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How to use WhatsApp dark mode

WhatsApp dark mode for iPhone, Android or desktop

WhatsApp
(Image: © Shutterstock)

Using WhatsApp dark mode changes the colors of the messaging app from white and green to more subtle shades of black and gray. This produces less glare at night, and makes WhatsApp more comfortable to use in low light conditions.

Darker screens also use less power (particularly if your device has an AMOLED display, as explained in the video below). Finally, it just looks cool, and makes a refreshing change from all-white interfaces. It's always good to have more options.

Recently discovered resources in WhatsApp Beta suggest that its developers are planning a few changes to dark mode, including adjusting the colors of text bubbles to improve contrast against the app's black background.

However, even after these changes roll out, the process of enabling dark mode will remain the same. Here's how to do it...

WhatsApp dark mode for Android

WhatsApp dark mode has also arrived for Android users, and activating it is simple.

  1. Open the app menu
  2. Tap 'Settings'
  3. Tap 'Chats'
  4. Tap 'Theme'
  5. Select 'Dark' 

If you're using your phone's system-wide dark mode to change the color of all your apps, picking ;System default' will change WhatsApp's look to match.

WhatsApp dark mode for iPhone

Once you receive the latest update, activating WhatsApp dark mode is just as simple as it is on Android:

  1. Open the app menu
  2. Tap 'Settings'
  3. Tap 'Chats'
  4. Tap 'Theme'
  5. Select 'Dark' 

Again, you can also pick 'System default' to make WhatsApp adopt your phone's system-wide color scheme automatically.

WhatsApp dark mode for the desktop

WhatsApp is also getting a dark mode update for the desktop, as developer Mahesh B Wijerathna discovered while trawling through the CSS (cascading style sheet) for the website.

The desktop dark mode doesn't seem to be quite finished yet (emoji are on white rather that transparent backgrounds) but the palette matches that of the Android and iOS apps.

It's not available for testing yet, and wasn't released at the same time as the iPhone and Android dark modes, but you can recreate a similar effect using a free plugin called Stylus for Firefox and Chrome, which lets you create custom style sheets for individual sites.

User Vednoc has created a special dark stylesheet for use with WhatsApp web, which is free to download and use. It's not identical to the official version, but gives a similar overall effect.

What WhatsApp dark mode looks like

WhatsApp dark mode is mostly gray, with green accents and status messages in yellow.

WhatsApp dark mode

WhatsApp dark mode is now available globally (Image credit: Facebook)

Before the beta release appeared, it looked as though we would be seeing at least two different dark modes – one of which would be optimized for AMOLED screens. Assets tucked away in earlier APKs suggested that there would be up to three variants available, including one with a solid black background. These black pixels would be switched off on an AMOLED display, helping save as much power as possible.

However, this proved not to be the case. Instead, WhatsApp says its designers spent their time perfecting a look that would improve readability while making different interface elements clear and distinct.

"When choosing colors, we wanted to minimize eye fatigue and use colors that are closer to the system defaults on iPhone and Android respectively," the company said in a blog post

"We wanted to help users easily focus their attention on each screen. We did this by using color and other design elements to make sure the most important information stands out."

What else is on the way?

WhatsApp dark mode has finally arrived, but it looks like there are lots more updates coming to WhatsApp in the near future.

Based on leaked screengrabs, it looks as though you'll be able to set messages to be erased after a period between five minutes and an hour. Rival messaging apps Facebook Messenger, Telegram and Signal already offer a similar feature, so it's an overdue addition to WhatsApp.

Beta releases have also revealed a new option that will allow you to completely hide updates from muted contacts. Currently, if you mute a contact, their updates will appear grayed out, but still visible. When the new update rolls out, you'll be able to hide them fully, and only see them if you choose to.

One thing that we're not expecting any time soon is a sudden influx of ads. Parent company Facebook recently revealed that it's disbanded a team who were working on ways to slide advertisements into your group chats. 

The company still intends to insert ads into WhatsApp's little-used Status feature (which is very much like Stories on Facebook and Instagram) but you shouldn't find yourself bombarded with promotional messages any time soon.

Other ways to extend battery life in WhatsApp

One of the main reasons you might want to try dark mode for WhatsApp is to extend battery life, but there are other ways to make the app less power-hungry without making the switch.

If you don't like WhatsApp's choice of colors for dark mode, you can make a few tweaks of your own to customize the look. Enter the app's settings, select 'Chats' and tap 'Wallpaper', then choose 'Solid color' and select something darker than the standard pale gray background.

This won't change the color of the message bubbles, menus and other interface elements, but Google's research has found that black pixels drain substantially less power than other colors.

WhatsApp wallpapers

It's not the same as an actual dark mode, but switching to a black wallpaper can help save a little battery life when you're using WhatsApp (Image credit: WhatsApp)

By default, WhatsApp will download a lot of files in the background, which can really drain your phone's battery, so you can also conserve power by opening WhatsApp's settings and selecting 'Data and storage usage'.

Here. you can choose when media should be downloaded (when you're using mobile data, when you're connected to Wi-Fi, and when you're roaming). If you turn these off, videos and images sent in messages will only be downloaded when you tap them.

Activating your phone's own power-saving mode is another way to make it last longer between charges. Depending on which setting you choose, this may turn down the brightness of your screen, stop apps sending and receiving data when they run in the background, and limit CPU speed. It's up to you whether you're willing to take the performance hit in order to extend your battery life.