Before the release of the iOS 9.3 beta and Apple’s Nightshift feature (which warms the screen’s colour temperature at night), I had spent months looking to re-haul the apps I used on a daily basis. I wanted to optimize my home screen for apps that worked just as well in the day time as at night. This meant the inclusion of some sort of night mode or dark theme, which is a strangely under-served feature on the App Store. I have a lot of wonderful apps in my App Store account, but I’d reckon that only about 10-20% of them have thought about how the apps appear at different times of day.
If you aren’t familiar with night mode, it usually involves switching up the colour scheme and contrast levels in apps, turning whites into blacks, and vice versa. Many times this simply involves inverting all of the colours on the screen, but the best apps choose colours that suit light and dark themes equally.
A lot of this was inspired by my experience with iBooks and the dark theme in that app. I like to do an hour of reading when I get into bed, and iBooks is my main app for devouring ePub files. The default theme tends to blind me when the lights are low (or off), whereas the black theme feels easier on my eyes. It’s not so dim that I have to struggle to read, but it isn’t so bright that I’m being blasted by light as I’m trying to go to sleep.
iBooks’ Night mode is no replacement for something like an e-ink display because there’s still a backlight shining into my eyes as I read, but it does help with the amount of light that’s hitting my eyes at a given time. That has to be a plus.
If you’re interested in picking up a few apps with night mode or dark themes, here are my favourites, organized by category:
iA Writer has a good night mode that’s very easy to activate, butUlysses does a far better job by subtly switching a few colours out when you go dark.
I switched back to OmniFocus 2 almost purely because of its night mode (which can be tied to activate with the brightness slider). If OF2 is too much for you, Clear also offers a lot of great dark themes.
iBooks is already installed on your iOS 9 device, and I love reading in the dark mode on the lowest brightness setting. Instapaper covers my long-form reading requirements its excellent automatic night mode, but you could also use Safari Reading List and set the theme to dark, if you want a native option.
Paper doesn’t really support night ode, but I like the app so much that I’ve come up with a little hack: drag a dark colour onto page to make it the background, then draw in bright colours. Duplicate that sheet in your stack to have a whole lot of night mode papers to work in. For more intensive graphical work,Procreate offers a dark theme with an auto-hiding interface that gets out of your way as you draw.
Reeder 3 has always offered a great reading experience, and that includes two different dark themes for easier night-time reading.
Fantastical 2 for iPad is the only calendar app I know of with a dark theme, although that theme still shows one white bar shows along the top of the screen.
If you’ve got your own favourite night mode / dark theme apps, please share them with us in the comments! I’ll update the post with the best suggestions.