We talk a lot about dark mode at Lifehacker—and based on the responses we get whenever a new app or service introduces a new way to view it with a black background, it’s clear that many Lifehacker readers prefer a dim device over a bright one.
While we’ve talked about how to enable dark mode in specific apps, and even how to force dark mode on your computer or smartphone, I realised today that we haven’t provided clear instructions for the basic act of enabling a general, system-wide dark mode on iOS and Android.
How to turn on dark mode in iOS / iPadOS
First, you’re going to need to make sure you’ve updated your iPhone or iPad to iOS or iPadOS 13, at minimum. For the former, that means you’ll need at least an (ancient) iPhone SE or iPad Air 2. To update your device to the most modern version of iOS you can get, tap on your Settings app, tap on General, and tap on Software Update. The rest should be easy. (And while you’re waiting for that to chug along, check out these iOS 13 tricks.)
Once you have iOS / iPadOS 13 running, enabling your device’s dark mode is similarly simple. Tap on Settings > Display & Brightness, and then pick Light or Dark.
If you want to get fancy, you can also use the “Automatic” setting to shift your device from its Light theme to its Dark theme at sunrise or sunset (or on whatever custom schedule you prefer). And if you find that some of your favourite apps don’t have a dark mode they can use, you can force that, too.
How to turn on dark mode in Android 9 or higher
Like your iPhone/iPad-using friends, you’ll first need to make sure you’re using the latest and greatest version of Android—specifically, Android 9, at minimum. On my Pixel’s stock version of Android, checking for and updating the smartphone involves tapping on the Settings app, tapping on System, tapping on Advanced, and tapping on System Update. (The specific steps / names of screens might vary depending on which Android you have; Samsung Galaxy S9 owners, for example, would go Settings > System Update > Check for Updates)
Once you’re updated, you’ll head back to your Settings app. Tap on Display, and you should either see an option for “Dark theme,” “Night mode,” or something to that effect. If you don’t, tap on the Advanced section, and you’ll undoubtedly find it there.
There’s no “schedule” feature for dark mode on Android; it’s either on or off. However, if you want to give yourself a little extra control over whether you’re staring at black or white backgrounds, swipe down from the top of your device, pull down the Quick Settings bar to expand it, and tap on the pen icon in the lower-left corner. From there, you’ll be able to add a dark mode shortcut, which at least gives you an easy way to switch modes.