Hardware

Why should I turn my smartphone screen black and white?

Smartphone screen black and white
A cleaner view: drain the colour from your screen

There was once a time when all mobile phone screens – long before they became anything resembling “smart” – were either black and white or the sickly green favoured by Nokia. They were innocent days, when our only worry was getting sore thumbs from playing hours of Snake.

In 2017, on the other hand, looking at your smartphone’s app drawer is an experience akin to the trippy “Star Gate” sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Primary-coloured logos shout for your attention, while bright-red notifications signal impending doom and drain your battery.

But what if there was a way to cut through the visual noise? How can you focus on the all-important content, rather than the visual noise? Well, turning your phone’s screen black and white could be the answer.

Far from being retrograde for the sake of being retrograde, going monochrome could help combat a smartphone addiction. It’s certainly worked for me: after only two days with a greyscale phone, I now scroll through Twitter a lot less and hesitate before jumping down a YouTube rabbit hole (it turns out cat videos aren’t quite the same in black and white).

Moreover, as with the E-Ink technology used in Amazon’s Kindles, making the change could help reduce eye strain. This very much depends on other factors, such as the brightness of your screen, but I found it to be a welcome break from the usual bombardment of bright colours.

There are, of course, downsides. The first is that turning your screen black and white makes everything look a little grim. This is especially true with the ubiquitous Spotify: drained of all colour, even the most innocuous album cover suddenly looks like it’s by a Norwegian black metal band. All of your photos will also look like an arthouse collection – but bear in mind that the images will immediately return to colour as soon as you upload or share them.

So have you been won over to the dark side? If so, follow the instructions below to turn your iOS or Android phone black and white.

iOS

Turning your iPhone greyscale is a cinch. The menus vary slightly in the different versions of iOS, but in iOS 10:

1. Go to Settings | General | Accessibility | Display Accommodations | Colour filters

2. Scroll down and select Greyscale.

Meanwhile, in older versions of iOS, you should follow these two steps:

1. Head to Settings | General | Accessibility

2. Tap Greyscale under the Vision subsection.

Android

Making your Android screen black and white is a tad more difficult and, bizarrely, involves tapping the same option seven times.

1. Navigate to Settings | About phone (you may need to go a step further into Software Info or some such in some models)

2. Tap “Build number” seven times to become a developer. You will get a pop-up notification once this is done

3. Head back to Settings | Developer options

4. Scroll down to the “Hardware accelerated rendering” subsection and tap “Simulate colour space”

5. Select “Monochromacy”.

About the author

Max Figgett

Max has written for numerous websites and magazines over the years. Whether it’s about ancient hardware or software secrets, no Big Tech Question is too obscure for him to tackle.

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