iOS 10 & the upcoming iOS 11 include a large number of new tricks, some well known, others not as much. One thing many users have wanted in iOS is a proper dark mode, which would change whites in the OS to blacks. But alas, not this time around for iPhones and iPads. Apple currently offers Dark Mode for Apple TV and Macs (Laptops and Desktops) running macOS Sierra and Mac OSX Yosemite-El Capitan. And Dark Mode a tried and true standard for dedicated digital readers like Amazon’s Kindle.
While we still don’t have the function to enable dark mode, we do have some special tricks that bring us closer to the dream of a robust and fully functioning iOS dark mode.
- 1 Setting a Dark Mode Appearance on iDevices
- 2 Safari’s Dark Mode
- Toggle ON Invert Colors (Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations) or Smart Invert (Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodation > Invert Colors > Smart Invert)
- Enable Low Light Filter (Settings > General > Accessibility > Zoom On > Triple Tap Lens >Resize Lens > Choose Filter)
- Reduce your White Point (Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations >Reduce White Point)
- Enable Safari’s own Dark Mode
What is Dark Mode Anyway?
Currently, the user interface of iOS is bright & brilliant and features high contrast white-ish backgrounds in almost all of its stock apps (Safari, Mail, Messages, etc.) These colorful backgrounds are often distracting, especially when used in dimly lit environments. The result of all this brightness is often eyestrain and visual fatigue.
Dark Mode inverts your iPhone or iDevice font colors. Your standard iPhone Helvetica font changes to white instead of black. As a result, the white translucent layers are replaced with black translucent layers. Dark Mode turns your Mac’s, Apple TV’s, and iDevice’s look and feel and creates easy nighttime viewing.
Most importantly, dark mode offers breathing space and a reprieve for your eyes in low light environments, like restaurants, pubs, and even museums–places where you might find yourself squinting to read. Consequently, dark mode reduces eyestrain and for those of us with aging eyesight, that’s a significant benefit. Plus, we think dark mode looks pretty darn cool too.
So here’s how it works!
Setting a Dark Mode Appearance on iDevices
There are a few ways to emulate Dark Mode on your iDevice using iOS 10 or above. Though none are a true dark mode, a few of these options come close…and others create a better viewing experience that’s easier on your eyes.
Enabling Quasi-Dark Mode Method #1
- Go to Settings > General > Accessibility >Display Accommodations
- Toggle Invert Colors ON or Select Invert Colors > Smart Invert
- Smart Invert is available on iOS 11 and works on some but not all iDevices
- Night Shift is automatically disabled
Invert creates a negative of what’s on screen, so all colors shift to their opposite on the color wheel–white becomes black, black becomes white, green becomes magenta, blue becomes orange, and so forth.This feature is meant to help people whose eyes have difficulty seeing the onscreen information with the traditional iDevice’s whites palette. So all text is white-on-black versus black on white.
Though not a “real” dark mode, inverting colors allows you to text or email in the dark places like movie theaters, etc. without drawing attention. And inverting colors helps at night to reduce eyestrain for healthier nighttime viewing of our iDevices.
The downside of Invert Colors is that it does invert ALL COLORS to their opposite. So while some are pleasing, like white to black and black to white, others are distracting to downright ugly! A negative of your Home Screen’s Photo and all your apps is probably NOT easy on the eyes. So use Invert Colors with caution.
About Smart Invert
Smart Invert, available in iOS 11, is a Display Accommodation under Accessibility Settings that intelligently reverses (or inverts) your display’s colors to its opposite on the color wheel. So for example, white appears black, green appears magenta, yellow appears blue and so forth just like in regular Invert Colors Mode. But with iOS’s Smart Invert selected, your photos, wallpaper, app thumbnails, and some other media is not inverted. But it doesn’t work universally, and images, especially from your web browsers, are still inverted and look like negatives.
Smart Invert is not a full dark mode but rather an in-between mode or “sorta” dark mode. But it is a step in the right direction.
Quick Access to Invert Colors
For easy access to invert colors when you need it, like for reading at night, set-up Invert Colors as your Accessibility Shortcut. Just tap your home button three times rapidly, and it inverts your on-screen colors. Enable this triple-click feature under Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut and select Invert Colors (may be labeled Classic Invert Colors) or Smart Invert.
Enabling Quasi-Dark Mode Method #2
- First off, head into Accessibility by going into Settings > General > Accessibility. Select Zoom
- Turn Zoom on.
- A lens pops up over the screen.
- At this point, take three fingers and tap three times. This menu pops up
- Start by selecting Resize lens and then resize it to fill your entire screen.
- Next, triple tap again and move the zoom slider all the way down, so you see the whole screen.
- Finally, select ‘Choose Filter’ and then Low Light.
While this still isn’t allowing us to enable dark mode, it does provide a much easier experience on your eyes, especially at night and in low light situations.
Quick Access For Low Light Filter
For easy access to invert colors when you need it, like for reading or watching shows at night, set-up Zoom as your Accessibility Shortcut. Just tap your home button three times rapidly, and it turns on the low light filter. Enable this triple-click feature under Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut and select Zoom.
Enabling Quasi-Dark Mode Method #3
- Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations >Reduce White Point
- Slide the Reduce White Point slider to the right to decrease the intensity of bright colors
Like method #2, using Reduce White Point does not replicate dark mode, but it does lessen the strength of your whites, for a screen that’s better on your eyes.
Quick Access For Reduce White Point
For easy access to invert colors when you need it, like for reading or watching shows at night, set-up Reduce White Point as your Accessibility Shortcut. Just tap your home button three times rapidly, and it automatically reduces your screen’s white point. Enable this triple-click feature under Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut and select Reduce White Point.
Safari’s Dark Mode
Tucked away in Safari is a unique dark mode that most people even don’t know about! This feature turns your browser into a dark reading mode for almost all browser article, changing your on-screen text to white on a black background. Pretty awesome for night-time reading!
How-To Enable Safari’s Dark Mode
- Open Safari
- Tap on the reader mode icon
- It’s the four lines on the left side of your URL address bar
- Tap on “aA” icon on the right side of your URL address bar
- In the Font Drop Down Menu, select the black background color circle
- White backgrounds change to black
- Black text changes to light gray
As you see, pictures display normally while text appears light gray on black. This feature only works in Safari so it’s not a system-wide dark mode. For people who spend a lot of time reading in Safari, this is a great feature to use at night or when in dark spaces and places.
Dark Mode is App Available Right Now!
Many of our favorite reading apps like iBooks and Kindle already include dark mode as an app setting. These change the backgrounds to black and the text to an off-white or light gray. Using dark mode in your reading app is especially useful when reading content on your iDevice at night or in a dark or dimmed environment. For parents, enabling this mode is a must when reading a bedtime story to your children from your iDevice at night. It reduces the amount of light emanating from your iPhone/iPad, AND it saves your eyes from eyestrain! So reduced distraction for your children, so they fall asleep faster–we hope. A total WIN-WIN.
Apple Maps also has an official Dark Mode, especially useful when driving at night. For Maps, iOS detects a dark environment using its ambient light sensor and alters the colors of Maps. And of course, Apple Watch ONLY has Dark Mode, mainly due to its use of OLED displays versus the LED displays of current iPhones, iPads, and other iDevices. The advantage of an OLED display is that it lights up only the pixels that it needs for each particular screen display. That makes OLED displays a heck of a lot more efficient than LED displays. And that matters because the more efficient our display is, the LESS the battery consumes energy.
Dark Mode makes viewing your iDevice in all types of lighting situations a heck of a lot better. Though Apple did not include an official Dark Mode with iOS 10, we fully expect it to arrive soon…maybe in the next update to iOS or perhaps we need to wait until the next iPhone release with OLED screens. We are crossing our fingers here at AppleToolBox that it arrives sooner than later. For now, Dark Mode is near the top of our iOS wish list! So let your voice be heard by sending Apple some feedback. And join all of us here at AppleToolBox in letting Apple know that we want “dark mode” in the next iOS!
We believe not having Dark Mode hurts the user experience. So it’s time for a universal Dark Mode Option on all iDevices. So checking email, messages, Twitter, Facebook, and using Safari are as easy on the eyes as our dedicated reading apps. Let’s face it, we use our iDevices all the time–when riding in a car at night, on overnight flights, and most commonly in bed next to a sleeping person. If and when Apple provides a dark mode within its operating system (iOS) and available for all apps, viewing our iDevices at night and in low/lower light condition will no longer be a challenge or disruption.
But in the meantime, use these filter options to produce a (somewhat) similar effect. For more how-to’s for iOS 10 and all your iDevices and Mac Computers, check out our iOS 10 comprehensive guide. And if you experience problems with iOS 10, take a look at our iOS 10 troubleshooting guide.