WhatsApp dark mode could arrive any day now, and while it's not yet available for testing, combing through the install files for the beta release has revealed lots of interesting glimpses of what it will look like, and how it will behave.
Since the launch of Android 10 and iOS 13, both of which feature their own system-wide dark modes, developers have been rushing to create dark versions of their apps. Google Chrome, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all have smart dark options available, but so far WhatsApp has remained pale and interesting. That all looks likely to change, though.
If you want to be the first to try dark mode for WhatsApp when it arrives, we recommend joining the beta program so you'll be able to test it before it rolls out worldwide. If you use an Android device, you can sign up and download the beta through the Google Play Store.
What to expect
According to WABetaInfo, which specializes in dissecting WhatsApp beta releases, the app's developers are currently working on two different dark modes, and optimizing the new designs before its release.
Even if you're a member of the beta program, you won't see an option to activate dark mode, but trawling through the app's APK files reveals various graphic assets that will be used when it's eventually released.
It originally looked like the new color scheme would be mainly dark blue/green rather than black or gray, and will be activated automatically if you've selected your phone's system-wide dark mode. The app's splash screen is also expected to be darkened, which will avoid the problem some apps have where a person using dark mode is startled by an unexpected burst of white light.
Now, however, it seems the designers have switched tack slightly, and are now developing two different dark modes: one with a dark gray/blue background, and another with black.
It's possible that the black version is specifically optimized for AMOLED screens. Black pixels on these screens are actually turned off, which uses less power. Indeed, it looks like you'll be able to have WhatsApp dark mode activate automatically when you switch on your phone's power-saving mode.
WhatsApp's sticker and emoji menus have been updated with dark backgrounds, and developers have been hard at work adapting the app's signature message bubbles with a new look that will be used for both dark modes. There are also new wallpapers for both WhatsApp dark modes.
We could also see a handful of other new features arriving along with the two dark modes, including self-destructing messages that are deleted 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.
When it's coming
We don't yet know; WhatsApp's developers don't appear to be in any hurry to complete and release the app's dark modes, and have yet to reveal when the option will become available. 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.
When WhatsApp finally receives its dark makeover, we'll provide full instructions explaining how to activate it and start messaging in style.
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 until the setting becomes available.
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.
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.