We're entering a new dark age. Developers are falling over themselves to develop darker versions of their apps in preparation for the imminent release of Android Q and iOS 13, with their system-wide dark modes.
This will not only apply to your phone's interface – apps will also be switched to dark mode when you activate the option. In Android Q, any apps without a specially rearranged dark version will be 'forced' when dark mode is activated, which will automatically adjust the interface colors and potentially spoil the designer's carefully crafted user experience.
Currently, Android features an interface-only dark mode, which can be manually activated or triggered automatically based on the color of the user's chosen wallpaper. It may seem like a purely aesthetic choice, but there are also practical reasons for turning down the brightness.
One of the biggest of these is power-saving. Google's own research revealed that darker interfaces are less than a drain on system resources, and allow users to go longer between charges.
It has also been suggested that bright lights from screens (particularly phones that we often use in bed) can stop us from getting a good night's sleep. Although blue light is often cited as a particular concern, some professionals, including John O'Hagan of England's Public Health Center for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards, say light at all wavelengths can disturb circadian rhythms, so limiting light exposure in general can help. regulate your natural sleep cycle.
Finally, dark mode just looks cool. White interfaces have been the standard for so long, refreshing to have a different option.
With all that in mind, why is light mode still the default – and could it change when Android R and iOS 13 roll around?
Turn out the lights
For both companies, going dark by default would be a huge change. The bright, white look has been an essential part of Google's design language from the very beginning, with its origins as a blank page with a logo and central search bar.
Although colored elements have been added (as explained in its Material Design principles) but the clean, white design has always been central to its identity.
Apple has also long associated itself with clean, white lines – starting with the Snow White design language in 1982. However, it has become much more adventurous with colors in recent years – and its fans seem to approve. The dark mode announcement for macOS Mojave last year was met with a lot of whooping and cheering (even more than usual for an Apple launch event), so it's easier to imagine Apple taking the plunge and making dark the default.
Things might change on the Android front, too. Even if Google sticks with white for stock Android on its own Pixel phones, the likes of Samsung and Huawei might prefer the dark side benefits. After all, why would they want to prolong battery life wherever possible – and provide the experience users are whooping for?
The future is dark.