iOS for the Windows Guy: Turn Down the Glare

iOS for the Windows Guy: Turn Down the Glare

It burns, it burns!!

In my "Android for the Windows Guy" series, I've been writing about taking the pain out of moving to Android. But here in the United States, especially, Apple's iOS—which runs on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch—rules. So why not offer up some similar advice for those who choose the way of Jobs? In this first installment, I take a look at how you can turn down the harsh glare of the interface in iOS 7 and 8.

You can check out some of my previous Android for the Windows Guy articles here to see where this is going: Using Google Authenticator, Dealing with Notifications, Visual Voicemail, and Microsoft Apps. Since each of these is an obvious choice for this series as well, I'll look at adapting them to iOS soon.

But let's talk about iOS 7 and 8 now, shall we?

I'll be writing up an overview of iOS 8 when Apple releases it, which should happen next week. But the big picture view is that after 6 very evolutionary updates to iOS, Apple went big with iOS 7 last year, completely changing the user experience to one that Windows Phone users will find familiar, with its thin and attractive typography and integrated experiences. I really like iOS 7 (and, by extension, iOS 8), but as I noted in Compete Report: Apple iOS 7, the system is also immature since it's new.

"I didn't like the skeuomorphic iOS designs from before, but they were at least warm and friendly," I wrote. "Looking at the plain-Jane and starkly white screens in iOS 7—the secondary Settings screens, especially, or Calendar—I wonder whether a happy middle-ground couldn't be reached ... It's just a maturity issue, something I certainly appreciate from seeing Microsoft stumble around perfecting its Metro-based designs."

iOS 8 doesn't actually fix this issue, sadly, though as I noted in Compete Report: Mac OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, this new update does include many important low-level changes, adding such things as OS and keyboard extensibility (a first for iOS), Touch ID and notification center improvements, deeper integration with Mac, and more.

So in using iOS 7/8 over the past 18 months or so, the thing that still bothers me is how stark the user experience can be. When you're looking at the home screens, everything is fine, since you can customize that with a dark background of your choosing. But dive into the OS itself—like the Settings interface—or some of the built-in apps—Calendar is a particularly glaring example—and you're blasted by stark white screens that aren't broken up well by the very thin system font.

As it turns out, you can fix this somewhat, and you don't need to invert the onscreen colors (though you can if you want). The settings you are looking for are hidden in Accessibility settings, which can find by navigating to Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Increase Contrast (in both iOS 7 and 8).

There are two settings here of interest:

Darken Colors. This darkens the light and hard to read menu font, changing it from light blue to dark blue.

Reduce White Point. This darkens the whitest white that iOS will display and it really tunes down the glare.

If you change either of these settings, you will see the difference immediately. But to really appreciate the change, visit the Calendar app. In that app, the font is red, not blue, but with the Darken Colors setting on, it's a more readable deep maroon color. And combined with Reduce White Point, it's actually readable dead-on, and you don't have to avert your eyes to avoid burn-in.

Beyond these settings, be sure to spend some time in the Accessibility settings area generally and pay particularly attention to:

Larger Text. Very necessary for those tiny iPhone screens, especially for those with older eyes or myopia. Test with the Mail app, since that app is quite affected by changes here.

Bold Text. Ditto, though it requires a reboot making it difficult to test. But it's worth doing so, and really pumps up the fonts. (And the reboot is quick.)

And don't forget about the global Brightness setting. This is in Settings -> Display & Brightness in iOS 8 and Settings -> Wallpapers & Brightness in iOS 7, but you can much more easily access it from the Control Center: Just swipe up from the bottom of the screen from anywhere in iOS.

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