Android Marshmallow 6.0 is getting close to being released, and we’re starting to see what the final version will – and will not – include once it starts being distributed to devices later this month. One of the things that’s missing: the Dark theme – and that’s a problem.
After users started to notice the Dark theme was missing in recent preview builds of Android Marshmallow, the community reached out to Google on an Android Developer Preview forum. The response from a Google representative was disheartening: this feature will not be a part of Marshmallow, but Google will “consider” it in “future releases”.
Why is Dark so important? There are two primary reasons why dark themes (in general) are particularly valuable.
First up is low-light and nighttime usability. Running a theme with dark backgrounds and light text in the dark emits only the necessary light to get the job done. This saves your night vision and helps you be able to read your screen after the sun has gone down or in a dark room. To that end, it looked like Android Marshmallow was going to not only include both a Light and a Dark theme, but would automatically switch between them. Whether the switch would occur based on time-of-day rules, or via input from the ambient light sensor, we don’t know – but it was going to be awesome! And then Google took it away.
AMOLED displays are basically black to begin with. Every pixel you light up consumes power. By leaving those pixels “off” (black) and only turning on those required to convey the meaning of the UI, fewer pixels are turned on, and less power is consumed. Microsoft even took the bold step of developing and releasing Windows Phone 7 with a primarily black user interface just for the battery saving advantages.
Eliminating the Dark theme gets rid of both nigh-vision and battery saving. We can only guess why Google removed this feature, but we suspect the Dark theme simply wasn’t complete and wouldn’t be finished by the time Android Marshmallow is to be released.
Marshmallow notwithstanding, Android needs a mechanism that will allow users to select a “dark theme” at their choosing, whether always on or triggered by time-of-day or when conditions determined by input from the ambient light sensor are triggered. Furthermore, many developers today let users opt to use a dark theme inside their apps. “Dark” should be a system-wide condition which third-party apps can hook into, letting them automatically use their dark modes system-wide according to the rules the user has specified. Maybe that’s something we can look forward to in Android Nougat (or whatever the next version is going to be called).