What is Android Dark Mode?

This mode replaces dark themes for Android

Lock screen with PIN entry on a OnePlus One Android phone.

HishMFaz / Flickr

Android's dark mode is the culmination of the operating system gradually edging its way towards a full-on dark aesthetic to complement the traditional “light” one, providing two distinct options for the current design generation. Here's what your light versus dark theme options are, depending on the version of Android you have.

How to Enable Android Dark Mode on Android 9.0 Pie

Android 9.0 Pie added an option to toggle the dark and light quick settings themes, instead of leaving it up to your wallpaper’s color palette like Android 8.0 Oreo. By default, the theming tint is set to the same wallpaper detection-based automatic mode as the previous version of Android, but now there are also dedicated options for a permanent color theme.

To enable Android's dark theme:

  1. Go to Settings > Display, then tap the Advanced drop-down menu at the bottom of the page.

  2. From there, tap Device theme, then simply tap Dark from the pop-up dialog box.

    Android Settings menu, Display page, with the Device theme dialog box surfaced and the
  3. From there, simply pull down your quick settings area and you'll see the new white text and dark gray aesthetic. Although this option doesn’t change any more of the UI than Android Oreo’s automatic mode, at least you can now change the theme at will and even pair a dark UI with a lighter wallpaper.

How to Enable the Android Oreo Dark Theme

While Android Oreo users cannot explicitly and thoroughly set a dark theme for their entire device, they can set some of the UI to darker tones depending on the wallpaper they choose. When a wallpaper image with a predominantly dark color palette is set, Android Oreo automatically sets the quick settings menu to a dark gray with white text.

To do this, you first have to pick a pretty dark wallpaper image, as in having no more than tiny accents of light color and otherwise consisting of subdued tones.

Most of the default wallpapers that come with Android Oreo’s Google Now Launcher aren’t dark enough to trigger the contextual dark UI, so you'll have to acquire your own. Outer space wallpapers tend to work best for this, though.

Once you have your wallpaper saved somewhere, you have to set it:

  1. Tap and hold on any blank spot on the Android home screen.

  2. Tap Wallpapers to bring up the wallpaper setting menu, then tap Pick image.

  3. Select your chosen dark image from wherever you have it stored, whether on your device’s storage, Google Drive, or wherever else.

  4. Once it loads into the wallpaper picker, tap Set Wallpaper, then tap Home screen and lock screen in the dialog box that appears.

    Wallpaper selection screen on Android O, selecting a black hole outer space wallpaper.
  5. After the new wallpaper is set, give the system 10 to 20 seconds to detect the new wallpaper’s palette, then pull down the quick settings menu to see the change.

    Android O with dark mode enabled on the Quick Settings menu.
  6. That's it! Enjoy your new dark theme.

Apps With Dark Modes to Match the Android OS

The Settings menu and other UI elements, like the notifications that pop up below the quick settings, remain tinted to a light theme consisting of a white background and black text.

Users can supplement the dark quick settings interface by configuring individual apps to their respective dark modes. Not all apps offer such choices, and it's highly dependent on the type of app and its developer. However, a few Google apps provide options for a dark theme which is fairly consistent with the quick settings dark UI.

  • Android Messages: The Android Messages app can be customized with a dark theme. Tap the three vertical dot icon in the upper-right corner of the app, then tap Enable dark mode. From there, your Messages app will immediately flip to a dark gray background with white text, with the colored contact icons retaining their original palette.
  • YouTube: YouTube has a corresponding dark look as well. To enable it, tap your user avatar in the upper-right, then tap Settings. From there tap General, then toggle the switch for Dark theme. You should now see video thumbnails, comments, and other text areas on a dark gray background.
YouTube Android app settings screen with the Dark theme enabled.