/ Experiment

Black & White iPhone Mode: The Discovery of a Life Without Color

Sometimes, I like to try strange things. And by the title, you might already have guessed what I did this time. Right the day after I went through the Peter Lindbergh exhibition in Munich, I somehow got the idea to switch my phone to black and white only[1].

Black and white is minimal. It's calm.

The main idea was to get a feel for B&W. To experience it more. And to see how the world would look without colors. And what I found was interesting, to say the least.

The Effects

There were some things that I already anticipated. But then there were a couple aspects I didn't see coming.

Instagram Browsing & Uploading

This one was immediately apparent. How would I share photographs on Instagram without being able to tell which colors it is? How others can see the image. How does it actually look?

And not just that but also the other way around. I was only able to see the images uploaded by others in black and white. Which then sparked my imagination of how it may look in color.


For Instagram alone it's super interesting to look at photos without all the colors.

Photography was definitely the most complicated aspect. But it also showed me an issue that I only heard about until now and never experienced. How do you share if you aren't capable of experiencing it yourself? Years ago, I watched a YouTube video about a blind[2] guy using his iPhone. It was fascinating in itself. But he wasn't just using an iPhone, he also has an Instagram account and shares photos, even edits them. Super impressive. And going through the experience of seeing everything on Instagram black and white, it's surely not the same thing as being blind for life, but I feel like this gave me a sense of sharing something that you don't know how people will see it.

Attention Grabbers

All those red badges, the sponsored content, advertisements and the likes. I still saw all of those things. But they were much less distracting. I was able to dictate where I wanted my attention to go.

In my constant fight with my monkey brain. It's sometimes hard to direct attention. I have my notifications turned off for the most part. My phone does not vibrate except for calls. I don't want to be distracted. But the badge on the app icon? That's essential to even know if something happened in there. Having everything gray scaled put that badge in the background. Not as annoying as usual. It's just a number. Nothing I have to jump at anymore. And I really enjoy that.

The Invisible

What I did not expect was that some things are just flat out no longer visible. For example, I am no longer able to distinguish between the delivered and seen check marks in WhatsApp. They are just the same color.

This happened more often than I expected. Mostly not something that changes the way I used an app. But somehow weird.

The Saturation

After I had been using black and white mode for a couple days, I was astonished that when I switched back to color mode, all the colors just popped out of the screen. It was almost too much to handle. So colorful. So bright. Almost too much color!

It's something that happens every time I turn it back on now. It's frightening. To what we are used by now. And something that showed me again how certain periods of sensory deprivation (be it sugar, meat, hearing, seeing) can be a good thing to show you how much there actually is in normal day to day life.

How to Activate?

I think this is an enriching experience. Not just for a day or two. But actually for longer. And there is a trick hidden away in the settings, that I discovered after a couple days. With the following configuration you as well can make your iPhone or iPad show everything Black and White (and switch it on and off with a Triple-Home-Button-Click):

Activate Greyscale Mode on iOS 11

Settings.app > General > Accessibility > Display Accomodations > Color Filters

Here you can activate the color filter "Greyscale" to have everything, well, greyscaled.

Home Button Triple-Click on iOS 11

Settings.app > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut

To have a quick way to switch between color mode and the gray scale mode, you can set a check mark in this settings area for "Color Filters". With that set, you can triple-click the home button to toggle between color and B&W.


I will keep it. I even found a way to do the same thing on my Mac (but I'm not sure how much I am going to use that mode). On my iPhone though? I will definitely keep it as my default for now. Switching it off for some Instagram use every so often.

Overall I am one experience richer. But now I wonder: what could I test next? Have you tested something like this recently? What have you learned? I'm listening in the comments section. I am curious and would like to learn some more.

  1. And don't ask me why I knew that this mode even existed. I have no idea when I discovered that. ↩︎

  2. I researched if it's ok to say "blind". Apparently, it is according to blind.net. The whole "politically correct words" things is sometimes just annoying. ↩︎

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