iPhone 5 black out: Going dark on wallpaper

After using Twitterrific 5 for a only few hours, and its dark-as-in-black theme, I exited the the app and immediately found my default iOS wallpaper... distracting. So, I whipped up a solid black 1136x640 PNG file, saved it to camera roll, and applied to both my Home screen and Lock screen as a "wallpaper". And now I'm in love with the look. All over again.

Unlike previous generations, which had a shiny silvered or stainless steel band around the sides, Apple made the dark version of the iPhone 5 "black and slate", which I like to call "Vader black", but is more widely known as "blackout". It's popular look for high-end watches and cars. If you put it down on a dark or shadowed surface, you'll have trouble finding it later. Yet as the iPhone's hardware has gone dark, it's software has gone bright. Back in 2007 when Steve Jobs first held it up on stage, the Home screen background was solidly, unchangeably, black. 5 generations and almost as many years later, you can put any image you want there, from textures to faux finishes to photos. You can light up every pixel, all the time.

Apple's head of design, Jony Ive, has spoken about hardware that's authentic to its purpose, and about taking way everything superfluous, everything distracting, until only the essential remains. Twitterrific 5 did the same thing with their dark theme, making it just as authentically digital. (We have a full interview with Gedeon Maheux and David Lanham, with a behind-the-scene look at the making of Twitterrific 5 on this week's episode of Iterate so make sure you check it out!)

Removing the textures, the faux finishes, and the photos from the Home and Lock screen does the same thing for the iPhone as a whole. It sets those intermediary pixels free and brings attention back to information and interface elements that matter. (Would that the Lock screen could go blacker.)

It makes the iPhone seem even more integral, more whole.

Here's the black PNG file if you want to try it. Just touch and hold on the images, save them to your camera roll, go to the photos app, choose the image, tap the action button, and choose the wallpaper option.

And if pure black is too much, here's a slightly textured version called Anthracite by Marc Edwards of Bjango.

There are lots of other subtle variants out there, so if you have a favorite, please do share.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

iPhone 5 black out: Going dark on wallpaper


I just copied you when I read the title of this post. iOS 1, 2 and 3, baby!

Edit 1: I can't handle the going dark thing, just tried it for 15 minutes. Here's a fall wall photo I snapped a few weeks back, it's much more calming: http://cl.ly/LQIj/IMG_4472.PNG

In case you guys were wondering, this is a RAW, but cropped iPhone photograph (no effect).

(your comment "edit" button is broken here on the site (which is why I had to reply to my own comment)

Another way to get the black is to turn off your camera flash, hold your phone against your leg, and take a picture. Then pick it from camera roll. Easy!

If the image consists only of pixels of one colour — it's entirely black — then image resolution doesn't matter. So, you could use the iPhone wallpaper on your iPad and not worry about it looking bad.

You can take any black image at any size and just stretch it to the size if your screen. Black is black no mater how stretched out.

"Just touch and hold on the images, save them to your camera roll"

This doesn't work within the iMore iOS app.
You need to go to safari and view the article, you can save the image from there.

My 'Vader Black' iPhone 5 had a black background from day 1. My iPhone 4 wall paper was a pic of Darth Vader and it was simply ported over.

Great suggestion. I now have black iPhone 5, black OtterBox case...and black wallpaper--pretty much a stealth set-up.

I've always used it like that. To me the fact that Apple allowed users to change it on iOS 4 was a big mistake. In therms of design the single purpose of the home screen is to present you with the icons and with the black background the "screen" just disappears and the phone and the icons are presented as a whole. Besides, you have the lock screen to place a picture if you so desire, and it's going to look a lot better without all the icons on top of it.

By the way, you don't need a wallpaper with the size of your device. Considering we're talking about a solid color all you need (as a matter of fact it might be even better if you do this) is a 1px by 1px image. Cheers!

Oh yeah! Back to black! I love the blackout theme in Twitteriffic 5. Only problem is when I click on a link in my timeline, it takes me away to a page that shocks my eyes because it has adjusted to the dark.

It looks really good on the black iPhone 5. I remember when I hated the black on iOS 2,3. But the icons really look good. Not so good on the lock screen

Completely agree. I just set it to the Home Screen and left my Lock Screen the same as it was.

When I would pick up my daughter's iPod touch (2nd gen, 4.2 or something, still - no background wallpaper allowed) I would think "This does look good"

Re: "Apple's head of design, Jony Ive, has spoken about hardware that's authentic to its purpose, and about taking way everything superfluous, everything distracting..."

You can talk deep, pure design until you're blue in the face.
You can preach truthfulness in user-centric design all day.

But in the end, designers are still fashion victims.
Just as trendy and fad-driven as the rest of us.
App "A" looks cool today, so apps "B," "C," and "D" will all copy it tomorrow.

You'll get sick of black in a few days, Rene.

"... in the end, designers are still fashion victims."

Spoken by someone who obviously knows nothing about design. Fashion is about styling, design is about ... design. They aren't the same thing at all. You are talking about trends in styling, not design.

My girlfriend has always rocked the black wallpaper. She's downright militant about it.

She also loves christmas lights. Does anyone know where I can find a black wallpaper with christmas lights on the edges? I've tried Google and I can't find anything that isn't a silly out of focus thing or messy dangly lights. The background needs to be almost entirely black with the lights just poking out of the edges. Really weird and specific I know but I figured there has to be someone on this comment thread who's equally anal about such things.

I've been using the black wallpaper on my homescreen ever since my iphone 4 when it was release with Verizon. I think it's too busy to have something behind the icons. Glad other people feel the same way. As someone said before me just take a picture against your leg or something. That's how I did it my frist time, and it never occured to me to do it another way.

Boy, you really nailed it, Rene! I had already created a dark background but it had these "ceiling lights" shining down for a bit of "illumination." It was classy n' all, but, I have to agree that total black is pure class!


I find that the best "home screen" background has to be B&W and must have a variety of textures to show off the great Retina display. A great composition also goes a long way.

For the "lock screen" I love a powerfully composed photograph using the rule of thirds and maybe some negative space to make it pop!


I took the simple route when (I think it was) the day iOS 5 came out with the pinstriped wallpaper. I hated it. I walked out into the garage, left the lights off, and took a picture without the flash. Black as coal. I've used it ever since. My lock screen is the American flag.

I like the dark look as well. Even if not dark, I like the plain backgrounds as I find images too distracting from the icons. If I do use an image, like the Calvin & Hobbes image below, I'll arrange the icons so they only fill part of the screen so the image is below, and C&H are looking up at them.

Some of my favorites are:

C&H: http://imgur.com/S3cy4

Apple lock screen, then the same without the logo for the home screen:
Lock: http://imgur.com/ocFE7
Home: http://imgur.com/TEY0c

Honeycomb: http://imgur.com/qHO3L

A few lightly patterned options:

i remember when everyone was complaining because we couldn't choose our own wallpapers and the only option iPhone users had was black... now it's cool again? jesus christ. /facepalm

You said "5 generations and almost as many years later" but the iPhone 5 (despite it's name) is the 6th generation iPhone. – I still think Apple picked a stupid name, for that very reason.

It looks like your iPhone has a lot of light leak in the corners, have you tried getting it replaced?

Okay, wallpapers can be distracting and only icons makes users focus on apps - BUT, this doesn't roll like it used to. Because we now have the option to change our wallpaper, it's something we think about regardless how diluted the background is. Before when black was standard, you just slide to unlock your iPhone and it's right to the apps!

Yeah, the home screen in black looks very sleek. I even changed it on my phone but that didn't last more than 5 minutes. Now that we have the option to change wallpaper, it's hard to unlock and not think, "hmmm, can this look better?"

But like I said, black is sleek. I just changed my wallpaper to canvas black thanks to chris1982 :]

i might be late to comment.. but, why dont you try it all white in white iphone? or black iphone lol