Lost in the light

Forcing dark mode in Android Auto Maps

2 minutes

I, like a growing number of people, enjoy dark mode. Not only do I find it clearer and easier to read, but it's also easier on the eyes, looks nicer and saves a little battery in the process. If a service supports it, it almost always ends up in dark mode (unless their dark mode is disgusting) - and for sites which don't support it, there's always DarkReader.

Google Maps has a complex relationship with dark mode. DarkReader supports the browser version fairly well, at least enough for me to look up an address or get my bearings. Most of my Maps usage however is on Android, where DarkReader isn't really an option.

The Maps app by default will follow the system preferences for colour scheme, so it's nice and dark there. But Android Auto doesn't, much to my surprise. Setting the theme in the mobile app, even forcing it to dark mode, changes nothing. Fortunately, the app is smart enough to switch to dark mode at night (or when going through especially dark tunnels it seems), so as not to completely blind me. But that's not good enough, I want it dark mode all the time! Everything else on the car's display is dark, so why not maps?!

When I got my first Android Auto equipped car, almost 2 years ago, I either managed to find the configuration to force it to dark mode, or it did itself based on the phone's theme. When I changed phone back in March, it went back to light, and I'll admit it took me a few months to notice and be unhappy about it. That's when I started digging into the phone settings to find something, but I couldn't. And the Maps app on the car itself doesn't have any settings at all.

#How to actually do it

It was whilst waiting to pick up a friend from the station, poking around with Android Auto, that I spotted the error of my ways: Whilst the Android Auto Maps app doesn't have settings, nor does Android Auto on the phone, but Android Auto on the car has a bunch of lovely settings.

On the app list is a helpfully named "Settings" app. In there, towards the bottom, is a section for "Display", and right there is the option for forcing dark mode:

"Day/Night mode for maps" is the setting you're looking for.

(Yes, I should probably have cleaned the screen before taking the picture)

Finding that setting made me happier than I care to admit. I toggled it, switched back to maps, and my retinas set out a sigh of relief as Maps was restored to its beautiful dark mode.


Beautiful being completely subjective depending on how you feel about the redesign.


This isn't like most of my other posts, but I'm writing it anyway for a few people:

  • People who don't care how Maps looks, but like to know how to configure it if they wanted to
  • People who, like me, prefer their Maps dark mode all the time
  • Future me, who changed car or phone and inevitably forgets how to do it. Again (Hi future me!)

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