iOS 9.3’s Night Shift and Shared iPads

Last week Apple announced several marquee features in its forthcoming iOS 9.3 update. Two of them I would classify under the heading Close But No Cigar, at least insofar as they match up to wish list items I’ve had for some time.

The first is Night Shift, which uses your device’s clock and location data to automatically shift the color of its display towards the warmer end of the light spectrum at night, much like the popular desktop utility f.lux. The goal is to ease users’ transitions into their sleep cycles by limiting evening exposure to blue light from the cooler end of the spectrum.

Marketing Site for Night Shift in iOS 9.3

I have no quarrel with this feature, but if Apple is so concerned about sleep, I still wish they would implement a global “night mode” feature throughout iOS. I wrote about this idea in this 2013 blog post:

Apple should offer an API that lets developers specify a night mode interface for their apps, and that mode should be available from a system-wide switch. So instead of turning iBooks or Kindle to night mode individually, one flip of that switch would turn the whole device to night mode. In the beginning, of course, not every app will support this, but if Apple provides dim-light versions of the home screen, Mail, Messages, iTunes, Settings and other essential apps, that in itself would be a huge boon.

I still believe this would be not just a big benefit for users, but also a meaningful point of differentiation from other mobile operating systems. Few things seem more integrally mobile to me than software that responds to its environments; acknowledging the stark difference between day and night seems like an important one to get right.

Apple also announced that this next software update will finally allow for multiple user accounts on iPad, something that that platform has sorely needed practically since its introduction. Much, much more than mobile phones or even laptops, iPads are shared between family members, and being able to allow individual access to specific apps and settings would make these devices significantly more valuable to customers.

Alas, iOS 9.3’s “Shared iPad” implementation is restricted only to education environments for now. It appears to be part of a more extensive solution for schools that includes a new Apple app for teachers, an Apple School Manager portal, and even a new class of Apple ID that can be created and assigned by the schools themselves.

Marketing Site for Shared iPad in iOS 9.3

All in all that’s a huge win for students, teachers and administrators, and I suppose it’s a hypothetical win for consumer users too, as it demonstrates that multiple accounts on iPad is possible. Hopefully something like it will come to general audiences before too long.