For many years blind users have been able to blank the screen for security reasons (you don’t know who’s looking over your shoulder) but now the battery savings that come with unlit pixels will be available for everyone thanks to a new feature in iOS 11.
The much-rumoured dark mode
Like dark matter, which we know to be out there even though no one has actually seen it, there have long been rumours about Apple introducing a ‘dark mode’ in iOS which gives users the option of turning the predominantly white background of most screens to black. We’ve not seen it in the wild as yet, but most Apple pundits believe that it’s out there…
One reason why black will be so significant in iOS 11 is that the next iPhone (will it be called the iPhone 8? Or perhaps they’ll jump to 10 as it’s the 10th anniversary) will definitely feature a different screen technology than all other iPhones to date. The screens thus far have always been LCD which are backlit uniformly across the screen, whereas the new screens will be OLED (organic light-emitting diode) in which each dot individually lights up – thus saving energy for every unlit pixel.
So having the choice of a predominantly dark colour scheme in iOS will have very significant savings on battery life.
Fear not – dark mode is already here
I’ve got some news for you - dark mode has actually existed ever since the iPhone 4S. It’s been lurking in the Accessibility settings.
If you’ve never gone in to explore what they can do, I’d recommend everyone check them out.
Those features aren’t just for people carrying some sort of official ‘I have a disability’ ID card. If we could rename that selection of super-powerful customisations, then the most appropriate term would probably be called ‘Personalisation’.
Called 'Invert colours’, this feature has been helping people with a preference for white text on a black background for nearly seven years now.
Plus, in the section of the Accessibility preferences called ‘display accommodations’ you’ll find a number of filters to transform the colours of your phone to help people with dyslexia or colour blindness. You can set whatever background colour and intensity you like across your entire phone – from the mildest of pink tinges to a vibrant yellow or blue (see the first coloured pencil image below). Whatever makes reading easier or simply tickles your fancy.
There's also a colour filter for people who are red/green colour blind (see photo on right, below) - apparently that's a fifth of the male population. This sees red and orange pencils turn to shades of pink. The pink pencil stays pink but the shades or the three colours (red, orange, pink) are different enough for someone to tell them apart in any graphs or charts they may be viewing on a web page or in a spreadsheet etc. The middle image shows a regular colour selection for.
The last setting under Display Accommodations is called ‘Whitepoint’ which reduces piercing whites while keeping everything else the same. Cool huh? Who wouldn’t want that when reading in bed?
I’ve just mentioned three features but the Accessibility settings of your iPhone has dozens more that could make your phone vastly easier to use. And once you’ve chosen your preferred combination of Accessibility settings, you can easily toggle them on and off (and be back to 'normal') by triple-clicking the Home button. Et voila! Instant personalisation whenever you need it.
iOS 11 brings an update to ‘dark mode’
While the invert colours option described above isn’t of course referred to as ‘dark mode’, there’s a good reason to believe that true dark mode is coming to iOS 11. This is based upon a feature that we already know exists in the developer release and will undoubtedly appear in the public beta coming out later this month – and because it’s an accessibility feature there’s no way they’ll take it out in the final version.
This new feature is actually an improvement to the Invert Colours ‘dark mode’ - namely that all images and videos will now be left untouched and not inverted. Up till now everything was switched making black text white and white backgrounds black, but also making reds green and blues yellow – making pictures and videos into weird negatives of themselves.
In iOS 11 we will no longer have this limitation, giving us a true dark mode available for anyone who wants to ease their eyes and (with the advent of an OLED screen where black saves battery) gain a good few extra hours of phone use every day.
Bringing dark mode out of the shade
Will they bring this colour scheme out from the Accessibility settings and make it a choice under ‘Display and brightness’ on your Settings front screen? Maybe and maybe not. If everyone realises that the accessibility settings on their phone are actually for everyone – if we ever get to that stage – then it truly won’t matter either way.
Please tell your colleagues, family and friends to go play in the frankly sexy settings that are Accessibility and enjoy a truly personalised phone.
What else will be new for accessibility in Apple’s new OS updates?
There’s plenty more to get excited about in the soon-to-be updated operating systems across the entire Apple product line.
For a full run-down of the New Accessibility Features Set to Come Later this Year in iOS 11, watchOS 4, tvOS 11 and macOS 10.13 High Sierra check out this excellent AppleVis article.
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