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Why Google cares so much about dark theme in Android Q – CNET

Google has a dark side.

James Martin/CNET

Dark theme is everywhere, especially in Google's Android Q beta software for phones. The wildly popular mode, which turns your white screen to black and black text white, helps make bright screens easier on the eye at night. It also make apps look cool

Google already has an optional dark theme for YouTube and its Android Messages texting app. The reason it's adding an official dark theme to Android Q is precisely because people kept asking for it.

Requests for an Android dark mode began appearing in user requests with Android 8.0 Oreo, Google's phone OS from 2017. "Originally, we just through it was super geeky folks like ourselves who wanted it. The data we're seeing is much more broad based than that," said Sameer Samat, Google's VP of product management for Android and Play, during an interview this week at Google I/O.

"Everyone can relate to being in a room where the lights are turned down and you've got this white screen blinding you. And this idea of just being able to push a button and have it be easier to read," Samat said.

In Android Q, you can trigger dark theme two different ways: by pressing the button for battery-saving mode from the slide-down  quick control menu, or by turning it on in the display settings.

It isn't just the Android Q OS that gets dark theme, either. Other apps, like the calendar, will also go dark when you toggle into the mode. And developers can start triggering Google's dark theme in their own apps if they'd like. When you turn on the theme, app makers can choose to let Google's software invert their app's color to take advantage of an automatic dark theme they don't have to program on their own. 

App-makers can also hitch their house-developed dark theme to Google's wagon so that turning on dark theme will also turn on their own dark mode.

Why Google cares so much about dark theme in Android Q     - CNET

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But there's another benefit, too. 

"There are few things that get you battery savings for 'free,'" Samat said. "Lighting up fewer OLED pixels will get you farther in the day."

Google says that while it will keep tuning its dark theme settings, dark theme won't completely replace the regular screen mode any time soon, especially when bright white screens are still the easiest to read outdoors in sunlight.

"The theme is nice to have in that in bright sunlight sometimes you want that contrast and sometimes it's not as helpful," Samat said. "We're using them in so many setting and environments that we're finding ways to tune."

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