Dark mode isn't as energy efficient as we all hoped

Atop not being as easy on the eyes as originally advertised, it also isn't a major battery saver.


Your devices’ dark modes are increasingly looking more like personal cosmetic decisions than actual aids for your eyesight and battery life. A new study courtesy of Purdue University seems to indicate shifting your devices to the darker hues honestly doesn’t do a whole lot to conserve juice. Using six popular apps including Calculator, Google Calendar and Maps, as well as YouTube, researchers employed their new “Per-Frame OLED Power Profiler” (PFOP) to see how dark mode saves on a minute of usage on the Pixel 2, 4, 5, and Moto Z3. The results, unfortunately, leave a lot to be desired:

Many people use their phone’s default auto-brightness setting, which tends to keep brightness levels around 30%-40% most of the time when indoors. At 30%-50% brightness, Purdue researchers found that switching from light mode to dark mode saves only 3%-9% power on average for several different OLED smartphones. This percentage is so small that most users wouldn’t notice the slightly longer battery life.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, users can still expect the biggest energy saves when switching their devices set at 100 percent brightness to dark mode. In those cases, the shift can save somewhere between 39-47 percent of battery life, which is nothing to blink at (get it?).

We’ve been kept in the dark on dark mode — The latest information from Purdue University adds to an increasing amount of data suggesting that electronic devices’ dark modes aren’t nearly as helpful as initially advertised. In fact, there are some instances when using it might actually be harder on your eyesight and concentration abilities than when using something like an auto-adjust brightness setting. Honestly, it seems to come down to one’s personal preference more than anything else: Are you finding yourself squinting and straining while using your smartphone? Well, maybe go ahead and try turning that brightness down, or switching over to the dark mode. Having trouble seeing things when the screen is that dim? How about brightening it up a notch?

Don’t worry about that blue light issue, either... because, apparently, that’s also not a thing. “There is no scientific proof that blue light from devices causes damage to the eyes,” the American Academy of Ophthalmology wrote way back in 2019. All of this might seem obvious to some, but hey — we all could use a polite reminder from time to time. Especially after staring at our phones for hours on end.