Google explains how it created dark theme on three apps and Android Auto

Google explains how it created dark theme on three apps and Android Auto
A post put up today on the Google Design website shares how Google developed dark themes for three separate apps and Android Auto. The apps include Photos, Calendar, and News. Just in case you don't know what dark theme is, think of the typical smartphone display with black text on a white background. At night, or in a dark room, that white background can be murder on the eyes, especially with the Material Design used by Google on Android apps. The latter leaves large areas of white background that can be blinding or worse in the dark. With dark theme, the background and text are reversed to show white text on a back background.

Dark theme not only saves your eyes, but it can also save your battery life if you have a phone with an AMOLED screen. Unlike LCD panels, an AMOLED screen creates the color black by turning off pixels. Pixels that are turned off do not consume energy. Each of the three aforementioned apps required a different approach from Google for the implementation of a dark theme. For example, the Google Photos team had to take into consideration that the photos in the gallery represent the user's personal memories. So it used a "light touch" and took a "low-contrast approach" that respects an Android user's photographs. To allow the photos to stand out better, dark theme in the Photos app uses a dark gray background instead of a pure black. In the Photos app, Google says that dark theme creates a slideshow effect that is akin to turning off the lights to watch projection slides of a recent vacation.

Google had to implement dark theme differently for each of the four apps


Google had to adapt a wide range of colors to dark theme for the Google Calendar app. That's because the color scheme of Calendar can be customized with infinite color options. In addition, Google desaturated hues while still allowing a user to select from a wide range of colors. The result, as you can see, is a look with striking colors against a "charcoal gray" background. To enable dark theme on Calendar, tap the hamburger menu in the upper left corner of the screen. Tap on Settings > General and you'll see a section for "Theme." Tapping on that will give you three options: keep the light theme, turn on dark theme, or have the light theme on until the battery saver is enabled.


Google News also features a dark theme. To turn it on, open the app and tap your avatar in the upper right side of the screen. Go to Settings > Dark Theme. You will then have the option of having Dark Theme always on, turned on automatically at night and when battery saver is on, turned on when battery saver is enabled, and always off. For this app, Google said that it had to concern itself with pixel bleed, which occurs when small white letters bleed into a dark background. As a result, the News app has the same deep gray background used on the Google Photos app. This allows headlines and images to stand out and makes it easier for users to read a complete story without any "vibrations."


In Android Auto, dark theme will stop drivers from being blinded by the glare created from a bright white background. Google decided to keep graphics simple instead of using the multiple layers found on other Android apps. This is done so that drivers don't have to keep swiping on the screen while trying to keep their eyes on the road.

In Android Q, users will have the option of enabling a system-wide dark theme. We should also point out that dark theme isn't just for use at night or in dark rooms; there are many users who just like the way it looks and have dark theme always turned on for certain apps.

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18 Comments

1. Cyberchum

Posts: 1068; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

LG announced a trio of phones under their new "W" series a couple of days ago. Is it that they didn't pay for coverage, or is it that they aren't considered relevant enough to grace the great Phonearena?

16. ivan.k

Posts: 21; Member since: Jan 29, 2014

The W series is for India...not relevant enough, maybe.

17. XyAzario

Posts: 46; Member since: Mar 15, 2019

It should be though, is this an American site? No.

4. Itstheshoes

Posts: 3; Member since: Jun 28, 2019

So they created a "dark grey mode" that doesn't actually have any OLED benefits that a pure black background would provide. What's the disconnect here? The entire point is battery savings, not to protect peoples eyes from "blinding" white backgrounds.

5. Awalker

Posts: 1977; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

It's for aesthetic purposes.

6. iloveapps

Posts: 855; Member since: Mar 21, 2019

Meanwhile apple’s dark mode is better in every implementation

7. Awalker

Posts: 1977; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

I don't care what Apple does. I use Android.

12. ijuanp03

Posts: 602; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

Nope.

15. Sammy_DEVIL737

Posts: 1529; Member since: Nov 28, 2016

Lmao.

8. vincelongman

Posts: 5696; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

There's almost no difference in power consumption for black vs dark gray https://www.xda-developers.com/amoled-black-vs-gray-dark-mode/

10. AlienKiss

Posts: 159; Member since: May 21, 2019

Whomever decided to go with the dark gray instead of pure black should buy a pair of glasses and take some art classes. Instead of using #000000 (pure black), they're using #080808 which lights up the display, so the power consumption thing doesn't really apply. Maybe it's less, but it's not zero like pure black. Google, hire someone who actually cares about this.. Material theme is so 3-4 years ago..

11. Cyberchum

Posts: 1068; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

I suggest you visit the link posted by Vincelongman, genius, and read up. Even before I read that article yesterday, I've always favored dark grey over pure black. It's totally subjective, but I find it more pleasing and calming to the eyes. And, now, the only straw y'all, pure black, aficionados have been holding on to, as a basis of arguments and claims, has been snatched. In the end, options wouldn't hurt. Keep all parties happy.

18. AlienKiss

Posts: 159; Member since: May 21, 2019

I'm not obsessed about the battery life that much, but I would like it to last longer. The dark gray issue I stumbled upon myself while analyzing some screenshots I took with Photoshop. That's how I know exactly what color they used instead of pure black. I use the phone a LOT during the night and pure black would be so much better.. Dark gray gives me the feeling of using an IPS LCD display instead of Super AMOLED.. Sad.

13. ijuanp03

Posts: 602; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

Exactly. I find dark grey ugly. Pure black or pure white is the way to go.

14. vincelongman

Posts: 5696; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

OLED isn't even new now, yet so many people still don't understand it lol There's almost no difference in power consumption for black vs dark gray On the OP7 Pro: Pure black is 600mW over five minutes Dark gray 600mW-610mW over five minutes (depending on shade) https://www.xda-developers.com/amoled-black-vs-gray-dark-mode/

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