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How to get WhatsApp dark mode

Get WhatsApp dark mode for iPhone, Android or desktop

(Image: © Shutterstock)

WhatsApp dark mode is a new design for the hugely popular messaging app, which swaps its traditional palette of light gray and green for darker shades that are designed to emit less glare at night. It doesn't replace the current look, but is available as an option for anyone who wants to use it.

There are several reasons why you might want to try it. First of all, you might be among the many people who find dark backgrounds easier to look at for long periods of time, or at night. To emphasize the point, WhatsApp released a video of people wincing at bright screens (accompanied by a previously unreleased version of Paul SImon's The Sound of Silence) to mark dark mode's release.

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.

How to get WhatsApp dark mode for Android

WhatsApp dark mode is rolling out right now for Android users, so you might find that you already have access. If so, activating the option is simple.

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

If you haven't yet received the update, you can still try WhatsApp dark mode if you're part of the Android beta program. At the time of writing the program is currently full, but new spaces may become available soon (particularly if people start to leave now that the dark mode release is official).

  1. Sign up for the beta program through the Google Play Store
  2. Wait for your account to be processed (this may take a few hours)
  3. Update your app
  4. If you can't see an update option, download and install the APK
  5. Restart WhatsApp
  6. Follow the instructions above to activate dark mode

How to get 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' 

Don't see the option yet? The iOS beta is full at the time of writing, but it's worth checking back frequently to see if new places have opened up, then following the instructions below to get an early peek.

  1. Check to see if the beta is open and join if possible
  2. Install TestFlight on your device
  3. Click the link in the invitation email from WhatsApp
  4. Update and launch WhatsApp
  5. Follow the instructions above to activate dark mode

How to get WhatsApp dark mode on 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 for beta testing (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?

We don't know exactly when WhatsApp dark mode will be rolled out globally, but it's possible that it might arrive in a major update at the same time as self-destructing messages, which will be deleted automatically after a certain period of time.

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.