back to article My eyes thank you, Google: Android to get dark mode scheduling in future update

During the heady beta days of Android 10, Google showed off a feature that would allow users to automatically activate Dark Mode depending on the time of day. Sadly, despite an enthusiastic reception, it never made it into the finished product, due to several technical hurdles. However, according to a company representative, …

  1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    even with a valid location the sunrise/sunset time calculations can be buggy,

    Really? I wrote a sunrise/sunset timer program for my "anti-burglar" presence lights, the algorithms are easily available on the web. Even the ancient Greeks managed to do that calculation.

    1. 2Nick3

      I wonder if they are answering "What time will the sun cross the horizon line?" rather than just "What time is sunrise/sunset for this location?" That's a significantly more challenging question to compute for fixed point, much less for a device that is mobile. And that's just with physical terrain - if they are also including weather and/or man-made structures it gets pretty crazy.

      1. JohnFen

        Yep -- that's why there are at least three different times for any given location. There's astronomical (which happens when the geometric center of the sun is 18 degrees below the horizon), nautical (12 degrees below), and civil (6 degrees below).

        This is tricky stuff.

    2. David 132 Silver badge

      It does seem like Google (originally?) chose the most complicated way possible.

      "Apps have to request location permissions"? No. The system knows where it is, and just needs to broadcast a "go to dark mode now" message to applications whenever the user has explicitly, or via sunset scheduling, requested it.

      Why on Earth would Google do it in the way described in the article, which must be the most permissions-profligate, privacy-invasive way... oh. Never mind.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Black Helicopters

        So they can get ray perfect photon detectable angle of attack discovery on if the sun in visible from the valley in the car you are sitting. ;)

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Adjusted for the exact position of the app on your screen, which is why each app needs the location permission.

    3. jmch Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Even using the most simple sunrise/set calculation is surely overcomplicating it. Couldn't they have issued a v1.0 release where the user can choose what time to switch on/off dark mode every day?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Indeed. Where I am now, the sun set today at 13:24. The dark mode would make zero sense since people are not hibernating for most of the day so who cares about blue light in the afternoon - later in the evening, perhaps.

        Further north the Sun doesnt rise at all for several weeks... Will their RGB displays be just RG displays during that time?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Patents.

          When it's obvious problems like this, I assume either:

          1) There is a seriously obvious patent out there that prevents people actually doing the proper sensible thing (unenforceable, but a billion dollar company sitting on it and trolling people with it).

          2) Someone somewhere is proving their worth/time/bonus by making it over complicated!

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge
            Flame

            Re: Patents.

            The answer is 2) because Google are desperate for your fine-grained location and this person is good at coming up with bullshit excuses:

            Want to use an app which scans for WiFi APs or Bluetooth devices? "Oh, we need you to activate location because the app could harvest MACs and talk to its mothership to work out where you are (even though it may not have the Internet permission)" -> You turn location on to allow device scanning in the app to work -> Google gets your location.

            What to use a dark mode app? "Oh, we need you to activate location because when we tell the app to go to or leave dark mode, the app could use that sunrise/sunset time as a way of working out where you are." -> You turn location on to allow dark mode in the app to work -> Google gets your location.

        2. joeW

          I think this a dark UI theme, not lessening the blue light.

  2. JohnFen

    A better solution?

    Although I dislike dark modes and don't use them at all, it seems to me that a better solution than a time-based one is you use the light sensor (on mobile devices, anyway) to detect when it's actually dark and switch to the theme then.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A better solution?

      Or just let the user set on/off times.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: A better solution?

      That would be really infuriating and what we have light levels for. Dark mode only makes sense on OLED screens and only for certain applications. In general, however, it doesn't matter if it's right on the money and the screen is usable in both modes almost equally well. I tend to have all my messaging apps in dark mode all the time but dark mode for maps can mean less visible detail so I let OsmAnd manage this for me. My Kobo Reader switches from blue to orange the same time everyday.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Facepalm

        Re: A better solution?

        OLED and those who prefer the reading experience!!!

      2. JohnFen

        Re: A better solution?

        "That would be really infuriating"

        Would it? Oh well, it seemed reasonable to me -- but like I said, I don't use dark modes and so I don't truly understand the use case.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: A better solution?

          Lighting conditions can change very quickly so even with the kind of delay you get with light-level adjustments, which is graduated, you could easily flip between light and dark modes, which is most certainly not graduated.

          Dark mode is largely personal preference, with some potential energy savings and then some woo about blue light levels. I've always hated it for computer screens but I've had it for messaging apps and e-mail on my phone since it's been available.

          1. JohnFen

            Re: A better solution?

            Ah, I see, that makes sense. I was imagining an implementation where the light level change would have to persist for a reasonable period of time before changing to/from dark mode -- but perhaps that wouldn't be quick enough for users.

          2. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: A better solution?

            >Lighting conditions can change very quickly

            I think people are confusing two different adjustments.

            Firstly, my laptop has an ambient light sensor and can dynamically adjust the brightness of the display accordingly. I seem to remember that many phones also have this setting.

            Secondly, there is the issue of circadian rhythms and the effect, specifically of blue light on the brain. iOS since whenever has had 'night shift', originally it was just a user defined schedule, but has in recent editions gained 'dark mode' which can be auto switched at 'sunset'.

            I suspect Google were trying to be too clever with their scheduling, rather than simple run it off the user set timezone setting.

    3. John 104

      Re: A better solution?

      What? Use the light sensor? Why, what a concept. Except this has always been in place. Up until Android 9, it worked really well. On my LG V40, it is useless. The display darkens so much that it is unusable in low light situations and won't adjust up. As a result, I manually set the brightness.

      Hey, Google, How about you fix shit you broke before introducing new features? Or are you just trying to be like Microsoft?

    4. Annihilator Silver badge

      Re: A better solution?

      Only works for people who don't have indoor lighting. I suspect that isn't many people that also own a mobile phone.

  3. chivo243 Silver badge
    Holmes

    Picture change?

    The photo for the story changed... Did Neil Young complain?

  4. MrMerrymaker

    Swift Installer

    You're welcome.

  5. Raven11229

    Weird how Google cant do it, but Xiaomi applied it in their Miui 11 update, which allows you to choose a time instead (which seems like a better option too)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what?

    what the literal actual fuck, an engineer at google is claiming that writing a sunrise/sunset calculator is tricky and would inevitably be/is buggy? WHAT?

    is this the quality of google? DUDE. I would expect a google engineer to be able to derive from first principles the time of sunrise and sunset for any latitude and longitude on earth at any date, and maybe if they're smart they'd know the difference between civil and nautical and astronomical twilight and might suggest an os wide way of linking that to the blue light reduction mode.. like.. if you schedule one you probably might want both working in sync together

    but no.. he's some kind of literal muppet who can't write a 'calculate sunrise at long,lat' function without a bug

    cretin

    1. agatum
      WTF?

      Re: what?

      what the literal actual fuck

      My thinking exactly.

      So, what, google is now evil AND incompetent? We are fucked.

    2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: what?

      Also... who gives a shit if the calculated sunset/rise time is off by a few minutes. Even half an hour. I mean twilight is a gradual transition so the moment of switching is pretty much inconsequential.

  7. joeW

    Good news

    Will El Reg be following their lead and giving us a dark theme?

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Good news

      Black text on black background...?

  8. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "Dark Mode scheduling"

    What is this Dark Mode that they are talking about ? I can't find any Dark Mode in my Galaxy A3 menu. I do have a blue-light filter. I also have a phone that modifies its brightness following the ambient lighting, so why should I need a Dark Mode ?

    My phone also has Always On, so I get the time on screen without blasting my middle-of-the-night eyes with the full effect of the unlocked screen. It adjusts its brightness automatically as well - during the day it is nice and readable, in the dark it is subdued and largely readable as well.

    So what use is this Dark Mode scheduling to me ? I can't see that it has any.

    1. joeW

      Re: "Dark Mode scheduling"

      This dark mode: https://developer.android.com/guide/topics/ui/look-and-feel/darktheme

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Solving a problem that does not exist ...... again !!! :)

    FYI:

    Less 'Blue light' [Blue Light Filtering] is not the solution it is made out to be.

    Latest research has found that the shift to 'less' blue light is not necessary rather simply dim the display !!!

    (In fact, the shift towards the yellow end of the spectrum is at odds with the dimming, as Yellow or White light is 'better for staying awake and alert'.

    See https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-50807011

  10. jaffa99

    I don't care

    I'm using dark mode and I don't want it to switch back and forth, that would just be annoying, I also stop the sat-nav in my car switching, it's on night time mode all the time.

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