How To: Keep Your Night Vision Sharp with the iPhone's Hidden Red Screen

Keep Your Night Vision Sharp with the iPhone's Hidden Red Screen

Night Shift, Dark Mode, Reduce White Point, and Zoom's Low Light Filter all help reduce the harmful effects on your body's clock that bright iPhone and iPad screens have at night. But there's another option on iOS and iPadOS that turns your entire display red, and it's useful for so much more than just late-night browsing in bed.

The brightness slider, Reduce White Point, and Zoom all dim the display, but Night Shift cancels out blue light frequencies, resulting in an orange hue that can help you get to sleep easier (though that is up for debate). Dark Mode switches all the bright whites to black or dark gray colors, putting less stress on your eyes.

Color Tint, the feature discussed below, overlays your entire screen with a colored filter, such as a pure red filter, which has its own set of benefits.

Red light is harder to see than other light frequencies, so it tricks our eyes into thinking it's less bright than it really is. That means you can look at a red screen in a dark room, and your dilated pupils won't have to adjust as much to the light. Additionally, when you look away from the red screen, your eyes will adapt much quicker to the darkness around you.

Apple's hidden Color Tint feature could be helpful for using star map apps for amateur astronomy, sneaking a quick peek at your iPhone in a movie theater, or just checking your device when you wake up in the middle of the night. You could even use your iPhone's screen as a makeshift red-lens flashlight for red-light readable paper maps, which are common in the military. And as a reader pointed out, many animals have a hard time seeing red, so a red filter will let you use your iPhone or iPad while hunting at night.

Step 1: Enable Red Tint

Simply go to the Color Filters menu buried in Settings to try out the hidden feature. On iOS 13, 14, and 15, as well as iPadOS 13, 14, and 15, head to Settings –> Accessibility. Next, choose "Display & Text Size" in the Vision group and open "Color Filters." On iOS 12 and older, it's a little different:

  • iOS 13–15: Settings –> Accessibility –> Display & Text Size –> Color Filters
  • iPadOS 13–15: Settings –> Accessibility –> Display & Text Size –> Color Filters
  • iOS 12 and older: Settings –> General –> Accessibility –> Display Accommodations –> Color Filters

Next, toggle on the "Color Filters" switch, and select "Color Tint" as your filter. The Intensity and Hue sliders should be in the far-right position to get the full red screen effect, so move the controls on those if they're not already there.

You can't capture the effect in screenshots (the above image is simulated to match the color that appears), but it's certainly dramatic. And because your iPhone or iPad is now emitting only red light, it will be much easier to use in dark environments to maintain night vision without shocking your eyes.

Step 2: Add a Shortcut for Your Red Tint (Optional)

If you want to go back and forth between your new red tint and regular bright non-tinted screen, it'd be pretty inconvenient to keep going into the "Color Filters" menu in Settings to toggle the red filter on or off. To turn the red screen on or off faster, you have a few options:

Option 1: Accessibility Shortcut

With the Accessibility Shortcut feature, you can triple-click the Side, Home, or Top button on your iPhone or iPad to switch between the standard screen and red tint. To set it up, go to the "Accessibility Shortcut" menu at the bottom of the Accessibility settings. Choose "Color Filters" from the list, and you're done.

  • iOS 13–15: Settings –> Accessibility –> Accessibility Shortcut
  • iPadOS 13–15: Settings –> Accessibility –> Accessibility Shortcut
  • iOS 12 and older: Settings –> General –> Accessibility –> Accessibility Shortcut

If you've enabled two or more options for the Accessibility Shortcut, such as Color Tint with Magnifier, Voice Control, Smart Invert, or Zoom, a menu will appear when you use triple-click, and you'll need to choose "Color Filters" from there. It's a little slower but necessary if you like using a lot of these cool triple-click shortcuts.

Option 2: Back Tap (iPhone Only)

If you don't like triple-clicking your iPhone's Side or Home button, you can use the Back Tap feature instead. Go to Settings –> Accessibility –> Touch –> Back Tap. Then, choose "Double Tap" or "Triple Tap" and assign "Color Filters" to it. Whenever you double-tap or triple-tap the back of your iPhone now, you'll toggle your red screen filter on or off.

  • iOS 14–15: Settings –> Accessibility –> Touch –> Back Tap

Option 3: Siri

You can also use Siri to toggle the red filter, but it only works in iOS 15 and iPadOS 15. Just say "Hey Siri, turn on Color Tint" to enable it, and "Hey Siri, turn off Color Tint" to disable it. If you don't use Hey Siri, long-press the Side or Home button, and say the command without "Hey Siri." Note that if you try to use "Color Filters" instead of "Color Tint," Siri will try to apply it to HomeKit accessories instead.

  • iOS 15: "Hey Siri, turn on/off Color Tint"
  • iPadOS 15: "Hey Siri, turn on/off Color Tint"

There are currently no actions in the Shortcuts app to toggle Color Filters or Color Tint, so you can't make a home screen button to press whenever you want the red filter. Hopefully, that will come in a future iOS/iPadOS update.

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Cover photo and screenshots by Justin Meyers/Gadget Hacks

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2 Comments

Excellent column for the many hunters across the world. Most animals have difficulty seeing red light. So, if you are hunting at night (where legal) you can also use your iPad without fearing that game animals, like deer, will see the light coming from your iPad.

Great point. Definitely something we should have included as another practical use for the red filter.

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