Google: Here's why dark mode massively extends your OLED phone's battery life

Color choices can significantly cut how much power an OLED screen uses, Google explains.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Google's Android Dev Summit zeroed in on "the cost of a pixel color" yesterday where it revealed how much various colors in apps tax a battery.

While it's well known that screen brightness uses up more power on LCD screens, Google has been analyzing how different colors impact the battery on OLED screen devices, like the Pixel 3 and the iPhone XS.

Black on OLED screens is known to use less power because the LEDs that make up each pixel are off, whereas displaying white means the LEDs need to shine and consume power.

As Google presenter Chris Banes noted, the screen itself is one of the biggest drains on battery, so the company has been looking at ways developers could minimize the screen's power usage.

Google Maps in night mode caused the display's power usage to fall by 63 percent compared with normal mode. Night mode didn't use any less power on an iPhone 7 with an LCD screen.

Google drilled down further into how different colors impacted power usage. While black uses the least power and white uses the most, Google found that blue used 25 percent more power than green or red.

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The company also admitted that it's been leading developers down the wrong path with Material Design, which encourages developers to use bright colors and a lot of white.

"Guess which color we've been pushing you towards over the past couple of years? Material came about three years ago. We changed from Holo, which is a nice dark theme, to a white theme instead. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot slightly in terms of power," Banes said.

While many of Google's apps are heavy on white, some apps like YouTube do feature dark mode and as demonstrated, its use can significantly cut the amount power a display is using.

At full brightness on a Pixel, YouTube in dark mode used 43 percent less power than normal. When the video was paused, dark mode saved 60 percent.

On GBoard dark mode saved 21 percent at full brightness. On Google Maps, even at full brightness, using night mode can save about 30 percent of the battery.


Google demonstrated how dark mode minimizes battery drain from the screen.

Image: Google

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