Apple's 'Night Shift' is Just a Spiffed Up Version of a 9-Year-Old Banned App

Thursday, January 28, 2016 1:00 PM

As a 'long term' iPhone user (we're talking 8+ years), a neglected iOS feature that's been at the top of my wish list since day one has been a nighttime display mode, with decreased blue-light emissions. As someone who uses their phone before bed - a cardinal sin, as any sleep experts will tell you - I envied my Android using friends who were able to download the long coveted f.lux app that did just that. Why was Apple depriving us of such pleasures as a self-adjusting screen composition based on our environment? They claimed they wouldn't host the app in their App Store because it goes 'outside the bounds' of what apps are normally allowed to do, and Apple does not allow developers to access the private APIs needed to make f.lux work on iOS. This was just the way it was... for years. Imagine, then, everyone's collective surprise when Apple's new iOS 9.3 beta rolled out last week with a 'Night Shift' mode doing just what they wouldn't allow f.lux to do for them.


First, a little background on why this display adjustment matters: various studies have concluded that blue light inhibits people's brains from releasing melatonin, something that usually occurs a couple of hours before bedtime. Melatonin reduces alertness and aids in signalling to the body that it's time to sleep. Laptops, cell phones and tablets all emit a ton of blue light. Therefore, using such devices in the hours before/during bedtime can make it way harder for us to fall asleep than we would otherwise. By omitting or decreasing the amount of blue light we're exposed to before bedtime (ie, adjusting our display with f.lux or Night Shift) it's theorized that we'll all sleep better - and who doesn't want that?

Comparing f.lux and iOS's Night Shift side by side

The emergence of Night Shift last week for iOS seemed promising, if not rather past-date and irksome to f.lux developers. On Apple's preview site for it's new software, they explain that "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." Not so different from f.lux itself (aka exactly the same). Instead of being all, 'hey remember when we developed and marketed that technology 9 years ago and you're the only platform who banned us', f.lux took the proverbial high road and simply asked this week that Apple let them re-enter the App Store.

The f.lux website announcement

Credit Where Credit Is Due

It's obvious that f.lux deserves immense credit for being a pioneer solution-provider in omitting blue light emissions from our various devices. Inevitably, however, addressing this problem is something that device-makers are now solving in-house. In the past few months alone, Google rolled out a blue light filter in their Play Books application and Amazon introduced a similar 'Blue Shade' feature for their Kindle devices. Where it's not uncommon for Apple to 'borrow' ideas from the jailbreak community (see here for some 'inspiration' they've drawn from), they repeatedly bring about questions and discussions of how big name corporations could, and more importantly should, address such blatant cases of idea 'borrowing' in tech. While I'm personally thrilled about this new iOS feature, it'd be nice to see just a little nod from Apple about where this new 'innovation' came from - in this case, just letting f.lux back into the oh-so-coveted App Store.

Bridget VanWart

Bridget VanWart

Bridget VanWart is Div1's newest addition, joining the team after graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of New Brunswick. When she's not serving as Div1's client liaison and administrative assistant, she can be found Instagramming pretty things she stumbles upon around the city.

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