First, a refresher on what f.lux is:
To quote its developers, f.lux is an application that “makes the colour of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day. f.lux makes your computer screen look like the room you’re in, all the time. When the sun sets, it makes your computer look like your indoor lights. In the morning, it makes things look like sunlight again.”
The effect is beneficial to one’s eyes at night: the warmer colour temperature of the screen reduces eye strain and helps to sleep better. (There’s research behind this.)
f.lux is available for Mac, Windows and Linux, and it’s been around for a few years now. It’s free to use and the developers accept donations.
f.lux has never been officially available for iOS, because it doesn’t use documented APIs. Since 2011, you can install it on jailbroken iOS devices via Cydia. On 12 November 2015, f.lux’s developers offered a way to install it on non-jailbroken devices through a clever trick — by sideloading it using Xcode, but Apple quickly intervened, asking the developers to remove this method because it violated the Xcode guidelines.
Back in November, in the conclusion of my article f.lux must be allowed on iOS, I wrote:
Well, I urge Apple to reconsider and look the other way, or to work with f.lux’s developers to find a way to allow them to ship a regular iOS app. It saddens me that something this useful is not allowed on the App Store, while a generous quantity of utter, useless crap is. If you read a lot on your iOS devices in the evening and at night, f.lux has a really beneficial impact on your health: it leads to much less eye strain and a better sleep. It deserves a place on iOS.
Apple’s move? Adding a feature to the upcoming iOS 9.3 update that works essentially the same as f.lux, called Night Shift. Apple is not new at this kind of behaviour, even an informal term has been coined to describe it, but what really rubbed me up the wrong way this time is the marketing language used to introduce Night Shift…
…together with that This latest iOS release adds numerous innovations to the world’s most advanced mobile operating system in the introduction at the top of the page. Look, I know, this is subjective, and I’m venting here, but the feeling I got after reading about Night Shift is that many people who don’t know better may think that Apple has been spending quite some time researching and developing this innovative, never-before-seen feature.
Perhaps this is just the idealist in me speaking but Apple could have involved f.lux’s developers to work on this feature, both for iOS and Mac OS X, instead of reacting with another example of Not Invented Here syndrome and adding a sprinkle of fanfare in its announcement.
f.lux’s developers have reacted in the most elegant and gracious way possible:
Apple’s involvement in fixing this problem is a big commitment and an important first step.
We’re proud that we are the original innovators and leaders in this area. In our continued work over the last seven years, we have learned how complicated people actually are. The next phase of f.lux is something we cannot wait to ship to the world. […]
Today we call on Apple to allow us to release f.lux on iOS, to open up access to the features announced this week, and to support our goal of furthering research in sleep and chronobiology.
I hope to be wrong on this, but my first reaction is Good luck with that. If before the excuse for not allowing f.lux on iOS was that it used private APIs, the excuse after iOS 9.3 and Night Shift will be that it duplicates a built-in feature.
And I bet it won’t be long before we see a Night Shift equivalent on Mac OS X.
By the way, I’ve heard through the Twittervine that Night Shift will only be available to iOS devices with 64-bit architecture (therefore minimum requirements will be iPhone 5S, iPad Air and iPad mini 2, and iPod touch 6th generation), which is another artificial limitation, since my iPhone 5 handles f.lux pretty well. This kind of useful feature should be made available to the widest possible range of devices — at least all those that support iOS 9. Good thing I acted quickly and managed to sideload f.lux in the brief window of availability back in November.