If there’s one phone feature everyone is in love with this fall, it’s dark mode. Google and Apple are scrambling to add dark mode to their apps; everyone I know is enabling the mode on their iPhones, Pixels, and Galaxy phones. But in the background, I hear the same question repeated: does Dark Mode actually affect battery life, or is it best suited for Sith Lords and the goth kids at school?
Based on a pretty solid test from YouTube channel PhoneBuff, it makes a pretty significant difference if you have an OLED screen on your phone. The channel set up a phone using Dark Mode and Light Mode, and then set up a robot-operated battery test for each phone that sent iMessage messages, scrolled Twitter, watched YouTube, and navigated on Google Maps. All four of these apps feature officially implemented Dark Mode settings.
Almost immediately, the difference becomes apparent in the video, and it only gets more stark – until the Light Mode phone dies after about seven and a half hours of screen-on time, leaving the Dark Mode phone with 30% of its battery life.
Watch out for those caveats
There are some caveats to this, of course. The channel set both phones to 200 nits of brightness for the test. Most phone users will likely have automatic brightness adjustment enabled, and automated lab use will never directly mirror real-world use. The phone also has to be an OLED phone like the iPhone 11 Pro, Pixel 3 or 4, Galaxy S10, or OnePlus 7. Phones with standard LCD screens are lit from the edges, while OLED screens are lit pixel-by-pixel. That means that a true black screen as seen in better Dark Mode implementations is simply leaving many of those pixels off. The channel also only tested with iPhone 11s, so exactly how much of a difference it makes with popular Android phones might also vary.
But it’s pretty clear: a side-by-side test shows that Dark Mode does affect battery life. In addition to being easy on the eyes, from this test it seems like it really does make the kind of difference you’ll notice.