CREDO Tip: What is dark mode — and should you use it?

If you’re like most of us here at CREDO, you probably use your phone or tablet a lot. In fact, the average American uses their mobile devices almost 4 hours a day!

With all that use, we can develop eye strain, loss of sleep, reduced productivity and a drained battery. What if there were a mode on your phone to reduce all of those? 

While we wish there were a magic way to cure all our phone ailments, we *are* able to adjust and possibly improve our experience with built-in features found right inside the settings of our phones or tablets. 

Enter “dark mode.” You may have heard of it; you may even be reading this in dark mode right now.

So what is dark mode, will it enhance your experience on your device, and should you try it out? Here’s a quick explainer.

What is dark mode?

As you may have guessed, dark mode is setting that darkens your display and user interface on your device and in many apps, inverting the background and text colors from dark text on a light background to light text on a dark background. 

Here’s an example from the Twitter app on an iPhone:

Dark mode now comes as an option natively with Apple’s iOS 13 and Google’s Android 10. Many popular apps, including Chrome, Instagram and Twitter, also support dark mode. The Verge keeps a running list of apps that support dark mode.

Why use dark mode?

According to the big tech companies, dark mode is helpful in a number of ways, including:

There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to back up most of these claims, however many experts have recently called into question whether dark mode can really reduce eye strain. VICE’s “Dark Mode Isn’t ‘Easier on the Eyes’ for Everybody” and Wired’s “Dark mode isn’t as good for your eyes as you believe” explain why the claim may be a bit of folklore. (We think you should try it out for yourself, though!)

Does dark mode help with sleep?

It’s complicated.

Studies have shown that the blue light emitted from screens can negatively affect circadian rhythms and make falling asleep more difficult. For years, Android and iOS devices have included a “night shift” or “night mode” that imparts a warmer, orange-yellow hue, reducing cooler, blue light from screens, presumably to help sleep.

But a recent study from the University of Manchester in the U.K. suggests just the opposite. Researchers found that the body may actually use the “dim and blue appearance of twilight” to signal sleep, and features on our phones could be sending us mixed messages.

How about dark mode, then? The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests that it’s probably a good idea to use dark mode — which is generally darker than a “night shift” mode — combined with reduced screen time at night to improve sleep.

How to enable dark mode on your device

Ready to give dark mode a try? Here’s how to turn it on:

Apple iOS and iPadOS devices (version 13 or above)

There are three ways to turn on dark mode from your Apple device

  1. If you use Siri, simply say 
    • “Hey Siri, turn on dark mode,” or 
    • “Siri, turn on dark appearance.”
  2. To enable dark mode from the Control Center:
    • Swipe down from the top right corner of the device (or swipe up from the bottom on older devices)
    • Touch and hold the brightness control
    • Toggle dark mode on or off
  3. To enable dark mode from Settings:
    • Go to Settings, then to Display & Brightness.
    • Select “Dark” to turn on dark mode.

Google Android devices (version 9 or higher)

  1. Go to the Settings app
  2. Tap Display
  3. Toggle “Dark Theme” on or off