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How to Enable Sort of Dark Mode on iPhones (iOS 12)

iPhone Dark Mode iOS 12 - Smart Invert - Settings

Note: If you’re using iOS 13 or later, this “how to” is outdated, because in iOS 13 there’s now the real dark mode option. It’s in Settings > Display & Brightness.

White fonts on black background, also known as “dark mode”, is an accelerating trend in user interface design. An increasing number of apps has started to provide dark mode option alongside the usual “light mode” with black fonts on light backgrounds. Dark mode is believed to be easier on the eyes. It also saves battery life on devices with OLED displays, such as some of the newer iPhone models (X, XS, and XS Max).

Dark mode isn’t available as an official feature of iOS operating system. At least not yet. However, on iPhones running the current iOS 12 and previous iOS 11, you can enable a sort of dark mode, called Smart Invert. Smart Invert enables white fonts on black background by inverting colors. Smart Invert, as opposed to Classic Invert, recognizes images and videos and excludes them from inversion, so only text & background get inverted.

Here’s how you can enable the Smart Invert pseudo-dark mode on iPhones with the current iOS 12:

Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Invert Colors. Turn the Smart Invert switch on.

That’s how you enable Smart Invert.

Since Smart Invert isn’t a full-blown dark mode, some elements such as icons on widgets in the Today View and in some apps are displayed with inverted colors. Also, user interface elements in iOS with shadows beneath them cast white shadows which looks a bit odd.

Games? Sorry, Smart Invert inverts colors in games. So every time you want to play a game you’ll have to turn Smart Invert off in iOS settings, if you want your game to look normal.

Furthermore, Smart Invert isn’t always successful in keeping images and videos in their original color state, so sometimes they look like film negatives of analog cameras. For instance, videos in my Instagram feeds have inverted colors and on a few websites in Google Chrome I encountered images with inverted colors.

But, most of the time images and videos look normal under Smart Invert, including videos in YouTube app. What I also like is that most of the time text of web pages is displayed as white fonts on black.

As a side note, screenshots with Smart Invert on are flawed since these screenshot images have improperly inverted colors. Also, iOS user interface captured with screenshots under Smart Invert is light, not dark. That’s why I had to take images of the Smart Invert dark mode with a camera.

Note: For this post I used an iPhone 7 with iOS 12.1.4.

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