Opinion: Dark Mode? Apple’s been testing dark interfaces on iOS for years now

By , Jun 16, 2016

iOS 10 dark mode iTunes Safari Clock iBooks

My colleague Andrew first broke news yesterday that Dark Mode resources have been found within iOS 10’s Messages app. Now, Dark Mode was expected to make an official appearance in iOS 10, but the WWDC keynote came and went without any mention of this feature.

Now Mac Aficionados tweeted out screenshots depicting a dark interface in other iOS 10 stock apps, including an automatic dark mode in iBooks, in addition to the Clock app, Safari and the iTunes Store.

As it turns out, dark interfaces in these apps (sans Clock) have been present for years, indicating Apple’s been testing how users might accept a Dark Mode option on iOS.

Dark Mode: it’s been available on iOS for years, kinda

Mac Aficionado’s findings may not necessarily hint at full-on Dark Mode because certain iOS 9 apps have had a dark interface as well, the only exception being the Clock app which in iOS 10 now sports an all-dark interface, as seen below.

iOS 10 Clock Dark Mode iPhone screenshot 001

The Dark Mode in Safari that the publication referenced is actually a custom dark background inside Safari’s Reader Mode, which can be found on iOS 9 as well. Same goes for iBooks and the iTunes Store app, which has had Dark Mode on the Movies or TV Shows tabs for years now.

Dark Mode comes to Apple TV

With tvOS 10, Apple has brought out Dark Mode to the Apple TV interface.

“While users love the bright and fresh Apple TV interface, some may prefer a darker background to fit a home theater environment or darker rooms, so now users can select a dark background for Apple TV,” writes the firm.

wwdc 2016 apple tv dark mode

Full-on iOS Dark Mode still in the works

It’s entirely possible that Apple quietly built Dark Mode into iOS 10 but chose to withhold the feature from the public for the time being. If that’s the case, we could see Dark Mode officially surfaced in subsequent iOS 10 betas, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

It’s also plausible that Apple might be saving this feature for iOS 10’s public release this fall. In my personal opinion, they’re currently testing Dark Mode in select apps, but won’t roll it out until the iPhone adopts OLED screen technology.

Like on the Apple Watch, a dark interface would make sense on OLED screens because it wouldn’t result in as big a power draw as iOS’s currently bright interface.

iOS 10 concept iHelpBR image 001
iOS 10 Dark Mode concept via Brazilian magazine iHelpBR.

That’s because OLED technology lights up individual pixels and doesn’t require a backlighting, as opposed to the traditional LCD screens which use backlight to illuminate the pixels regardless of their color.

Would you like to see the full Dark Mode treatment on iOS? Would you prefer Dark Mode over the standard interface all the time, or only during specific times of day, like in the evening?

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  • Martin 

    I couldn’t agree more. In my opinion, dark mode will be only for iP7 (if it will have OLED display). It would look perfectly with OLED display and blue body finish..

    Unfortunately my iP 6s Plus will not get it – IMHO of course..

    • jamster440

      i completely agree, i think it’ll be exclusive to i7’s as that will be a strong selling point for them.

      • askep3

        So many people don’t give a crap about dark mode though, if that’s their selling point…

    • zoLa siWisa

      Newer phone might have an option to switch the ui. OLED or no OLED. Apple

    • I don’t agree with it needing a OLED display. Mostly because every device its on now doesn’t have an OLED display.

      • Mike

        Yes but if you are going with the dark theme it would be smarter using an OLED display since those black or darker pixels you less energy to power up. As well the display would look 100 times better since it is OLED

      • Nope doesn’t make sense, The Dark mode is meant so that the LCD screens aren’t so tough on the eyes. OLED looking better is just your opinion I hate OLED (how it is now) honestly.

    • Quilliv

      Don’t agree I doubt they will launch dm with the 7

  • John Smith

    If they’re going to add a way to use peek and pop for older devices, I’m sure they’ll figure something out for Dark Mode. We’ve had it for years with Jailbreaking and it’s always looked awesome.


    I want dark mode in every iPhone and iPad, LCDs use the same level of backlight with every color, White or black, is the same, i want to be able to choose the dark theme

  • ericesque

    On iOS 10 there is a new setting called Color Filters. Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Color Filters.

    It offers quite a bit of tweaking for colors system wide. Think NightShift on steroids. It’s targeted at color blind users, but you can create some interesting effects with hue and saturation sliders. It also combines with Invert Colors to create some interesting dark color schemes as well.

    This isn’t dark theme, but its further evidence that Apple has been working on system wide color tweaking…

    • ravinigga

      Thanks very handy and important hidden feature.
      Turn on then select color tint warm feeling color like night shift but more natural

  • Feivl

    So happy with f.lux! Don’t need nothing else!

  • Sharde

    Yes now the dark mode thing is great. But when will iOS 10 be released. I know in the fall but will it be in November September?????

    • Tom García

      September, like every year

      • Sharde


  • jOn Garrett

    Had dark mode since Android I.