Force Dark Mode on 3rd-Party Apps

This month Google released the next beta version of their mobile operating system, Android Q Beta 3. This was revealed at Google I/O and the company confirmed that Dark Mode was finally making its way into the OS. While this doesn’t change anything that has to do with apps, we can force this using a hidden developer options feature.

Being able to install themes on Android devices is something that the community has been wanting for years. It got to the point where we had more than 2 different theming engines available from the developer community. Substratum seems to have won out (as of right now) but this could change at any time.

In fact, themes could be built right into the Android OS (which is what some theme engines used) once Google finally develops the feature for end users. However, a fully built theme engine might not even be needed. While it can be nice to have a variety of options, most just want a light, dark, and black theming option.

Android has slowly been moving to light as its default theme color but Android Q Beta 3 has made Dark Mode official.

The thing is, this iteration of Dark Mode only changes things like the Settings application, the Notification Shade, and the Quick Settings Panel. It doesn’t change the applications you have installed. However, there’s an experimental feature in Android Q Beta 3 that lets us force this dark mode on all of our applications.

Note – I want to emphasize that this feature is experimental. Not only could it make some apps look strange, but you could see some UI elements the wrong color, and it’s even possible for it to cause app crashes. Remember, this is all beta software. I also want to point out that this feature could be removed before Android 10 is released.

Time needed: 5 minutes.

How to Force Dark Mode on 3rd-Party Applications

  1. Enable Developer Mode


  2. Go into the Developer Options menu

    For Android Q Beta 3 that’s Settings -> System -> Advanced -> Developer options.

  3. Scroll about 3/4ths down the page and enable the Override Force-Dark toggle


  4. Then go back to the Home Screen and test the new change in your favorite apps

The feature is tucked away inside the Developer Options so it’s not something that most people will find. It’s actually not a feature that most Android owners even know about right now. It’s great to see Google working with so many OEMs on getting Android Q Beta 3 to more devices, but I’m hearing some of them aren’t stable at all.

Which ties into this feature quite nicely too as this feature is far from being complete. You don’t see this on many of the other features hidden in the Developer Options menu. Most of them are for developers and they allow them to debug their application while it’s being coded.

Forcing Dark Mode on Apps is Clearly Experimental

If you have used Google’s previous Android betas (which used to be known as Developer Preview builds) then you may be familiar with these experimental features. Some of them stay (SystemUI Tuner stayed in a couple) in the stable release of that Android version but some of them disappear.

We’ve actually seen this Dark Mode theming feature in previous beta builds of Android in the past.

They were just removed before the stable version of the software had been pushed out to the public. It’s sad when this happens as us enthusiasts have grown to enjoy them but it’s just how beta software is. I made sure to warn you earlier about how this feature could be removed at any time. So be aware of that.

Then again, it may be developed to the point where it can go live as a stable feature in the release of Android 10. We’ll just have to wait and find out.

Force Dark Mode on 3rd-Party Apps

However, if this feature were to make it in the stable release of Android 10 then Google has a lot of work to do in the meantime. I said this feature was experimental and you can see why from the screenshot above. This doesn’t happen to all applications but in some cases the icons in the Status Bar don’t change.

The image above was taken from the official Google Play Store application so it’s interesting that this bug was left in. I just felt this stood out to me because other 3rd-party apps (such as my smart plug app) shows the Status Bar icons just fine. It’s a cheap smart plug too so I would think the app standards are low.

Force Dark Mode on 3rd-Party Apps
Force Dark Mode on 3rd-Party Apps

This is the smart plug application that I was talking about. The first image is how the application normally looks and the second image shows you the application when this experimental Dark Mode toggle is enabled. Some parts of the app seem out of place but that’s mainly due to the images that are used.

I believe this feature is going to be incredibly useful for those who use the regular set of applications. Apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Google, Gmail, Snapchat, and more. I haven’t personally tested these apps (and some of them have a Dark Mode option on their own) but it’s these types of apps that could benefit from the feature.

Dark Mode Needs More Customization Options

Sadly, that last part is why I think most people will not end up using it. While it can be useful for a lot of apps, there aren’t any standards put in place that guarantee an app looks good. App developers could use this time to change parts of the app so they do look good but then they might as well just build in its own Dark Mode feature.

For this to be truly useful, I think that Google needs to let people choose which apps they want to force Dark Mode to be enabled for. And that type of extra work isn’t something that I see the company putting resources into. Now, this may be an opportune moment for 3rd-party developers to create a solution though.

But, just like Google, it may be a waste of time to develop an application that offers this feature if Google will simply take it away before Android 10 is officially released. We’ll just have to wait and see how things pan out.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here