Apple 2018 Software Wishlist (3/28): iOS – Dark Mode API

This one is perhaps my top requested feature for iOS 12, when it comes to the changes it provides, problems it solves and how simple it likely is to implement.

Apple introduced a dark mode in OS X Yosemite (which I have not turned off since) which was the first for Apple, then added dark mode to tvOS for making watching TV at night better.

watchOS is essentially a permanent dark mode to save battery efficiency on the OLED display.

The iPhone X now has the same OLED screen for battery efficiency like the Apple Watch, why does iOS (objectively the most used piece of Apple software) not have a dark mode?

Apple did bring out a “Smart Invert” mode in iOS 11 which when enables guesses the content that should be changed to create a darker look to the software.

Smart Invert is just poorly executed! There’s no denying it!

The Smart Invert API does allow developers to disable certain elements from changing colours, but that is it. You essentially have two choices of colours to make the best dark mode possible. They are the original colours and the smart invert recommended colours.

The easiest way Apple can resolve this is by making a separate Dark Mode API and allow it so a developer can set it up in their apps so if Dark Mode is enabled then set elements to certain colours and different images giving developers infinitely more flexibility to support a true dark mode.

With more flexibility for developers, Apple will also have to likely get somewhat strict with this for if the app meets dark mode requirements (knowing Apple), if the developer says they supports it.

They should also add a toggle via the triple click of the side button for iPhone X and a separate toggle in Control Centre.

Dark Mode API will also likely need to be tweaked to work with Apple’s stock apps, including iMessages, Phone, Music etc. and in most of those cases, it’s likely on an iPhone you would go from having 90% of the pixels on the screen needing to be turned on, down to like 20-30% of the pixels needing to be turned on.

Black pixels on OLED screens do not use any power at all, so if you only have 20-30% of the screen using white to display text in something like iMessage, this will save battery life as the display is one of the most power-hungry components of the phone. The other would be phone/cellular signal if you have a weak reception.

Another benefit of having Dark Mode is to help hide the notch on the iPhone X. I use Night Mode (as it is branded) in the Twitter app and it does help reduce how much of an eye-sore it could be for most people on the iPhone X. It doesn’t completely go black at the top, but having a darker tint to it, dramatically improves it alone.

Yet another benefit of dark mode is that it will make it easier on the eyes, regardless of the time of day, but even more so at night. I hope they can get Dark Mode API to also work alongside iOS’s Night Shift mode.

In short, there are that many benefits for having a dark mode. It would not take that much effort to implement (from what I can tell) and if iOS 12 does focus more into a stability and performance improvements, then this would be an easily marketable feature to add, to incentivise people to upgrade, with very little development work and will help Apple get people to upgrade to the supposedly more polished iOS.

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