Dark mode may extend the battery life of your phone, but there is a problem

Turning dark mode on your phone can increase your phone’s battery life, something we’ve been hearing about for some time. According to researchers at Purdue University, however, the increase in battery life is not as great as you thought. In addition, a clear black background does not bring many benefits compared to the dark gray background found in most applications when dark mode is enabled. The study found that activating the dark mode does not give you any major efficiency wins unless you see it from specific scenarios. The most productive gains in battery life were found during the transition from full light to dark mode.

In the Purdue study (via Android principle), the researchers looked at the use of dark power mode from six different applications. Computer, Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google News, Google Phone, and YouTube were all tested on the Pixel 2, Moto Z3, Pixel 4, and Pixel 5 – all OLED phones, of course. The researchers tested the power consumption when running each of these applications in idle mode for 60 seconds. The researchers said they had developed a set of tools to accurately measure the power pump in pixels.

“When the industry rushed to adopt the dark mode, it did not yet have the tools to accurately measure the power pump from the pixels.” said Charlie Hoo, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michael and Katherine Birck of Purdue. “But now we are able to give developers the tools they need to give users more energy-efficient applications.”

At about 30% -50% of brightness, the researchers found that switching from light mode to dark mode saved only 3% to 9% on average. However, reversing to 100% brightness can save up to 47% on average battery power.

“Previous tests to compare the effects of lighting mode with dark mode on battery life have seen the phone as a black box that combines an OLED display with the other gazillion components of the phone. Our tool can accurately isolate the part of the battery drain from the OLED screen “. said Pranab Dash, Ph.D. Purdue. student who collaborated with Hu in the study.

There were other interesting findings, including the use of the Google News app in 20% brightness mode on the Pixel 5 draws the same amount of power as when the phone is in 50% brightness mode. Therefore, if the bright screen bothers you, then you can increase the brightness when you use it without consuming much more energy overall.

dark power usage on Android

The study also states that Android battery consumption details do not take into account dark mode, so the team developed a tool called “Android Battery +”. Researchers want to open the on-screen profiling tool and add Android Battery + to AOSP.

Credits for selected images: Photo by Purdue University / John Underwood

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