How Dark Mode Can Extend Battery Life on OLED Phones

Did you know that your phone might take longer if you use applications with darker interfaces? This is true! Sometimes it's complicated. It depends on the technology of your screen and whether or not your phone software benefits.

That's all for OLED

It is obvious that the brightest screens consume more electricity. It is also wise to manually reduce the brightness to increase the battery life of any mobile device. But this is only part of the equation. For the most part, phone screens use two different types of technologies for their screen panels: LCD (liquid crystal display) and OLED (organic light emitting diode).

LCDs have been around for a very long time and are the core technology for all types of electronic displays since the introduction of large CRT monitors and TVs in the late 1990s and early 2000s. a light-emitting diode (a tiny electrically powered light) to shine the light through a colored grid of pixels, each containing red, green and blue cells. This combination of technology is called LED-LCD, or sometimes just "LED screen" for short. This makes the next a bit confusing.

An organic LED (OLED) uses a construction process that combines the pixel grid and the backlight into one element: each pixel emits its own light. This has many advantages, including higher contrast ratios, higher color saturation, and improved efficiency. But for us, the big disadvantage is that if a pixel on an OLED screen displays a completely black color, it is actually off – this part of the screen does not consume electricity. This is a huge improvement over an older LCD (and LCD-LED), which must power the entire screen, regardless of the image displayed.

A closeup of the RGB matrix on an OLED screen.

The phone makers know it and they started to take advantage of it. Motorola launched the trend with its Moto X in 2012. The phone used an "always on" display mode to display notifications, a clock and a battery charge indicator, with a small white text on a screen otherwise black. In this mode, the permanently on screen consumed a tiny amount of electricity, less than 1% per hour, thanks to the power advantages of the dark interfaces on an OLED panel. Always-on display notification tools are now common on Android phones.

What battery life can dark interfaces save?

Having a screen almost all black can save a ton of battery life. But of course, using a conventional application means that a large part of the screen displays text or images, and that OLEDs do not save a lot of energy unless the displayed pixel is completely black. So, how much energy can you save?

More than you think. Google has explored this question while developing a darker look for Android in general and its own applications in particular. According to a presentation that Google made to the developers during its conference, the new dark mode of YouTube saves between 15% and 60% of the battery life compared to the traditional user interface white back, depending on the overall brightness setting of the screen.

This is a radical improvement – enough so that Google now integrates a dark mode into Android and adds it to other applications as well. It's no exaggeration to say that if the applications you use most often become dark, as well as your general user interface, the life of your battery can increase by thirty to one hour compared to a working day. normal. It's the difference between getting an Uber at the end of the night and getting by with the taxi. Of course, it all depends on your phone using an OLED screen instead of an LCD.

Does my phone use an OLED screen?

Most of the most expensive cell phones on the market in 2018 use OLED displays for various reasons. Samsung is a big fan of their use, placing them in almost every Galaxy brand phone (and even some tablets) for many years. Google's range of Android Pixel phones use OLED panels, as do the flagship products from LG, Motorola, Sony and OnePlus. The iPhone X, XS and XS Max use OLED panelsbut the older iPhone and the cheaper iPhone XR do not do it.

The flagship phones from Apple, Google and Samsung use OLED screens.

If you do not know if your phone uses an LCD or OLED, do a quick search on Google. Look for your specific model and your "specifications", which should provide you with a complete list of the technical specifications of the first or second result. If it is marked "OLED", the technology used by your screen will save you the battery with darker applications. If "LED" (without the O) or "LCD" appears, a darker user interface will not benefit much.

Oh, and some manufacturers use an even more complex acronym, AMOLED (Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode). For the purposes of this article, AMOLED and OLED are identical.

Use of darker applications and interfaces

Since the battery savings for these darker applications are still under study and quantified, the selection of applications offering this feature is still not excellent. There are many Android apps offering different themes to their users, many with "black", "night" or even "OLED" options, but this is lacking in many major mobile apps such as Facebook or WhatsApp.

As mentioned earlier, Google seems to be leading the charge among the leading mobile software developers. In individual Google apps running Android and iOS, search for "Dark Theme" in the main menu of the application and enable failover. Current Google apps with a dark mode, including Phone, Contacts, YouTube, News and Messages, should be added soon.

First mobile application of Twitter offers a dark mode option. To turn it on, tap the icon in your profile. In Android, tap "Night Mode". On iOS, tap the moon icon at the bottom of the crescent moon icon.

The official Reddit mobile app has a Night Mode specially labeled as beneficial for AMOLED screens, accessible from its main settings menu. The same is true of Samsung's main web browser, the Telegram messaging app and many smaller apps.

The Android operating system itself offers a "dark" device theme from version 9.0 (Pie): it is accessible from the Device Theme menu in the display settings. Note that this is the stored version of Google's Android, visible on Pixel phones and other valuable: even if your phone switches to Android 9.0, this does not necessarily mean that this option will be enabled. It is also limited to some parts of the interface, although a larger theme can be presented in a future update. A less intuitive alternative is to Enable Reverse Colors option, which most new phones should have access to – although it just changes the color of your entire device and is not as useful as a dedicated theme.

Samsung phones support basic themes, but no dark mode or night mode at the time of writing. however, the next overhaul of the "One" interface, which will soon be released in software updates for the latest phones and should be delivered by default on the Galaxy S10, should have a night / dark mode option from the output.

What about the iPhone? Apple's theme options are limited and third-party applications can not edit interfaces outside their own windows. But since the company has made great progress on its dark theme for macOS on the desktop, a darker option seems to be a likely inclusion in a future update. Meanwhile, the iPhone can reverse its colors In the same way, Android can do it.

Want even more battery savings? You can change the bottom of your phone's home screen in matte black to get benefits even when browsing apps or widgets. Here is a link to a matte black JPG file (0,0,0 on the RGB scale) if you do not have the option for solid black in your launcher.

What if I do not have an OLED phone?

If your phone uses an LCD, you will not see the huge energy savings you would achieve with an OLED panel. But you can still benefit from this new series of dark modes. After all, nothing prevents you from activating them.

Slight savings on overall brightness could have a negligible effect on the battery life of your phone, even with an LCD screen, but there are other benefits. If you stay on the phone several hours a day (not much, we do not judge), using a darker overall interface can help you reduce eye strain or fall asleep faster when you're finally ready to stoop. Blue light filter applications and operating system tools can have a similar effect.

That said, you may want to check your next phone purchase to make sure it has an OLED display. Both for the battery life (with the appropriate settings applied) as for the general use, it is a great improvement of the quality of life.

Image credit: FCG/ Shutterstock

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