How dark mode can prolong battery life on OLED phones

Do you know that your phone can work longer if you use applications with darker interfaces? This is true! It depends on the technology of your screen and on whether the software of your phone uses this advantage.

All about OLED

Obviously, brighter screens consume more electricity, and manually reducing the brightness is a good way to extend the battery life of any mobile device. But this is only part of the equation. In most cases, the phone screens use two different technologies for their on-screen panels: LCD (liquid crystal display) and OLED (organic LED).

LCD screens have existed for a long time and have been the main technology for electronic displays of all kinds after switching from large boxed CRT monitors and televisions. Modern liquid crystal screens use a light emitting diode (a tiny power source of light) to shine through a color grid of pixels, each of which contains red, green, and blue cells. This combination of technologies is called LED-LCD or sometimes just a “LED screen” for short.

Organic LED (OLED) uses a building process that integrates the pixel grid and the backlight into one element: each pixel emits its own light. There are many advantages to this, including superior contrast ratios, richer colors and better efficiency. But for our purposes, the main advantage is that if the pixel on the OLED screen displays completely black, it actually turns off - this part of the screen does not consume electricity at all. This is a huge improvement over the older-fashioned LCD (and LED-LCD), which should power the entire screen, no matter what image it displays.

Phone makers know this, and they started using it. Motorola started this trend with Moto X in 2012. The phone used the “always on” mode to display notifications, a clock and a battery indicator with small white text on a black screen. In this mode, the always-on screen consumed a small amount of electricity, less than 1% per hour, thanks to the powerful advantages of the dark interfaces on the OLED panel. Such tools for the permanent display of notifications are now common on Android phones.

How much battery life can save the dark mode interface?

Having an almost completely black screen can save a lot of battery power. But, of course, using a regular application means that a large part of the screen displays text or images, and OLED displays do not have significant energy savings if the pixel they display is not completely black. So how much energy can you save?

More than you think. Google investigated this issue because it developed a dark appearance for Android in general and for its own applications in particular. According to the presentation that Google has made for developers at its conference, the new dark mode on YouTube can save from 15% to 60% battery life compared to the typical user interface with a white theme, depending on the overall brightness setting of the screen.

This significant improvement is enough for Google to turn on the dark mode in Android itself, and also add it to other applications. It is not surprising that if the applications you use most often become dark, as does your general user interface, you can increase the battery life by 30–1 hour during a normal working day. Of course, it all depends on your phone, it uses the OLED screen instead of the LCD display.

Does my phone use the OLED screen?

Most of the most expensive mobile phones on the market in 2018 use OLED screens for various reasons. Samsung has been a big supporter of their use, attaching them to almost every Galaxy-branded phone (and even some tablets) for several years. The Google Pixel Android phone line uses OLED panels, like the flagships from LG, Motorola, Sony and OnePlus. The iPhone X, XS, and XS Max use OLED panels, but older iPhones and the less expensive iPhone XR do not.

If you're not sure if your phone uses LCD or OLED, do a quick search on Google. Look for your specific model and "specifications". If it is labeled “OLED,” then this is the technology your screen uses, and it can save battery power with darker applications. If it says "LED" (without "O") or "LCD", then it will not greatly benefit from a darker user interface.

Yes, and some manufacturers use the even more complex abbreviation AMOLED (organic LED with active matrix). For the purposes of this article, AMOLED and OLED are the same.

Use of darker applications and interfaces

Since the battery savings for these darker applications are still being studied and quantified, the selection of applications offering this feature is still small. There are many Android apps that offer their users a variety of themes, many with black, night, or even OLED options, but this is missing in many of the mainstream mobile apps, such as Facebook or WhatsApp.

As mentioned earlier, Google seems to be leading among the major mobile software developers. In separate Google applications on Android and iOS, find the Dark Theme application settings main menu and turn on the switch. Current Google apps that support dark mode include “Phone,” “Contacts,” “YouTube,” “News,” and “Messages,” and more should be added soon.

Twitter mobile application offers a dark mode option. To activate it, tap your profile icon. In Android, tap “Night mode”. In iOS, tap the moon icon at the bottom of the crescent icon.

The official Reddit mobile app has a night mode specifically marked as useful for AMOLED screens, accessible from its main settings menu. Just like the Samsung web browser, Telegram messaging application, and many other applications.

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