It is widely believed that using dark mode on smartphones with OLED displays can help improve their battery life. This is because OLED displays consume very little to almost no power when showing black content. In contrast, they tend to consume a lot more power whenever they have to power on individual pixels for showing light-colored content.
However, a new study shows that dark mode is unlikely to improve your smartphone’s battery life significantly.
Dark Mode Has Little Impact on Your Smartphone’s Battery Life
A study conducted by the researchers of Purdue University points to dark mode barely improving your smartphone’s battery life.
For the study, the researchers tested six of the most popular Android apps on the Google Play Store: Google Maps, Google News, Google Phone, Google Calendar, YouTube, and Calculator. The tests were conducted on the Google Pixel 2, Pixel 3, Pixel 5, and the Moto Z3.
Using a tool developed by the team dubbed Per-Frame OLED Power Profiler (PFOP) that can measure the power draw of each pixel, the researchers analyzed how dark mode affected a minute of activity in each of the apps mentioned above.
The study notes that most users tend to have auto-brightness enabled on their smartphone, which keeps the display brightness around 30-40 percent when indoors. Purdue researchers found that having dark mode enabled with the display brightness between 30-50 percent only saves about 3 to 9 percent battery power on average. This, however, will vary depending on the smartphone you use.
The researchers found that the difference in power saving is so small that most users will barely notice the difference. They do, however, note that the higher the brightness levels are, the higher will be the power savings when one uses dark mode. At 100 percent brightness, switching from light to dark mode saved an average of 39 to 47 percent battery power.
Dark Mode Does Not Drain Your Phone’s Battery Faster at Higher Brightness Levels
Another interesting tidbit from the study is that the amount of power consumed by an OLED display at lower brightness levels with a light theme is the same as the power consumed by it at higher brightness levels with dark mode enabled.
For example, the researchers found that the Google News app on the Pixel 5 consumes the same amount of power in light mode with display brightness set to 20 percent as it does when the brightness is set to 50 percent with dark mode enabled. This means that you can increase your phone’s brightness when using dark mode without much of a power penalty.
The study makes it clear that if you tend to use dark mode only to increase the battery life of your smartphone, it is not going to make much of a difference. However, dark mode tends to be easier on the eyes, which a study cannot measure.
Here’s how you can automatically switch between a light and dark theme depending on the time of day.
About The Author