Skip to main content

Night mode is back and (we hope) it's here to stay

When I joined the Android world, Google Play Music All Access had a dark theme to it, and I absolutely loved it. I savored those darker hues when listening to my music late into the night. Then at Google I/O 2013, they unveiled All Access, and a shiny, white UI to go with it. And I wept, for my beloved dark theme was gone. Soon, white UIs took over all the Google apps, and over most of the system, as the once-dark Settings app went white in Lollipop.

Now, in the Android N developer preview, some of apps are reclaiming their darker UIs with the newly returned Night mode. And I hope that maybe, just maybe, dark themes will return to more individual apps.

In Android M's developer preview, Night mode was hiding in the Developer options, but it was pulled from the official release. This year, it's back, but it's in the System UI Tuner, in a new section called Color and appearance.

Like a lightswitch, you can flick Night mode on or off

Night mode has more granular settings this year rather than a simple on/off/automatic choice like last year. After enabling Night mode, you have the option to have it come on automatically based on your location and time. You can also manually toggle it from the settings menu or from the Quick Settings page, if you prefer.

At the moment, while night mode can implement a dark theme for the Android system, it does not change the theme in third-party apps, or even in Google's apps. However, in Android Support Libraries released in February, Google did announce new DayNight theme protocols to help developers easily create both light and dark themes for their apps. They also highly encouraged them to test them, as many hard-coded colors don't play nice in dark themes. This was a relatively recent addition to Android, so they might be holding off on the Night mode setting to switch between DayNight themes until more developers have had time to implement them.

There are three attributes to Night mode that you can mix and match to your content:

Look at the lovely, lovely darkness.

  • Use Dark theme for Android OS: This changes the Settings app, the built-in file manager, and system popups (like the power off menu) to a darker color scheme. It doesn't extend to the notifications or the Google apps yet, which is a bit of a downer, but there's still time for that to be added in another preview.
  • Adjust tint: This will add a warm hue to the screen. Some studies say that bluer hues can interfere with our sleep cycles, so many night mode apps use a red or yellow tone to counteract it.
  • Adjust brightness: This will dim the phone at night. If you use adaptive brightness, you may not notice much change. If you keep your brightness cranked up, this can tone it down at night when you're likely in a dimmer environment.

It may not be great if you wanna edit pictures, but the red tint can help you from staying up longer.

By allowing dark and light themes to be supported on a system level as well as an eventual per-app level (if DayNight is eventually controlled by Night mode), Google would give users a higher level of choice. For those who like being blinded every time they open their phone, the boring white day theme is there for them. For those of us who remember DarkHOLOYOLO, we can once more savor a night theme that is easier on our eyes.

There's always a chance they can take Night mode out again, but I'm very hopeful that we can keep it this time. I also need to say that even if N is a preview for third-party developers, Google should be leading by example and showing devs how night mode looks in Google's own apps. If you're going to tell developers to implement a night theme for their apps, it should start with yours.

Google, you can start with Play Music. I'll be waiting, dancing in the dark.

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

  • Fingers crossed!
  • Please add it to play music! I have been putting up with the Halloween theme way too long... Nexus 6P
  • You said it, brother!
  • Haha I wonder if illiterate people get the full effect of alphabet soup
  • Actually, if they did a dark theme in Play Music it really would be Halloween. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Damn you. Now I can't unsee this Halloween theme.
  • As I think everyone knows, I'm a big defender of the Dark Theme.
    Now with the S7 it's no longer an issue since Samsung's theme engine took care of it but I still get angry twitches when I pick up the G4 or the Z3C and have to put up with all those horrible whites. Now...this Dark Theme google is doing isn't great (it should be deep black, darn it!) but it's better than nothing! Here's to hoping they don't get rid of it like last time.
  • Hey, if Google chooses to implement an honest to Duarte theme engine at the system level in AOSP, I would take it. Until then, I'll take anything darker than that blinding white UI. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I love the dark themes from Samsung's theme store. Problem solved S7 edge will make America great again!
  • Samsung's dark themes are dope! I'm currently using the Deluxe Black edition. If you're willing to spend a couple of dollars then I highly recommend it. Posted via Samsung's beast S7
  • "DarkHOLOYOLO" Oh man. Reminds me of the ICS-KitKat days.
  • Which looked better than this baby puke stuff Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • Preach it. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I miss Holo.... I mean, I love a really dark Material theme. It's just that, I think Holo looked a little cooler, especially with those blue status bar icons, which were gone in KK. A small loan of a broken G4
  • Sure hoping it stays. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I definitely prefer a darker theme. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Please please! I want dark mode. I love reading AC on dark mode and would love more apps to do the same Posted via the Android Central App on Moto G3 16/2 on $35 Cricket wireless plan.
  • Hopefully it does stay. And while I love it to stay I really would like a more darker pure Black color to it than the Dark Grey color Posted via the Android Central App on my Frost Nexus 6P
  • I put it on one of my custom ROM-touting devices. A full-black theme looks extremely slick and sophisticated. If your device uses an OLED panel like the Nexus 6P, it's almost like a godsent.
  • Cool, it would be nice to not have to use RRO layers and flash modified apk zips. But I won't hold my breath. Damn news and weather app... Google be trollin'. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I'm lovin' it! Nexus 6
    Android Neapolitan❔will be much loved.
  • The lack of a dark overall theme is why i haven't updated from KitKat.
    I'd rather deal with security issues on my own than be blinded by Google's apps, or other nondark-themed apps.
    In fact, I've disabled almost all of Google's stock apps, and replaced them with apps with dark themes, and I'm never going back to Google apps, if i can help it. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I hope it stays Posted via the Android Central App
  • Hellz yeayahhhh!
  • Dark theme, and let me change default colors in GMail Posted from my XT1575
  • In general, I prefer light themes, and was very happy with the crisp bright awesomeness that was Material Design when we were getting our first pre-release glimpses of Lollipop... ....that said, more choices are almost always better, and this is no exception! Though I doubt it would ever get more that "novelty" level tinkering usage from me (once I can return to Android, that is), I know that others LOVE IT, and miss dark dearly! So geez louise Google! Give it to them already!!! Bring on Dark Mode!!!!
  • Personally, I hate dark themes. With a passion. Super hard on my eyes. But, it's cool they're giving users the option as I know many love their darkness.
  • I like something in between. Not pitch black and not blast your eyes white like ios. One reason I left ios.
  • The red tint is also really cool for Night reading, currently use twilight for that dreaming of electric sheep
  • I wish I could easily toggle the red tint in the evening but leave the dark theme for the OS on all the time, but I'll settle for going into settings for it as needed.
  • Another way Android is migrating just a bit closer to Windows 10 Mobile. Hey, I'm not complaining. I think it's great. The notifications center is more similar to the Action Center, and I think it's better. Actionable notifications are here, that's great. Marshmallow changed the app drawer to a scrolling list, I think that was a good move. Now there's a dark theme, and even if it's not quite like Windows 10 Mobile and isn't as extensive, I think it's a great addition.
  • If you could change the system colors in Android like you can in Windows, I'd be a happy girl. But my priority is begging and pleading and if need be bribing Google Play Music to give me back the dark theme and get rid of the de-auths. If it were only for paid accounts, I could kinda get it (and I'm still saying I'll pay more to get rid of it), but if you're using the free service and only listening to your own uploaded music, then you should be able to listen on as many devices as you want. It's YOUR music.
  • Play Music looks really good with a CM Dark Theme
  • It's unfortunate that Groove Music isn't really a very good music player on Android as far as I can tell. It's much better on Windows 10 Mobile.
  • I've just discovered you can get negative colours on the S7! It's hidden in accessibility > visual>> scroll down to toggle...
    Not quite the dark theme but...
  • I did not think about it this way.
  • And you still don't have to, haha. It's just my observation.
  • I pray they make it a permanent option. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It would be cool if they implemented it like eclipse 2 from Cydia with different themes to choose from and it affected everything system wide. 
  • I put tons of effort into supporting dark mode in the AC app. There is a lot of nuances to supporting more then one theme. Hopefully the new day night mode in the support libs will make this easier. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It's much appreciated! Posted via the Android Central App
  • Thanks man! I am a dark mode addict and really love that it is implemented across all MN apps Posted via the Android Central App
  • Thank goodness!
  • Gimmie gimmie
  • I always look for a dark theme when I get a new phone. Samsung offers several themes that are dark. Now being able to apply dark at the app level would be way cool. Posted via the Android Central App
  • They should add dark theme to all Google apps which can be toggled by a single switch in settings.
  • Emos/goths rejoice
  • Not sure if bad joke or just doesn't k ow what emo/goth is... (Fry) Posted via the Android Central App
  • I k ow. Believe me, I k ow.
  • I can't find the Night Mode setting on my Nexus 6. I have System UI Tuner enabled but do not see that option?? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Never mind... I spaced on that the option is on the Android N preview OS.... Posted via the Android Central App
  • Now just get rid of that blue/green/grey/blah colour and I'll be happier. It really is awful. And allowing us to pick at least an accent colour isn't too much to ask I feel. I'm not a fan on that 'mint'. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Black with white accents? Or black with red accents? Purple?
  • Dark mode with purple accents, minus the awful notification shade colour, that would be good for me. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yes indeed, I work nights and dark mode would be much better for my eyes on a quiet night! The S6 has a negative mode, triple press the home button and the colours go negative.. Weird but darker.. Better for battery life too of course
  • I send Google a monthly comment about adding dark / night mode to all of their applications. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I hope this extends to Android Wear, too.
  • Funny how Google seems to prefer AMOLED screens yet doesn't seem to take advantage of the battery savings that could be realized with that type of display and darker themes. Posted via the Android Central App
  • it's now time to go full blown theme store for stock android
  • This is the dream. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Every app and menu area should have dark theme available. I hated when they got switched to white theme and made you stick with it. Dark theme is one of the things that WM actually gets right... I can't wait until I get this back!
  • I listen to Google Play music at night ALL the time and the harsh white is brutal. Invert colors helps but a dark them would be awesome. Then again, I probably won't get the N update until December... 2017. Thanks Sammy Posted via the Android Central App
  • windows and android are exchanging their OS Posted via the Android Central App
  • that damn battery-draining eyeball-paining white is a pitiful excuse for a background. It never should have been implemented in the first place but once it was they should never have taken the option to remain dark. hell, my motorola RAZR came with 3 or 4 different themes back in the day, why don't these "smart" phones nowdays?
    I can't remember who said it but some idiot claimed dark was super hard on their eyes.. that's theoretically impossible. Something that isn't shining into your corneas can't affect what's behind them. It's the brightness.. the pissant-white.. that causes your eyes to strain. Oh yeah.. and google disabled it cause they're a bunch of lazy twats, whining about how they had to program everything twice. Morons don't know how to just set the BG to transparent. It's linux, not ios.