It’s not often that a smaller update of iOS, Apple’s operating system for mobile devices, comes with treats for users. But the forthcoming iOS 9.3, which has just been released in beta form to developers, comes with one big feature: a good night’s sleep.
That’s thanks to a new feature called Night Shift, which adjusts the colour balance of the iPad or iPhone’s screen after sunset. The phone uses geolocation and its internal clock to tell when it’s sundown, and then shifts the colours onscreen so they’re warmer, with more orange and red tones and fewer blue and white.
The company cites research suggesting that this helps with sleep immediately after using the device. “Many studies have shown that exposure to bright blue light in the evening can affect your circadian rhythms and make it harder to fall asleep,” Apple said.
It should be perfect for any user who has become a bit too used to a phone screen being the last thing they see at night. While there might be a strong temptation for a last-minute scroll through Facebook, or a final chapter of an ebook, bright lights late at night can play havoc with sleep cycles.
Previously, the company had relied on more brute-force methods to help evening and night-time use of devices. The iBooks app, for instance, can be set to automatically switch from black-on-white text to white-on-black after a certain time.
But the colour-shifting approach had been pioneered by other developers before Apple decided to adopt it. Most notably, f.lux, which was initially released for Mac computers, has long had an iOS version for “jailbroken” devices, and it brought out a fuller version in November 2015. But Apple didn’t approve of the app, which used restricted developer tools to work on iOS, and so it was never allowed on the App Store. In fact, shortly after release, f.lux was asked by Apple to take down the app entirely.
Now, two months later, Apple has brought out its own version of f.lux’s software.
Other features coming alongside iOS 9.3 include the ability to lock the notes app, with a fingerprint or code, as well as revamped versions of the Health and News apps.
Apple has also enhanced its education offering, with the first example of multi-user support on its mobile devices. Schools which use iPads in the classroom can now allow their pupils to log in on any iPad, and find their own materials there.