What Is Dark Mode on iOS 13? Here's What You Need to Know

The “oohs and ahs” were palpable (and a little annoying) during Apple’s WWDC 2019 keynote. Dark Mode, which came to macOS Mojave first, is now coming to iOS 13 when that update arrives later this fall. But what is the big deal? And why are people so excited about this?

There are three main benefits of Dark Mode on iOS 13 — and there’s a one that's missing here that I will explain.

  1. Dark Mode looks cool.
  2. Dark Mode makes content easier on the eyes.
  3. You will piss off other people around you less when Dark Mode's enabled.

As someone who spends entirely too much time looking at his phone, I appreciate the latter two benefits the most. I had a chance to get a first look at Dark Mode on the iPhone XS Max, and there is a welcome subtlety to the whole aesthetic.

White backgrounds can be a bit overwhelming, but Dark Mode lets you focus on the main content more, whether it's new Memoji stickers in messages or browsing through playlists in Apple Music. Browsing through photos also feels more intimate and immersive with Dark Mode engaged.

Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

It’s also easy to turn on Dark Mode. You can do it right from within Control Center with a dedicated button. Even better, you can schedule Dark Mode to turn on and off at a specific time or based on sunrise and sunset.

Apple clearly thought about how Dark Mode affects the entire iOS interface. Say you’re in email and you’re composing a new message. Your inbox will be a lighter shade of black in the background, while the compose window is true black. This layering makes using Dark Mode more intuitive for navigating iOS 13.

Apple is letting third-party developers tap into its Dark Mode API so that their apps are optimized in a similar way.

I can see myself using Dark Mode a lot, especially on a plane, where I don’t want to disturb someone sleeping next to me with a blinding bright screen. I also won’t have to dial down the brightness too much, because the darker background should mitigate that issue.

What Apple is not promising is any sort of battery life savings with Dark Mode, even on OLED-based iPhones like the iPhone X, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. It’s true that the pixels on OLED displays turn off when displaying black, which could save power. But it really depends on the type of content you are viewing.

I can guarantee you that we would see similar results on the Tom’s Guide Battery Test with Dark Mode on and off, and that’s because our test surfs the web. Most sites are still primarily white pages with text and images, though there are some exceptions. You won’t necessarily see longer endurance when watching movies and TV shows, because again it depends on the content you’re watching—unless you decide to watch the Game of Thrones “The Long Night” episode on repeat.

Apple is doing some other things to spruce up Dark Mode, such as a new selection of wallpapers. But it’s really about making things more comfortable for you and everyone around you. I look forward to trying out Dark Mode as part of the beta to see how much of a difference it makes.