Beady-eyed late-night iPhone users are in for a treat. Apple announced Monday that the new version of iOS 9 would include “Night Shift,” a feature designed to limit users’ exposure to bright blue light in the evening. There’s evidence that that kind of light can increase the time it takes to fall asleep and even interfere with sleep quality. As the sun sets, iOS users will see the blues drain out of their screens, leaving behind a warm orange glow.
“Night Shift” was clearly inspired by f.lux, a free piece of software that does the same thing on non-iOS screens. According to its website, f.lux has been downloaded more than 15 million times. Users have been clamoring for an iOS version since time immemorial, but the developers haven’t been able to make one: iOS doesn’t grant apps access to the relevant screen settings. (A version for jailbroken iPhones, which do allow access to those settings, has been around since 2011.) There was a brief glimmer of hope last year when the makers of f.lux seemed to have found a way to sidestep iOS restrictions, but Apple shut that down. The developers noted at the time that they had had “numerous conversations with Apple about our product and what would be required to make it work with iOS.”
I’ve used f.lux for a while, and I like it. Sure, it might be good for your health, but that’s not all. It also makes your computer look like it is filling up with blood. Nearby friends and coworkers will be distressed, but you can say, “Oh, that? That’s f.lux, with a period after the f. I use it because I am conscientious about my circadian rhythms. Did you know that blue light … ?” (and so on).
With the introduction of “Night Shift,” weird orange screens are now mainstream. Every night, everywhere, iPhones and iPads will blush in synchrony as darkness sweeps over the globe. We will be in the presence of a new technological species, with its own perfect rhythms, and we will all sleep better.