Dark mode for iPhone arrives Sept. 19: How you'll use Apple's new iOS 13 feature

Apple's new black theme for the iPhone is now just days away.

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Editorial Director, Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Thought Leadership, Speed Desk and How-To. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica led CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
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Jessica Dolcourt
3 min read

Dark mode is coming.


In bringing dark mode to the iPhone, Apple has seen the light. The new theme touches down on your iPhone on Sept. 19, along with the rest of iOS 13. It'll come baked into the new iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, which Apple announced on Tuesday. 

Dark mode is, quite literally, a skin you can apply to your entire phone that will turn most app backgrounds from white to black -- or at least dark gray. More specifically, dark mode essentially inverts the usual white background and black text to apply a black background and white text in apps and menus throughout your phone.

Reducing eye strain and making screens easier to read, especially at night, are two reasons why dark mode has become so popular, but it's also been hailed for looking cool.

In fact, dark modes and themes are a hot trend right now in phones . Google is also applying a dark theme to its Android 10 update this fall, and app makers including YouTube and Reddit have created dark modes for both iPhone and Android. Apple already implemented Dark Theme in the last version of its desktop OS, MacOS Mojave, so seeing dark mode now is pretty much inevitable.

Dark mode for iOS 13: iPhone's dark side never looked so good

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Apple still hasn't shared a whole lot of information about the ins and outs of dark mode, but here's what we know about the new feature so far -- and what we don't.

When can I get dark mode for iPhone? 

The wait is almost over. Dark mode arrived Sept. 19 with iOS 13. That is, for iPhone 6S and newer -- and you'll still get it if you have the iPhone SE and new iPod Touch . If you're in a rush, you can try it out now using Apple's iOS 13 public beta, but as with any beta, there could still be bugs.

Watch this: Dark Mode comes to Apple iOS

How do you turn it on? 

You'll turn on dark mode by swiping into the Control Center (either up from the bottom or down from the top right corner, depending on which iPhone you have). Then just tap the button to toggle on the control. 

You'll also be able to schedule dark mode to turn on only at night, and turn off again during the day. You'll be able to set those hours, as you can with night mode for Samsung Galaxy phones and Wind Down, Google's greyscale app for getting sleepy.

Read: Lower screen brightness on iPhone to make your screen extra dark

Watch this: Hands-on with the iPhone 11's ultra-wide-angle camera

Will dark mode automatically work with all my apps?

Dark mode will work with systemwide apps on your iPhone, including Messages, Safari, the camera and photo gallery, the calendar, internal menus and Maps. Every app that Apple controls itself should support Dark Mode. However, third-party apps might not all work with dark mode immediately. 

As with dark mode in Android 10, it's possible that iPhone apps that don't have a dedicated night mode or dark theme can get in on the feature automatically when you turn on dark mode in the settings, by inverting the colors.

Will it work for iPad? 

For the first time ever, this year's iOS release won't power the iPad. Instead, Apple broke off iPadOS, a dedicated version of its operating system to work with the iPad's signature tablet features. However, iPadOS is based on iOS and will also feature systemwide dark mode.

Watch this: iOS 13 is packed with new features

Why is Apple using dark mode now?

Dark themes have certainly been around for years as third-party apps and themes. Unlike Google, Apple didn't say why it's looking into dark mode, though we're sure high demand was certainly part of it. 

Apple doesn't have a track record of being terribly concerned about trends, often bringing out features years after competitors. It's always been much more concerned about getting things right than getting them first. It's also possible that Apple used MacOS Mojave as a test bed before moving on to the highly scrutinized iOS. 

Apple didn't respond to a request for comment.

Originally published earlier this year. Updated with more detail.