Android Q: How to use dark mode

Save battery life and your eyes with Android's dark mode

Android 10 Q dark theme in Photos app
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

There are few things more jarring than picking up your phone in a dark room and opening an app with a white background. That eye-melting burst of brilliant white can be downright painful. Design trends have also slid toward greater use of white space in recent years, and few companies have been more complicit in this trend than Google. Thankfully, the Android maker has heard the complaints and it’s acting on them by working a dark mode into Android that not only saves our eyes but could also save battery life.

We’ve grown more conscious in recent years of the potential harm staring at screens can do to our eyes and how blue light can disrupt sleep. Many manufacturers have started to offer different night modes, but proper dark modes that switch white and light backgrounds to dark backgrounds are rare. Google added a dark theme in Android 9.0 Pie, but it only changes the background of the notification shade and app drawer, leaving settings and apps unaffected. In Android 10 Q we’re finally going to get a proper, system-wide dark mode — and we’ve been testing it out.

How to turn on dark mode in Android Q

It’s very easy to turn on dark mode. Here’s how:

  • Go to Settings > Display > Theme and tap on Dark.

If you have Android 9.0 Pie, you’ll get a taste of dark mode, but be warned, most things still have white backgrounds. The dark mode only seems to impact the notification shade and the app drawer. To give your peepers a real treat, you need to upgrade to Android 10 Q, but only a select group of phones are currently eligible.

We’re currently using the third public beta version of Android Q and the wording has changed when you select Dark to say “Supported apps will also switch to dark theme.” So far, that isn’t many, but in addition to the notification shade and app drawer, it does change the backgrounds of all the settings menus and also of apps like Phone, Contacts, and Photos. We expect more apps are working their way toward compatibility with dark mode and should be a part of it by the time Android 10 Q officially rolls out.

Ideally, developers will create dark themes of their own to fit in with dark mode, but Google has also included a “Force Dark” option for developers which automatically converts light backgrounds to darker tones.

How to turn off dark mode

It’s easy to turn off dark mode if you don’t like it.

  • Go to Settings > Display > Theme and tap on Light.

We’d like to see an option to schedule dark mode, as you can with Night Light, perhaps as part of the Wind Down feature.

Does dark mode save battery life?

There was a session at Google I/O that addressed this idea of dark mode saving battery life, particularly with OLED screens. When pixels are lit individually, as with OLED displays, dark pixels are effectively off, and so dark backgrounds use less battery. According to the I/O session, Android Q’s dark theme can reduce battery consumption in some apps by up to 60%. That’s a major potential improvement.

Dark theme is going to be a standard part of the battery saving mode because of this potential power saving. We still don’t know what Android Q will be called, but if you’re unable to install the beta right now, you don’t have too long to wait as it’s expected to roll out starting in August.

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