Android Q dark mode: how much battery power would it save?

Android Q dark mode: how much battery power would it save?
An integrated, system-wide dark mode – this is one of the biggest new features expected to come with Android Q later this year. Excited? You should be! While an all-black interface doesn't look particularly cheerful, it has a number of benefits we can all appreciate: reduced eye strain, for instance. In this article, however, we'll explore a different benefit of a dark theme – its potential to improve a phone's battery life.

This power-saving ability applies to devices with OLED screens in particular: where each pixel is lit individually and the darker it is, the less power it consumes. Black OLED pixels are practically off. Therefore, a system-wide dark mode would definitely improve battery life on such a phone, but how much of a boost are we talking?

Testing Phase

To answer this question, we took our trusty Google Pixel 3 phone and set its screen to a fixed brightness of 200 nits – a typical average value. Then we observed how the phone's power consumption changed once we switched the default look of the interface to a dark theme. Measurements were made using the Basemark Power Assessment Tool which is a specialized hardware device that monitors power use in real time and logs it with precision down to the milliwatt.

Since we don't have Android Q running on our Pixel 3, we had to simulate the look of a dark mode in one way or another. When possible, we used the dark theme option built into Android 9.0 Pie, and on screens where it didn't have an effect, we used Android's "Invert Colors" accessibility option. 

The results: up to 50% power saved in stock apps!

We started our testing by monitoring power consumption throughout the interface. We performed tasks like opening the phonebook, dialer, and recent calls list, opening the app drawer and settings menus, doing quick Google searches and scrolling through the results. Our Pixel 3 was connected to Wi-Fi throughout the test. Here are the power measurements that we got:

On average, browsing through the interface and the basic stock apps on our Pixel 3 consumed 30% less power when a dark theme was applied – a staggering result! And mind you, that's an average figure. Displaying certain screens where whites dominate – our phonebook, for example – drew about 50% less power after a dark theme was applied. 

Note that the figures in the charts reflect the total power consumption of the phone, not only of the screen. This makes our results more realistic and indicative of a dark mode's power-saving potential compared to monitoring only the power drawn by the display.

Up to 20% power saved in third-party apps!

Of course, people don't just look at their phone's app drawer. A lot more time is spent using apps, which is why we also measured the change in power draw in several popular apps – assuming that the Android Q dark mode would affect these as well. Here are the results that we got:

Full disclosure is due here. Since many popular apps, including Facebook and Instagram, do not have a built-in dark theme, we used the "Invert Colors" trick from above to simulate a dark mode. This may invert colors in photos as well – not the way a real dark mode would behave – but this didn't have any significant impact on our testing. Some photos draw slightly more power with inverted colors, others consume slightly less, and at the end of the day, the differences between darker and lighter images pretty much cancel each other out. 

About the results, we'd say that a 14.8% improvement in battery life is significant – especially when no hardware changes are required. And that is just a rough estimate. Some apps showed more potential for saving power: the biggest drop in power demand was observed in Facebook Messenger – an app with bright, white backgrounds across all screens. In its case, a dark theme resulted in savings of roughly 20%. In Pinterest, on the other hand, the savings hovered around 10%, which was no surprise when most of the screen is filled with images that would be unaffected by a dark theme.

You may notice that certain popular apps weren't mentioned. We decided not to include the likes of YouTube or Google Chrome in our testing because they don't benefit from a dark theme. Nearly all of the power consumed by YouTube is the result of a video being played. And a dark mode in Chrome wouldn't affect the actual look of websites filling the screen, judging by the way the dark theme works in experimental releases of Chrome for PC.

Conclusion: we want a global Dark Mode in Android!

As our testing shows, a significant amount of power consumed by a phone during use goes toward lighting up its display – and a lot of popular apps choose to show black text against a white background, thus consuming tons of power. Therefore, introducing a Dark Mode in Android will extend the battery life of a phone with an OLED display. 

But as with many things, terms and conditions apply. First of all, the battery life boost will only be significant if the Android Q Dark Mode is applied globally across both native apps and third-party software. This is simply because people spend more time in apps than in their app drawer. On top of that, the power savings will depend greatly on how the phone is used. If you mostly use your phone for texting friends or checking social media, the battery life gains will be great. If all you do is watch YouTube videos on your phone, then the benefit would be minimal. 

In any case, having a global Dark Mode option in Android Q wouldn't hurt, and with Google integrating it natively into its operating system, it will only be a matter of time until all other Android smartphone makers bring it to their devices. 



1. Cat97

Posts: 1936; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

The reason why Google is holding back on dark themes which should have been available years ago in Android? Dark themes reduce ad click rate and interferes with ad serving and customer behavior related to ads. That's why they are very slow to offer it.

3. Nick_T

Posts: 186; Member since: May 27, 2011

That's an interesting point! Do you have a link to a study on this?

6. ssallen

Posts: 202; Member since: Oct 06, 2017

That sounds like utter nonsense to me. First, you only get ads on google search and gmail. Neither of those are parts of Android. Second, that sounds like some b.s. armchair psychology some Apple troll dream't up.

14. psigate

Posts: 25; Member since: Sep 24, 2012

Or maybe because phones having OLED screens is usually reserved to highend models so Google probably didnt want to focus on a feature with limited reach?

2. cncrim

Posts: 1588; Member since: Aug 15, 2011

It is a welcome feature, now will my 2 years android get update soon or we meed buy a whole new phone to get it?

4. pokharkarsaga

Posts: 555; Member since: Feb 23, 2012

It will only make sense when most of the screen pixels are turned off according to the content on Amoled. If its Gray-Dark mode,not a point having dark mode.

7. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

Even dark grey has an advantage over white, just not as much as black.

10. Nick_T

Posts: 186; Member since: May 27, 2011

Not really. It is a mostly linear relationship with OLED. For instance, 10% gray consumes 5 times less power than 50% gray. I've measured this.

8. baldilocks

Posts: 1540; Member since: Dec 14, 2008

I've never liked dark modes or themes. They just appear tacky.

9. TBomb

Posts: 1579; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

Inverting colors doesn't give a very well-painted picture of what a dark theme app would look like. I would sure hope Instagram does more than just invert's colors. That follow button was horrendous. However, to your credit, it is as close as we can get right now to seeing what it might look like some day - so no harm no foul.

11. meloth1991

Posts: 39; Member since: Aug 26, 2012

I know this is competeltelt off topic but So does the new Samsung one UI update improve the battery performance? The stock contacts, message and default Samsung settings menu r all back.

15. riteshrkm

Posts: 159; Member since: Apr 15, 2015

It doesnt make much diff for me may be a 10% it used to be 30-35% when i reached home from office at night. Now around 40% with PIE n latest ONe UI

17. meloth1991

Posts: 39; Member since: Aug 26, 2012

Did notice a significant improvement in stand by time though !!!

12. JRPG_Guy

Posts: 146; Member since: Jan 13, 2019

So on top of being nicer to look at it can also save battery life? Why don't we have this yet?

13. epdm2be

Posts: 824; Member since: Apr 20, 2012

"....A SYSTEM-WIDE DARK MODE WILL RESULT IN BETTER BATTERY LIFE FOR MANY ANDROID USERS..." No s**t, Sherlock! We've been telling this literally for years! Bring Holo back instead of that fugly Material design nonsense!

16. UglyFrank

Posts: 2194; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

If only the PA battery test had a dark mode

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