If you own an Android phone with an AMOLED or similar screen, there’s a great alternative to a front lit e-ink reader like Kindle Paperwhite or Kobo Glo. It’s an app called Screen Filter that allows you to apply a transparent black “layer” over the screen, which makes everything on the screen darker. There is a slider that allows you to go as low as 2% brightness, which essentially creates a posterized view of the screen in mostly black.
On an AMOLED screen like the one on my Samsung Galaxy Note, this makes the screen incredibly dim — so dim in fact that if you’re using the Kindle Android app and you select white text on black background, my Note shoots out fewer photons into my eyes than the Kindle Paperwhite set to the lowest brightness setting (which is 0 on the device, since you can’t actually turn the lights completely off on it). And it’s still pretty readable after your eyes have adjusted to it, although you do want to increase the text size a little or you will begin to squint to reduce the glow around the text since your pupils get very large when it’s this dark. To be fair, the Paperwhite comes pretty close in terms of dimness, so it probably doesn’t make a huge difference. And the Paperwhite does provide a nicer, less disruptive reading experience compared to using your always-connected phone. By the way, I don’t own the Kindle Paperwhite, but I was able to test it for a few days. I decided to return it because of a dead ink “pixel”.
Screen Filter works on non-AMOLED screens too, but I find that on a normal LCD, the contrast takes a bigger hit. I tested this on my Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, and it wasn’t nearly as pleasant to read on with the brightness dimmed. Also, being a backlit LCD, it inherently leaks a lot of light regardless of Screen Filter strength. My Note definitely wins the fewest-photons-emitted contest by a large margin compared to the Tab.
So, why is this awesome? My wife normally complains when I’m using my phone in bed (which is a bad habit of mine I admit) because the brightness makes it hard for her to fall asleep. But with my Screen Filter activated, she can hardly even tell I’m using it. Another nice bonus is that you essentially don’t lose any of your dark vision when staring into the screen with the Screen Filter set to 2%.
The downsides of using your phone as a book reader remain though: it only takes one friend to send you a ping, text, Facebook update, or anything else and you’ll quickly get distracted. For maximized reading pleasure, be sure to mute the audio and stay disciplined and never context switch out of the Kindle app. And the downsides of reading in bed remain too: try to be wiser than I am and don’t read for more than an hour. Otherwise you’ll end up like me and stay awake until 3am and complain about having sleep problems when clearly it’s your own fault. I should probably follow Rosana’s advice and get myself a really nice reading chair and put it outside of the bedroom to reduce my problems of falling asleep. I’ll do that some day, I promise.
Happy bedtime reading! Speaking of which, it’s already 12:45 am…