By Malabarba

2011-01-21 22:57:21 8 Comments

I started wondering about this when I realized most websites I visit have white backgrounds, and I know that the screen is usually responsible for most of the battery usage. Since I can't change the background in those sites, I might at least switch my wallpaper to a black one.

Most (all?) phones need back-lighting to brighten the screen when needed. Since that back-lighting consumes battery, is it correct to state that a white screen consumes energy at a faster rate than a black one? (assuming the same brightness level in the settings)

I'm assuming that a white screen needs stronger back-lighting, but I don't know if it's the case.


@Steve Mould 2011-01-24 23:30:03

Hey, I just ran a load of test to figure this out. They are vaguely scientific tests! I figured out that I was saving 20% battery by switching to dark wallpaper and dark themed apps. Have a look through my write up, you should be able to work out the saving on your phone:

@Bernhard Hofmann 2011-02-09 07:58:09

Your "report" provides more detail information on this question than any of the other answers with higher votes. It's a shame that some people just upvote the answer at the top. Nice research - thanks for your time doing that and writing it up.

@Shaunak 2011-02-09 14:44:45

Thanks for the tip... Current Battery usage is criminal and had been searching for an answer on the net to extend the battery life of my S..

@matt wilkie 2015-10-15 06:01:01

Page is blank for me today, work for anyone else?

@Eric 2011-01-23 06:07:16

If your screen has an older standard lcd then this doesn't help at all. The backlight is still shining behind all those darkened pixels. You just can't see it.

If you have oled, amoled, super amoled, LED lcd, or I think even plasma then it does help to darken the screen because the light is generated specifically where it is needed.

BTW there are fire fox plugins that reformat whatever page you are on to be dark. I don't remember the names, but I needed it when I was living in a studio apartment with my girlfriend and I was up all night on my computer while she was trying to sleep 20 feet away in the same room.

@Lie Ryan 2011-01-22 00:54:50

This depends on the screen technology.

For instance, (it was said that) Android 2.3 Gingerbread has dark theme since Google's latest flagship device Nexus S uses (Super) AMOLED display which consumes less energy when displaying dark color since AMOLED produces its own light and darker color emits less photons. Contrasts with LCD display which uses a backlight (a fixed number of photons) and the LCD crystals filters those colors it needs. The crystals on an LCD displays though, actually consume slightly less power when displaying white since it takes more power to strain the crystal to block more light.

Screen color does not affect the backlighting. There are certain display technologies in TVs that tries to give dynamic backlighting by dimming the screen when displaying darker image. I'm not aware of any device that actually ships with that type of screen though.

@Malabarba 2011-01-22 01:02:29

Android 2.3 uses AMOLED? Isn't AMOLED a property of the phone?

@Lie Ryan 2011-01-22 01:22:05

@Bruce: whoops, I meant to say Nexus S, sorry about that. Fixed.

@Matt 2011-01-22 01:11:33

On OLED, AMOLED and Super AMOLED screens: Yes

LCD screens: No

@Pijusn 2012-09-02 14:51:26

From what I can see in your seconds link, dark backgrounds do actually reduce power consumption of LCD screens if they use IPS technology. Like the one in HTC One X, I believe.

@Matt 2012-09-07 23:17:26

@Pius The reduction listed in that table (~4%) is negligable compared to the the 100% drop between white and black on AMOLED screens. It is interesting though. This article suggests that IPS LCD use less energy than AMOLED screens on screens that display approx 33% white or more.

@Pijusn 2012-09-09 09:38:00

VERY interesting article. Thank you for sharing.

@Jisang Yoo 2013-11-13 15:35:32

For OLED, AMOLED and Super AMOLED, is it just complete black pixels that consumes battery much less because light is turned off? Or is it also dark grey pixels too that consumes considerably less energy than white pixels?

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