Phones & Tablets

How to enable dark mode on your phone, laptop, and more

Mar 24, 2020
How to enable dark mode on your phone, laptop, and more
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Dark mode is a feature that lets you switch the color theme of an app or an entire desktop operating system to black or something close to it. Beyond the thrill of invigorating a tired design, some like to have the option because it makes looking at your devices a little easier on the eyes. If you use a smartphone that has an OLED display, it might save some battery life, too.

These days, you can find official support for dark mode in a lot of places; it's now available in iOS 13, and Google offers it in Android 10. You can find it in places like macOS Catalina and on the Nintendo Switch. Dark mode is also available in several popular apps, including Instagram, Slack, Twitter, and Google Chrome, and Google's now committed to bringing it to every major first-party Android app it produces. But it isn't everywhere just yet.

If you're curious about whether your favorite app or platform supports dark mode, we're keeping track of every development. If it doesn't, but you're eager to experiment, there may be some third-party workarounds depending on your device. Either way, here are a few ways you can put dark mode into your day -- or night.

Note that any unofficial dark mode is likely to be imperfect, and app compatibility could be a mixed bag for you.

HOW TO GET DARK MODE ON YOUR IPHONE

Alright, iPhone users, Dark Mode is finally available for you -- that is, if you download iOS 13. According to my colleague Chaim Gartenberg, who reviewed iOS 13 and has spent a lot of time playing with the new Dark Mode, you'll find that all of Apple's major apps have jumped to the dark side. He says that third-party developers are still working it into their apps, and there are a few Apple-made apps that don't support it, like iWork, or the iTunes Remote, but by and large, it's currently better than what Android 10 offers.

Here's more from Chaim on dark mode on iOS 13:

There are basically two options to use it: a toggle that switches between the two modes and an automatic function that intelligently flips back and forth based on sunrise and sunset. I found I preferred the sunset toggle since the main draw of Dark Mode for me is not being blinded by my display at night, but dark-mode-all-the-things fans will be happy with the permanent toggle.

To turn on Dark Mode in iOS 13:

  • Tap on the Settings app
  • Scroll down and tap on "Display & Brightness"
  • Select "Dark Mode"

There are a few other methods for switching on Dark Mode for iOS 13. You can swipe down to access the Control Center (swipe up on older devices) and then tap and hold on the Brightness dial. A Dark Mode switch will then appear on the bottom left corner.

The other involves opening the Settings app. Navigate to "Control Center." Then, find "Customize controls," and you'll see an option to add Dark Mode to your Control Center.

 

HOW TO GET DARK MODE ON YOUR ANDROID PHONE

Dark Theme, Google's name for a system-wide dark mode, launched in Android 10. There are a few different ways to activate it:

  • Open the Settings app
  • Click "Display," then toggle "Dark theme" on

Alternatively, you can pull down from the top of the display to reveal the Quick Settings, then you'll find a button to switch it on. If you don't see it, pull the Quick Settings bar all the way down, then tap the pencil icon. Once you see Dark theme, drag it into your main lineup. When you click it, it will force the Dark theme across Android 10, as well as many of Google's own apps.

If your phone doesn't yet support Android 10, the story differs a bit depending on the phone that you have. You may have a dark theme available for you to switch on in the display settings. But even where dark modes do exist, there are usually some limitations.

If you own a Samsung phone that has Android 9 Pie via Samsung's One UI update, you can turn on Night Mode by opening up the Settings menu located in your app drawer, going to the Display option and toggling Night Mode. My colleague Dieter Bohn says that this feature, among a few others, is "genuinely useful," though it's not without its problems. For example, having Night Mode on currently confuses Android's Auto in-car software into thinking it's night all day long, according to Android Police.

To active Android's dark mode:

  • Find the Settings menu and tap "Display" > "Advanced"
  • You'll find "Device theme" near the bottom of the feature list. Activate the "Dark setting."

If your phone runs Android 9 Pie, you can set Night Mode to remain on at all times, but you have to have Developer options (which give you access to some extra features) enabled first.

  • To enable Developer options, open up Settings, then tap on "About phone."
  • At the very bottom of this screen, you'll see "Build number." Tap that seven times. This will give you access to the Developer options, which you can then find in Settings by going to System > Advanced > Developer options.
  • Scroll down until you see Night Mode near the bottom of the first section of the menu. You can set it to "Always on" or "Automatic (based on time of day)."

If you want a quick, easy dark mode solution for your phone, downloading a launcher from the Google Play Store is an option. The Nova Launcher, to name one of several examples, is free and lets you switch most of your Android user interface -- including the app drawer, search bar, and app groups on your home screen -- to dark mode. There are still a few areas where the default color cannot be overridden, like the notification pull-down window or Google Chrome.

HOW TO GET DARK MODE ON YOUR MACOS COMPUTER

If you use macOS Mojave, or the latest macOS Catalina software, it comes with a system-wide dark mode. As mentioned above, this feature switches the color scheme of the user interface, and it can automatically trigger dark mode to toggle on in other third-party apps that are built to support it. Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, to name two examples, switch automatically to dark mode if they detect the feature running on your computer.

To enable dark mode on a computer running macOS Catalina:

  • Open up the system preferences by clicking the Apple logo in the top left corner of your screen
  • Click on "General"
  • At the top of the menu window, you will see the option to switch the look of the interface to dark in the Appearance section
  • On macOS Catalina, an "Auto" option exists. Clicking this will make your theme switch between light and dark depending on the time of day

HOW TO GET DARK MODE ON YOUR WINDOWS 10 COMPUTER

It's fairly easy to switch to dark mode in Windows 10. As with most dark modes, Microsoft's implementation doesn't extend to every single window that you open up on your Windows 10 laptop or desktop. It does work on most apps that come preinstalled with the operating system, though there are some that just flat-out don't support it, including WordPad and Microsoft Edge.

  • To set up dark mode on your PC, first head to the Personalization menu within the system's settings, which you can quickly pull up by right-clicking on your desktop
  • Select "Colors" on the sidebar. Under "App Mode," select the "Dark" option to turn on dark mode.

HOW TO GET DARK MODE ON YOUR GAMING CONSOLE

If you play games, you probably want dark mode on your gaming console, too. Thankfully, the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch all offer some sort of option to turn on a dark mode, even if in some cases it's just a theme.

PS4

The PlayStation 4 doesn't have a dark mode built in, but you can get something close to it by personalizing your theme.

  • Make your way to Settings on the top navigation bar
  • Look for a section called "Themes," and within that, click "Default." This section lets you change the background color, so if you're looking for a quick solution to make the interface darker, you can select the black background.
  • If that doesn't do it for you, you can download a custom theme from the PlayStation Store that suits your style. Inside of the Themes menu, you'll find a quick link that takes you directly to where you can browse for free and paid themes.

XBOX ONE

Microsoft's gaming console offers fairly robust theme options, allowing you to change the color of the operating system's interface and that of its smaller touches, like Achievement blips.

  • To get started, hit the Xbox button on your controller, then select Settings from the pop-up menu
  • Select "Personalization" > "Theme and motion"
  • Now you can switch on dark mode. You also have the option of having your Xbox switch back and forth between light and dark depending on a user-specified time or just in accordance with sunrise and sunset.
  • If you want to sync up the color of tiles and the accent surrounding them, navigate to "My color & background" within the Personalization menu, then select "My color."

NINTENDO SWITCH

The Nintendo Switch console defaults to a white background, but changing it to black is simple. Once you do so, the theme will carry through most of the portable console's user interface, with the exception of the eShop and the NES app that is included for free with Nintendo Switch Online.

  • Navigate to System Settings within the string of buttons found along the bottom of the main menu
  • Find your way down to the setting called "Themes," then turn on the "Basic Black" option to activate the Switch's version of dark mode

DARK MODE FOR EVERYTHING ELSE

We figure you probably don't want to read a long list of how to enable dark mode in each and every app under the sun -- ping us if you do -- but we're tracking all the major app updates that bring dark mode in our Dark Mode StoryStream, which you can check out here.