Starling Get Dark Mode (before Monzo too)


I don’t know what it is but Monzo just seem to have lost all development momentum. This sort of thing should be a slam dunk, but it’s just not getting done.

I get there are priorities and dark mode is just a cosmetic thing, but I don’t see much else coming out of there either?


I don’t know much about development but it feels like a quick win to me. It would make the community happy and it would show commitment to developing the free product too.

Sadly I think Monzo are blind enough to develop dark mode and then only make it available to plustomers


It takes time to get Dark mode right, as an accessibility feature, which is what it’s supposed to be. Unless you’re using iOS native UI elements it can be far from a quick win.

Dark mode always looks sleek, and Starling’s is no exception in that regard, but from the screenshots they’ve shared, it appears accessibility has, yet again, been an oversight, which is disappointing. Contrast is dreadful, text is hard to read. It looks rushed and poorly thought through.

Starling really need to start investing more in getting accessibility right, rather than treating it like an afterthought. It’s arguably the aspect they’re worst at, and it gives their competitors something of a competitive advantage.

If Monzo’s dark mode ships in a similar state I will be incredibly disappointed given how much time they’ve been working on it.

Paywalling accessibility would be a lawsuit in waiting!

A year ago I would have agreed with you, but over the past year I think they’ve made some good progress on developments, granted some things are paywalled, whilst Starling’s feels a lot slower in comparison to the frequency they were at a year ago. I always used to envy Starling’s pace of feature releases, but not now.


This wouldn’t be allowed, on iOS at least.

Apple consider Dark Mode a system feature, so apps are not allowed to paywall it. If they tried to, Apple wouldn’t allow them to release updates via the App Store until they backed down. This policy, of course, is probably why they haven’t bothered with it yet. I bet it would have been a higher priority if they could have made it available just for paying customers.


I don’t know, I’m struggling to think of anything really new in the Monzo app in the last 12 months? Plus is effectively an iteration on the previous attempts (with the new addition of virtual cards - I think the other stuff like connected accounts was previously free in labs?), and premium doesn’t add anything new to the app as far as I am aware?

The rest just seems to be tinkering.

Now I’m not saying Starling are setting the world alight either, but in the last 12 months they have done the same sort of tinkering with the app Monzo has done, plus introduced the kite card for children, more recently added the kids UI for the kite cards, brought online banking to personal customers and launched a dollar account for businesses.

Maybe I’ve missed something that Monzo have done (it’s a shame neither they or Starling have a decent change log), but a quick look at the community doesn’t have anything jumping out at me.


A change log would be great for keeping track of these things!

From what I recall, the kite card was the most recent notable thing from Starling til now! I’d completely missed the Kite UI thing and there’s nothing in the iOS release notes about it, which is what I use to keep track of features!

Just having a look through their release notes on iOS, the notable ones (non-generic bug fix release notes) from the last 5 months are (not sure why they stop after 5 months):

  • dark mode
  • iPad multitasking

Meanwhile for Monzo:

  • Better international transfers
  • Archived pots
  • Custom range bank statements
  • Send invoices directly from Monzo (Business Pro customers)
  • improved (worse IMO) feed and manage views for pots and accounts
  • Category splitting for business customers
  • Redesigned Payee hub (this update is the standout one for me)
  • Monzo year in review

It’s a complete 180 on the landscape from a year ago when it felt like Starling were pumping something new out every month, whilst Monzo were standing still. I suppose one might argue Starling’s recent developments feel much more substantial even if there’s fewer of them, and I’d agree with that, especially in terms online banking and the kids UI.

Monzo have instead been making a lot of smaller improvements, both to the free and premium accounts that appear to be paving the way for something more substantial to come later it seems. But compared to where they were at a year ago, it’s a massive improvement.


I suppose I’m looking for new features rather than changing ones that already exist, which I would categorise as ‘tinkering’.

If we’re including that sort of stuff then Starling have been messing about with their account selector, did some stuff around spaces recently, messed about with the fonts, and that’s just off the top of my head…I’m sure there must be more as it seems like Starling have an app update published every couple of weeks - though I’m sure a lot of that is behind the scenes stuff.

I can’t remember whether Starling’s improved statements UI was in the last 12 months either? I think being able to get certified statement copies from the app is relatively new? Along with PDF confirmations of faster payments and an account confirmation letter.

Fair enough on archived pots, category splitting and invoice sending - missed those.

Maybe you’re right and Monzo do have some big stuff up their sleeve - but for the moment it still feels like they’re a bit stalled to me, it doesn’t feel like it did back in the pre-pay days when things were always around the corner. Perhaps it’s just because the low-hanging fruit has gone now.


Tbh I’m not sure why you would take it at face value that they’ve been working on it very long at all. There’s this very strange compulsion with Monzo that everything they say is 100% the truth despite the fact that time and time again that’s been shown not to be the case. I tend to avoid saying things like this as it riles up the more extreme of their fan base, but it’s the reality. Admittedly it is the sort of waste of time thing they’d put huge effort into over and above doing something actually useful, but I’d like to think that the TS Anil era of Monzo has finally got rid of that sort of thing in favour of doing things that actually substantially improve their offering.

I’m still waiting to scan my cheques in the Monzo app, which was being worked on for a good 2 years and for all intents and purposes was ready to go, just needed to be connected to the system… then nothing. Why spend 2 years building something, huge amounts of time and expense on a major project to just dump it at the last second? They’re not google, they don’t have the money to do that. More likely is that it wasn’t anywhere near as advanced as had been said, and had considerably less work put in than we had been told so it was very easy to just put a hold. There are countless other examples too. If Dark Mode is coming to Monzo I’d quite expect it’s only been worked on now in any substantive way, whatever staff may say or show. It seems rather harsh to say this, but every single thing I’ve seen shows this to be the case. Dishonest is a very strong word so I’ll just say they like to portray the best of every situation, that’s kinder I think :joy:.


I’ll take anything a company tells me at face value until they give me a reason not to. I do believe their designers though, because I know first hand just now strenuous it can be to get dark mode right. It took Apple 5 years, maybe longer doing theirs. When we build something from scratch, depending on the complexity, it can take us up to 2 years.

We know from code snippets and screenshots that it’s almost ready, so I’m inclined to believe them if they tell me they’ve been working on it for a long time.

I agree. As long as that doesn’t mean we go back to a time when Monzo would often release software before it was ready with the intent on fixing it later, because they rarely do fix broken things later. It’s abysmal it took international transfers this long just to receive a usable interface for instance. The new version is how it should have shipped. Starling do this too, which is the gist of my issue with the launch of dark mode here (and how they launched kite), but they have a much better track record of actually delivering on their promises and fixing things later.

Same here! IBANs too please!

This goes back to what I was saying about releasing things when ready, except worse. They’ll drum up hype only to abandon the project. Atom bank did this a lot too in the early days, and it’s the thing I hate the most. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt in that this won’t happen under TS Anil, because you don’t tell your customers you’re doing something until you’re 100% certain you can deliver.

Where is Apple Pay on There’s been radio silence on that since they said they’d reinstate it after a deadline for something else. That deadline that took precedence past over a year ago. It’s this approach to development that annoys me, and whilst they’ve still not addressed that one, I do get the impression they have changed the way they’re doing things to stop these things from happening in the future. So far, I think the way they’ve done things since relaunching plus has been very good.

Not only kinder, but I think more accurate too. I don’t think there any bad intentions, or folk intentionally lying to people, they’re just far more optimistic in what they believe they can build and how quickly and then don’t meet their expectations and fail to deliver on time. I think it’s a lesson they’ve finally learned though.

Elon Musk is adamant he’ll have a human on Mars by 2026, for instance. I’m sure he absolutely believes they can do that, and I’m sure they’re working on doing it and have been for some time. I don’t for a second think they’ll do it by 2026 though.

Apple believed in AirPower too. So much to the point they spent a lot of money trying to make it happen and were confident enough to tease it at an event. They got as far as having finished products in the homes of employees and then canned it.

My guess is the cheque imaging was way behind schedule, other things were detracting time and resources and took precedence, and by the time the deadline rolled around to plug into the system, a decision was made to cease development. This is the sort of thing that happens a lot at my company, only few people become aware of these incidents as we don’t make them public or discuss things until we’ve built the finished product.


Yes, you’ve made that very clear, pretty much since day 1 of your interactions with Monzo, which is lovely, but makes my eyes roll in my head more than a brexit party voter on a bad ket trip :joy: You’re a delightful chap, but beyond forgiving when Monzo are concerned.

Not just Monzo. I got steamrolled for taking N26’s statement in regards to pulling out of the U.K. at face value too. I still steadfast believe it, because I don’t think they’d have left had no deal brexit become the most likely outcome. What annoyed me is that just a few months prior they promised they’d be staying regardless of what happened.

It’s just who I am. I take what I’m told at face value and criticise or praise where I think it’s warranted or earned. :laughing:

1 Like

I think as far as N26 are concerned that’s far more reasonable because their time in the UK was so short it’s difficult to get a sense of who they are, all you’ve got is what they’ve done elsewhere which may not be reflective of what happens in the UK. I am perfectly able to accept the reasoning like you. I’m not certain if I believe it but it’s perfectly plausible.

With Monzo there are, at this point, almost 6 years of history to call on when evaluating this stuff so that to me is a little different. The same with Starling. I literally held off making changes to a business of mine because they would break starling’s initial T&Cs for business. I have long enough history with them that when they told me the changes were going to happen, but “soon”, i knew it wouldn’t be soon, it would take at least 6 months, if not a year, but that they would eventually get there, and sure enough that is what happened. Things always take 3 times as long as they say, but when they say something will happen, it does. After 5 years dealing with them I just cannot trust what Monzo tell me, and to some degree that’s entirely ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’ as I’m sure at times what they say is actually accurate, but the boy can only cry wolf so often before it loses all meaning. But as I say, I have great hope for TS Anil. The fact that a lot of the old guard have left or been pushed is incredibly promising, hopefully it will signal a new culture and ethos. I don’t doubt some of that will be for the worse, almost nothing is ever universally improved, but if a decent proportion is for the better then we potentially have the makings of a cracking business that may actually achieve some of the very lofty aspirations they set at the start. But that new broom needs to do a whole load of sweeping into the trash can.


They might be pushing it a bit with that credit card though :rofl:

And the separate cards for joint accounts :rofl:

Given peoples preference here to spend on credit and pay the credit card back every month a combined credit/debit card could be cool.

Simply select in app where the payment should be taken from and then setup how you wish to pay the card back i.e daily, weekly, monthly or on the bill date

As someone who’s recently implemented dark mode on a (smallish) web app, I can only say: it’s an absolute pain, and takes a significant amount of time.

Whilst I have no experience in working with mobile apps, I would say that our problems where around generic things, that would affect apps in the same way as web apps (things such as this obscure legacy page that uses a design we totally forgot about or this 30 second mockup that should’ve never made it into production that uses artwork that’s slightly different from everything else). It’s a yuge pain in the behind to add dark mode to an app retrospectively.

However, with Monzo supposedly “working on” dark mode for who knows for how long: That’s either total BS or they are totally incompetent - neither would be great …

If they really take multiple months to implement this than there are only a few possible reasons for this:

  • when they originally built the app they never considered colour changes, so hard coded everything, and now need to un-hardcode everything. That would be so short sighted it’s almost criminal.
  • they are doing it in 5 minute sessions, one “screen” per week (ok, I might be exaggerating slightly, but you get the gist). That would be totally ridiculous, as their (presumably? hopefully?) ongoing design and developement work would constantly overtake their dark-mode-work, so it’d be a constant game of whack a mole.

I cannot really think of another reason why it would be a multi months exercise to implement dark mode in a simple app such as theirs.

(Someone somewhere alluded to Apple taking years to implement dark mode: You really cannot compare those two: Dark mode in a complex OS, that has developed over a decade or more, is very different from dark mode for a reasonably simple app, from the modern age. Additional to the difference in complexity, things that are short sighted now, would not have been 15 years ago [or whenever the developement of iPhone OS began].)

TL;DR: In my opinion, when Monzo are saying they are working on dark mode for many months they are either not telling the truth, or totally incompetent.

1 Like

From my experience as someone who has designed and built both web apps and iPhone apps, the latter are far more complicated and require significantly more time for equal functionality.

We can spin up a dark them for a web app that’s fully WCAG compliant and tested and optimised on the target users in around 6 months (not every hour of every day of that 6 month period, but you get the gist). On a mobile app, these come closer to hitting the 2 year mark, especially when the entire thing is custom made and not reliant on UIkit. You can’t afford to miss anything, and that much easier to do with a mobile app. There’s always at least one stray asset somewhere.

It’s important to note that not all of that time and resources goes on dark mode. It’ll be a few people a few hours per week. It gets priority after other core functionality is finished. A dark mode is far easier to do when you begin designing for it at the outset, so you’re already starting with a base palette that can easily confirm. It’s much harder to add one in later, as you’ll find yourself having to go back and tweak the aesthetics of the current design in order to accommodate dark mode.

I suspect in Monzo’s case it’s more of a, we’ve been working on it for years kind of deal but only a few people spending a few hours a week.

From what I understand though, iOS development is significantly stalled whilst Android is effectively done and they don’t want to ship one without the other, or so they’ve said.

1 Like

And don’t forget IBANs!

There’s a fair bit of paperwork and some technical changes we both need to make, but we should be able to start testing this internally in the next few months.

Posted in July 2018


I agree with this about N26, that was what I found most insulting (as a customer) as it made their earlier promise to stay seem disingenuous after the fact.

They also could have stayed, at least until the end of the transition, with no changes necessary at all. But they chose not to.

That’s why I think it was ultimately a commercial decision for them to go, so I don’t take their stated reason “because Brexit” at face value.

1 Like