What is Night Shift? What is Dark Mode? How do I make my Mac, iPad and iPhone less bright in low light? 

Apple brought Night Shift, which reduced the level of blue light being emitted by the iPad and iPhone, to iOS 9.3 and it’s a feature rumoured to be coming to MacOS soon.

The colour-shifting technology reduces the blue light that is emitted from the iPad and iPhone screen - and when it comes to macOS the Mac screen.

This blue light is said to keep us awake and cause eye-strain and headaches. The Night Shift technology reduces this blue light, making the screen colours appear warmer and more yellowy. Night Shift is thought to help those suffering from insomnia because the blue light affects our circadian rhythms. It’s why we generally sleep at night and stay awake in the daytime. The problem is that because we all lay in bed looking at our iPads and iPhones all night we can’t sleep because the blue light being emitted is telling our brings it’s still daytime. It also has to be said that looking at a the bright screen of our iPhones and iPads once we have turned off all other light sources, coupled with the fact that we are likely to be reading small black text on a white background, is sure to be damaging to our eyes.

There is also a technology called Dark Mode that arrived on the Mac in OS X Yosemite back in 2014, but Night Shift, should it arrive on the Mac, will do much more than Dark Mode which turns the menu bar and dock dark grey on your Mac and the text on those elements of the interface becomes white.

Dark Mode is nevertheless a popular feature (particularly with designers who tend to perfer to tone down the interface). Dark mode isn't available on the iPad and iPhone, yet (it's rumoured to be coming at some point). There are some workarounds to get Dark Mode on the iPhone and iPad however, and we discuss them below.

Is Night Shift the same as Dark Mode?

No. Dark Mode turns the menu bar and dock dark grey on your Mac and the text on those elements of the interface becomes white. It was introduced in OS X Yosemite back in 2014, and like Night Shift was designed to reduce eye strain. It isn’t possible to schedule this feature though.

Night Shift adjusts the colour overall, while Dark Mode just changes some elements of the interface.

In this tutorial we will cover the following:

  • How to turn on Night Shift on the iPhone and iPad
  • How to turn on Dark Mode on the Mac
  • How to enable Dark Mode on the Apple TV
  • Dark Mode on iPhone & iPad
  • How to turn on Low Light Filter in iOS
  • When is Dark Mode coming to the iPad & iPhone?

Does Night Shift work?

It’s hard to say if Night Shift will help you sleep if you have difficulty dropping off. And as for reducing eye strain, it’s probably just as bad that we read tiny text on our iPhones, making us all near sighted. The best way to sleep well at night is probably to leave your iPhone, iPad or Mac in another room…

How to turn on Night Shift on the iPhone and iPad

Step 1: Update your iPhone or iPad

If your iPad or iPhone is running software that predates iOS 9.3 you will need to update in order to use Night Shift. Go to Settings > General > Software Update to see what version of iOS you are running and to update if necessary. Read about how to update your iPhone software here.

If your iPhone or iPad is too old to run iOS 9, there is an app called F,lux, but it requires you to jailbreak your phone, but we don’t recommend that (although we do have this article about how to jailbreak an iPad or iPhone)

Step 2: Schedule Night Shift on iPad & iPhone

Go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Nightshift. From here you'll be able to setup a schedule, where you'll be able to add a custom time frame or have the iOS device automatically determine your location and have Night Shift enabled when its Sunset and Sunrise.

Some people have reported that this option is not being shown to them and this is because location services aren't being picked up by your time zone. To fix this, go into: Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services and then find Setting Time Zone and ensure that's toggled on.

Step 3: Turn on Night Shift on iPad & iPhone

Alternatively, you can manually enable Night Shift until tomorrow and adjust the Colour Temperature through the slider, with More Warm being easier on the eyes an Less Warm perhaps being a good option on a very sunny day.

If you wish to quickly enable it, Apple has conveniently added it to the Control Centre which can be accessed in any app, home screen or lock screen by simply swiping up from the bottom of your screen. Simply tap the centre light icon to enable Night Shift. We do suggest going into the settings and manually adjusting the level of warmth you wish have, so that your device remembers the setting when you want to quickly toggle it on. Read next: iOS 9 features & update advice.

Night Shift is also available on macOS, since the Sierra update. Here's how to turn on Night Shift on Mac.

How to turn on Dark Mode on the Mac

To turn on Dark Mode on a Mac go to System Preferences > General and choose Use dark menu bar and Dock.

How to enable Dark Mode: Turn on Dark Mode in macOS Sierra

macOS should now be running in Dark Mode. Remove the tick from Use Dark Menu Bar and Dock to return to regular mode.

What Dark Mode looks like on the Mac

Dark Mode changes the look of the Menu bar (at the top of the macOS interface) and the Dock. Here are some things to look out for in Dark Mode:

How to enable Dark Mode: Dark Mode in macOS

  • The Dock. In the case of the Dock the pale translucent background becomes much darker. It remains translucent, however, and if you move windows behind the dock the lightness of them shows through.
  • The Menu bar. The drop-down menus across macOS are dark and again, the lightness of any windows underneath shines through.
  • App support. Currently support for Dark Mode in the Menu bar is limited to Apple’s own apps. Apps made by a third-party display a dark menu, but it does not have the see through effect.
  • Dark Mode does not affect other translucent parts of the macOS interface. Safari, for example, features a translucent sidebar.

We think Dark Mode is easier on the eyes than the regular mode.

You can also use the General Settings to change other parts of macOS from Blue to Graphite. This removes much of the colour from macOS and we think it looks good (although it's a bit goth).

We like Dark Mode: it is a refreshing alternative to the highly translucent interface found in macOS Sierra and other versions of Mac OS X.

How to enable Dark Mode on Apple TV

Apple has also introduced a Dark Mode option on the Apple TV. Dark Mode for tvOS replaces the white Apple TV interface, with a darker option. It is only available for fourth generation Apple TVs (with the TV app store). Read next: New fifth-gen Apple TV 2016 release date rumours.

How to enable Dark Mode: Dark Mode in tvOS

Dark Mode arrived on the Apple TV as part of tvOS 10. Dark Mode for tvOS replaces the white interface, with a darker option. The difference is much more profound on tvOS than macOS.

Here's how to turn on Dark Mode in tvOS.

  1. Click Settings.
  2. Choose Appearance.
  3. Select Dark.

Read next: New fifth-gen Apple TV 2016 release date rumours

Dark Mode on iPhone & iPad

There is a way to get a similar effect to Dark Mode on the iPad and iPhone now, however. iOS 10 introduced a range of Colour Filters in Accessibility. Colour Filters include GrayScale, which somewhat imitates Dark Mode (although it's a bit extreme to lose all colour in iOS). You can also add Colour Filters which are fun to experiment with. Here's how to access Colour Filters in iOS 10.

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Choose General > Accessibility > Display Accomodations > Colour Filters.
  3. Set Colour Filters to On.

How to enable Dark Mode on iPhone, Mac, Apple TV: Colour filter

The following filters are available:

  • Greyscale
  • Red/Green Filter (Protanopia)
  • Green/Red Filter (Deuteranopia)
  • Blue/Yellow Filter (Tritanopia)
  • Colour Tint

Tap any option and Intensity (and in the case of Colour Tint, Intensity and Hue) sliders. Adjust these to change the effect. You'll notice it more on the Home Screen than in Settings, so back in and out to see the effect change. Set Colour Filters to Off to return to normal viewing mode.

How to turn on Low Light Filter in iOS

Here's another option that may improve your viewing experience at night. Open the Settings app and go to General > Accessibility > Zoom and tap the slider next to Zoom so it turns green.

How to enable Dark Mode on iPhone, Mac, Apple TV: Low Light Filter

Now go back to the Home screen and do a triple-tap with three fingers to bring up the zoom menu. Tap Choose Filter. In the next screen (pictured below), tap Low Light. This will darken the screen and make it more suitable for low-light viewing.

How to enable Dark Mode on iPhone, Mac, Apple TV: Low Light Filter

When will Dark Mode come to iPhone & iPad?

It was widely expected that iOS 10 would feature a new Dark Mode viewing mode, with black backgrounds more suitable and restful for nighttime viewing. In the event, Apple announced exactly that, but for tvOS instead, and iOS Dark Mode remains missing in action.

Oddly enough, one of the principal planks supporting pre-launch Dark Mode speculation has shifted, too.

Several Apple fans noticed that, if you asked Siri in iOS 9.3.2 to turn on Dark Mode, it responded by saying "Sorry, but I'm not able to change that setting." That setting - suggesting that the setting existed or soon would, but Siri could not yet control it.

iOS 10 new features: Dark Mode

(Generally speaking, if you ask Siri to do something that it can't, it will either say that it doesn't understand, or run an internet search of your phrase. For some other modes we invented, ranging from "Privacy Mode" to "High-Speed Mode", Siri got confused and turned on something that it seemed to think was close enough. But we couldn't get him to say "I'm not able to change that setting" for any fictional setting other than "Dark Mode".)

In the developer preview of iOS 10, however, the instruction to "turn on Dark Mode" got a different response: "I can't find that scene." Siri now associates Dark Mode with the Home app, and assumes it must be a Scene - a preconfigured group of settings for various smart-home appliances, obviously including in this case the lights - that it hasn't been properly briefed about. The plot thickens.

iOS 10 new features: Dark Mode

Nevertheless, we expect iOS Dark Mode to appear before long. Andy Wiik, an app developer who previously released screenshots of Messages running in Dark Mode, has now posted images of the Settings app in Dark Mode that he obtained by using the iOS 10 Simulator.

iOS 10 new features: Dark Mode

Picture credit: Andy Wiik

Wiik postulates that Dark Mode will be controlled by a toggle button in Control Centre, and supports this theory with another screenshot from iOS 10 Simulator, this time showing a sixth, blank button to the right of the lock rotation switch.

iOS 10 new features: Dark Mode

The idea of Dark Mode is a sort of extension of Night Shift, but instead of simply warming up the colour output of the screen after sundown in order to reduce disruption to the human circadian cycle and loss of sleep, it proposes a radical, system-wide interface redesign for nighttime. Instead of basing the interface around the colour white, it would be based around black - a much easier colour scheme to see and use at night, as evidenced by the strategy already being used by many satnav interfaces, as well as some Apple apps.

"An iOS Dark Mode would be modelled after what Apple has already done with the Apple Watch app for iPhone and dark themes in iBooks," explains Federico Viticci, who featured Dark Mode in his iOS 10 concept video, made with the design Sam Beckett. Viticci cites benefits of such a mode including increased contrast, higher legibility and improved accessibility for those with limited vision.

Dark Mode concept designs

Here's how Viticci envisions Dark Mode. We think it's a terrific, and well-executed, concept.

iOS 10 release date rumours, new features and wish list: Dark Mode

Picture credit: Federico Viticci/Sam Beckett

iHelp BR has also shared concept images on how the dark theme could look like. Below is an image from iHelp BR showcasing how the settings menu could look like. With WWDC just around the corner, these latest rumours could make their way to all iOS 10-compatible devices soon.

iOS 10 rumours - iHelp BR