Would it be useful to come up with a dynamic mobile styling feature based on the lighting of the users environment. Similar to how the imac reduces its brightness if you cover the cam on top of the screen.

This is useful because mobile devices are used in environments of different lighting. while dark gray text on a light grey background will look pleasing on the eye indoors. this wont be the case when the user uses the phone outdoors, which in case a more contrasting style like black text on white background might be better.

http://babich.biz/mobile-ux-great-typography-enables-clear-communication/enter image description here

3 Answers 3


It would be useful.

Google's Maps application utilizes a "Night Mode", which switches the otherwise white theme of the app to a dark one, based off the time. It's not to far of a stretch to consider doing the same thing, but instead of the conditions being time of day, being the environmental lighting levels.

Sarah Perez - Google Maps’ “Night Mode” Feature Makes It Easier To Navigate In The Dark:

The idea is that this could improve your night vision, as your eyes will no longer have to adjust as you switch between the bright display and the dark road ahead.

Sure, it’s a minor feature release, but one that could make Google Maps a safer navigational aid for the millions of drivers who rely on the app instead of an in-dash navigational system.

  • This is a smart feature, however, according to that article, "Night Mode will only activate when it’s actually nighttime – not simply when it’s dark." I think OP was describing a feature that responded to your immediate environmental conditions instead of automatically turning on based on what time it is. Nov 4, 2016 at 14:00
  • @maxathousand I see what you mean. You could still implement a "Dark/Night Mode" for an application based off the light conditions though.
    – Tory
    Nov 4, 2016 at 14:03
  • My car's sat nav has a night mode. It seems to work off a sensor as it goes into night mode in tunnels.
    – PhillipW
    Aug 2, 2017 at 21:26

It would certainly be useful (sometimes), and Apple's version of this is called True Tone, which they introduced in their latest iPad Pro. However, it is concerned more with shifting the colour palette than the display brightness.

[True Tone] works a lot like the white-balance-compensating system found in the iPhone's camera flash, allowing the iPad's screen to determine just the right percentage and intensity of white light you need. The idea behind the whole concept is that whites tend to look different under different light, but with True Tone enabled, the iPad can shift how the display looks no matter the lighting.



The problem you describe (bad visibility in direct sunlight) is already (partially) solved by automatic screen brightness or a brightness slider. It's not exactly the same as going from grey-on-grey to black-on-white, but both increase the visual contrast of the screen.

For more complex situations like swapping black-on-white to white-on-black you could also use the light sensor of a phone. You should however keep in to account things like user empowerment, ui consistency, platform/technical limitations etc. And then I would think that it would nearly always boil down to 'not worth the effort'.

Not never, but given the effort for small improvements, vs alternative methods (user toggles, autobrightness, time-based) you'll generally be better off using those methods.

However, it might be interesting from a plugim/library POV. Doing the heavy lifting and neesing other deva to make only simple adjustment rules/styles.

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