise to be usable photo scanners, it's great to see that doo GmbH finally created one that works. Unfade works so well that it's our second Apple World Today Top Pick of this week alongside Promise Technology's Apollo cloud appliance. Unfade has made printed photo scanning and color correction so easy that I know what I'm going to be doing -- scanning all of those old photo albums with Unfade and saving the images on the Apollo!