#madeforiOS: How to dim your iPhone for night use

Originally posted here 14 January 2016

We’ve used our iPhones at night and wanted to put sunglasses on – but we’re not Corey Hart. Did you know that staring at a bright screen before bed affects your sleep cycle? Apple is addressing this with an amazing UX feature in the next iOS update – but if you want to use it now, we have a work around for you.

Here’s how Night Shift works:
“Many studies have shown that exposure to bright blue light in the evening can affect your circadian rhythms and make it harder to fall asleep. Night Shift uses your iOS device’s clock and geolocation to determine when it’s sunset in your location. Then it automatically shifts the colors in your display to the warmer end of the spectrum, making it easier on your eyes. In the morning, it returns the display to its regular settings. Pleasant dreams,” from Apple’s iOS 9.3 Preview

As John Brownlee so expertly said in his write up of Night Shift for Fast Design Co: “The human sleep cycle is uniquely sensitive at night to the blue light that is emitted by most screens, with the American Medical Association recommending that those with sleep disorders minimize their time with screens before bedtime, or using dim red lighting to minimize the effect. That’s because as it gets darker, our eyes expect to see warmer light: for example, the reddish light of a candle, a fire, or a sunset, as opposed to the blue light of daytime.”

We’ve often found ourselves blinded trying to use our iOS at night – whether it’s checking an iMessage at 2:00 AM, or trying to read on a dark flight. This is actually an accessibility feature that allows you to turn the screen brightness down a little further when it seems blinding. (Thanks, Dan Frakes, for telling us about this feature in a write up of his favorite iOS 8 features!) So, here’s how to dim your screen:

1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Zoom.
2. Enable Zoom.
3. Tap the screen three times with three fingers. This brings up a zoom-options popover.
4. Tap Choose Filter, and then tap Low Light. The screen will dim considerably.
5. Tap outside the popover to dismiss it.
6. Make sure Zoom Region, a bit lower on that screen, is set to Full Screen Zoom. (It was for me, but some readers report that it wasn’t for them.)
7. Disable Zoom to restore the screen to its normal brightness.
8. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut and choose Zoom.

Now, whenever you triple-press the Home button, you’ll toggle this “extra dimming” mode on or off. (If you selected multiple Accessibility Shortcut options, you’ll instead see a popover listing those options; tap one to toggle it.) Note that the brightness level of your “extra dimmed” screen is relative to your screen’s current brightness setting, which means that if you want it really dim, you should use Control Center to reduce brightness to the lowest level, and then triple-press the Home button. The result is a screen that’s much dimmer than you’ve probably seen before, and thus much better for use in the dark.

(Interestingly, this dimmed mode really is a screen filter, rather than a further dimming of the screen. You can see this if you rotate your device 90 degrees—as the screen switches orientations, the filter rotates more slowly than the rest of the screen, revealing the screen’s actual brightness level for a fraction of a second.)

The accessibility feature might not be as robust as Apple’s solution, but it’s one you can start using tonight. Should we know about a feature that you love? Tell us on twitter!

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