There has been a lot of talk and leaks about Dark Mode for the upcoming WWDC 2019 (Exclusive: Screenshots reveal iOS 13 Dark Mode, new Reminders app, more | 9to5Mac). In the new iOS 13, you can turn on enable Dark Mode in the Settings app or from the option in the control center. According to the image shared in the article, their Music app seems to be using the true black background.
I personally use the Pixel phone from Google. I currently have Pixel 3, my third Pixel device, and I must say that its relatively shorter battery life in comparison to other smartphones has been my headache. Because I wanted to get the most out of my recent trip to LA, I mainly used Lyft rides for transportation, and I was forced to have my laptop open very frequently to charge my phone on each ride to simply keep it stay alive.
During the recent Google I/O, Google thankfully announced that they would include Dark Theme in their new android Q. In fact, I had been using Dark Theme even on my current Android version, but the one with Q seems to take it even further. For example, the dark background color is or is at least closer to pure black than the current dark gray; more elements, such as notification bubbles, are also in the dark background, unlike the current version. Google is influencing more Android apps to adopt dark themes.
Computer screens actually started with the white text on black background in earlier days
Old computer screens were in dark mode; this is due to what the early cathode-ray tube, which is what powered those old, boxy-style televisions, could do. As graphical interface was adopted and the display technology advanced, people who were not programmers were also introduced to computers. Then, as a skeuomorphic approach, having black text on a white background, just like regular paper, was adopted, (The entry about skeuomorphic design: The power of familiarity in Design: skeuomorphic triggers and personified machines). The approach gained attractions as word processing became the significant tool for every corporation.
Is dark mode better for your eyes?
Smartphones increased the number of hours people faced screens in general, but also in dark bedrooms. With the impact of glaring white screens in dark bedrooms, many people associate dark mode with being better for our eyes. Although sudden introduction of glares could cause eye strains in the short-term when reading, the long-term health effects resulting from regular use of either dark or light screens are not conclusive; it hasn’t been very long since people have started spending quite a bit of on screens everyday, and we don’t have a large enough sample size to determine this. However, there are many studies that support the notion that reading on lighter screens give one a better long-time reading experience.
In the study by Richard H. Hall and Patrick Hanna, The Effect Of Web Page Text-background Color Combinations On Retention And Perceived Readability, Aesthetics And Behavioral Intention, subjects responded that they could engage better with dark on light text than its counterpart, for example.
When the background is light and more light is lit, one’s pupils contract. Smaller pupils create a wide depth-of-field. On the other hand, less light causes one’s pupils to widen, which makes the focal point shallower; this means that it’s more effort to focus in dark mode. Also, light text scatters light around and causes a halo effect easily on a dark background; it’s harder for eyes to focus and could tire easily. On the other hand, dark text on a light background allows the text to appear with crisp edges.
Additionally, in previously conducted surveys, a lot of people responded that dark mode could cause them to lose interest in the content their engaging with more quickly than without dark mode. This, in fact, could be useful for preventing them from spending too much time on social media. Although dark mode is far superior for one’s health when bedside browsing, studies show that dark mode may not be helpful for a long term comfortable reading experience.
Dark mode is helpful for mobile devices, especially recent ones.
As I mentioned in the beginning, tech companies are pushing to have dark mode as an option. Thanks to the wide adaptation of OLED screens to smartphones, dark mode drastically helps the battery life of mobile devices. To begin with, OLED screens improve the battery life by 30% compared to LCD screen with the same screen spec.This is because OLED can illuminate each pixel only if it is needed. On the other hand, LCD renders content by blocking the light with liquid crystal, hence the backlight has to always be on.
Google presented how the battery use of Google Map navigation in its night mode drops by 63% on Pixel devices with AMOLED (active matrix OLED, a type of OLED that supports various display sizes)compared to the normal mode. In contrast, the iPhone 7 that carried LCD did not show any difference between LCD and AMOLED.
The chart below shows how the white screen, when fully lit, consumes so much more power than the black screen. The graph also shows how blue light consumes a lot more power compared to red or green.
UX archives: Dark mode use cases
Below, I’m archiving how dark mode was implemented in different applications and use cases. I will continue adding more use cases to the list as I encounter different applications with dark mode.
Pocket and reading experiences
Pocket introduced the dark theme back in 2012. The theme helps with the late night reading experience, and it especially makes sense for Pocket, with its core proposition to save curious online content for later, or the user’s best time to read.
Twitter and Social Media
Twitter was one of the early dark-mode adopters amongst social media. The initial Night Mode was introduced in 2016.
Mac OS Mojave
Apple announced their first full-functioning dark mode to Mac OS at WWDC 2018. The dark mode on their operating system was wished by their users for long time. Some users have said that it helps them focus on content, and that it reduces screen glares that had previously caused eyestrain.
Dark Theme on Android OS since Pie
SaaS program, Data visualization, and Program editors
Many professional tools incorporate dark mode to minimize eye strain. Although a lengthy text reading experience in dark mode may not be the best for concentration, some data visualization tools utilize dark screen nonetheless. Colors also pop in a darker background better, and it is easy to construct a visual hierarchy to highlight an element that needs some extra attention.
Programmers who spend long hours in front of screens are also widely known to favor dark mode to help their eyes. It also helps reading different programming language types with clearer colors on a dark background. It also helps identifying programming language taxonomy well, through by nicely well prepared color themes by different programming editing programs.