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How black wallpaper can save your Android battery

Authored by: Kris Carlon — 1 month ago

Most people know the display is one of the most battery-hungry elements of any smartphone, but what they don't know is that the wallpaper they choose – yes, wallpaper – can make a significant difference to battery life. A pure black or generally dark-colored wallpaper or background can actually save power over a lighter one. It just depends on the type of screen you have.

androidpit galaxy note 4 vs galaxy note 3 1
A black wallpaper can actually help your battery last longer. / © ANDROIDPIT

First off, we need to share bit of display technology information. In the smartphone market, the majority of displays are either AMOLED or LCD. I won't go into too much detail, but if you want to know more (and which one is better for what), you can check out our Smartphone screens explained article. If you just want the black wallpaper, skip to the bottom of the article.

Display tech explained: LCD

LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display and it's the same kind of technology you'll find in your televisions, monitors and so on. As the name suggests, Liquid Crystal Displays are actually crystals, and as such, they don't emit light of their own but rather transmit light from a light source behind them.

This means that even if you're looking at black on your smartphone or tablet screen, it is actually black lit up from behind. Therefore, LCDs don't really display 'true' black. The Nexus 5 has an LCD display, as does the LG G3 and the Xperia Z3

LCDs are also quite power hungry, because as every pixel needs to be illuminated whenever the screen is in use.

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The Nexus 5X has an LCD display. / © ANDROIDPIT

Display tech explained: AMOLED and OLED

AMOLED stands for Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode and it is also used for televisions screens but more notably, for smartphones. OLED displays are similar, but do not use an Active Matrix.

Samsung displays, for example, are usually AMOLED: the Galaxy S5Galaxy Note 4Galaxy S6 and Galaxy Note 5 all use an AMOLED display. The LG G Flex 2 uses a Plastic OLED display and the Google Nexus 6 uses an AMOLED screen.

The screen is made up of organic material that actually produces light when a current is passed through it – electroluminescence. AMOLED displays are easier on your battery because every pixel is not always lit up. They also show 'true' blacks because there is no back-lighting.

androidpit galaxy note 4 vs galaxy note 3 13
Get more battery life out of your AMOLED display smartphone with black wallpapers. © ANDROIDPIT

Battery life: AMOLED vs LCD

AMOLED

You can probably see where this is going: if you have an AMOLED display then you can save some battery life by using black wallpapers, or generally darker wallpapers and themes.

Our friends at XDA Developers did a little experiment and figured out that you can save about 6 percent battery life an hour at 20 percent brightness by using a black wallpaper on an AMOLED display, and about 8 percent an hour at full brightness.

These results are based on an always-on screen, but the basic theory is sound even if the figures are not exactly set in stone. Another tester using a different method came up with a general 18 percent saving over the course of a day.

LCD

What about LCD battery saving wallpaper, I hear you ask? Sorry, LCDs rely on back-lighting, so there's nothing you can do to save battery there.

The only thing you can do is set your device to Battery Saver mode and try not to turn your screen on all the time. Keep your display brightness as low as possible and your screen timeout nice and short.

The good news is you can have the brightest colored wallpaper and themes imaginable and it won't make a difference to your battery. Just think about that when you look at the gloomy screens of AMOLED owners clinging to their extended battery life (just don't stray too far from a charger while you gloat).

androidpit samsung galaxy s5 black wallpaper screenshot
It's not exciting, but it'll save battery power. And it doesn't have to be pure black, just dark. / © ANDROIDPIT

Other battery life tips for AMOLED screens

There are other things AMOLED owners can do to maximize their battery life, such as setting as many app themes to be as dark as possible.

If you can change the appearance of a bunch of apps you use frequently, you can save even more battery life. After all, we spend more time in apps than on our home screens. You can also set your text and email preferences to have a black background and use white text, depending on your device and chosen apps.

The easiest way to figure it out for yourself is to fully charge your device as is and wait until it's almost totally dead and look at how much of your battery was used by the display. Just go into Settings and look under Device Settings for Battery.

Make a note of the percentage your display has used up, then, while recharging your phone, switch to a black wallpaper and repeat the cycle to see the difference.

androidpit battery saving settings
You can also set screen brightness and timeout, modify app appearance, and use battery saving mode. / © AndroidPIT

Give me black wallpaper now

To download a straight black wallpaper for your smartphone background, hit the link here, and don't forget to change your app themes to be as dark as possible to enhance the battery-saving effects.

You can also set a darker system-wide theme for your device, change your screen timeout setting to be as short as possible, enable power saving mode, turn off auto-brightness and see how great the battery savings are.

Of course, your battery is used by more than just display, so results will be dependent on your phone usage habits, processor and other variables, but the savings will still be worthwhile.

Did these black wallpaper tips save you some battery life? Do you have any other tips for conserving battery life? Share them with us in the comments. 

Kris is a former AndroidPIT Editor who came to the team via a lengthy period spent traveling and relying on technology to keep him in touch with the outside world. He can usually be found juggling three phones at once and poring over G+ posts, Reddit and RSS feeds.

28 comments

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  • Yoma Ma 1 month ago Link to comment

    The solution to the black or dark wallpaper is SO simple.

    If you want a pitch-black wallpaper, turn the camera on, turn the flash off, find a soft, black surface like a pillow or black jeans/pants, press the camera lens onto it--not too hard but enough so no light filters in around the edge of the camera, and take a picture.

    If you want a dark wallpaper (90-95% dark is good enough), whether a solid color or mostly dark with very little bright colors or outlines, just take a picture of something that you like that fits the description... or spend who knows how much time perusing through pics on the net.

    Bottom line, you choose what you want for wallpaper; if you are battery power conscious, dark wallpaper with minimal icons on your home screen is for you--mine just has the clock... and less glare is also much easier on the eyes. However, if what you like is a bright, busy home screen, the sky is the limit... literally.

    Don't forget to make a copy of the pic to an SD card and/or your PC, so you can use it on other phones or if you have to reset your current phone.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! ... CHEERS!!

  • Mel Fox 8 months ago Link to comment

    Best improvement a REMOVABLE battery

  • Frank Neulichedl
    • Staff
    8 months ago Link to comment

    Interesting article - would have thought that by now the wallpaper doesn't help improve battery life anymore.

  • JesperLR 9 months ago Link to comment

    Great article - my worst battery consumer is always the display on time, so anything to reduce that makes a difference! :)

    If anyone wants an app for setting a solid color as wallpaper (e.g. black) I just helped develop a brand new beautiful app for that purpose with Lollipop material colors (it's called "Material Colors Wallpaper HD" and can be found on Google Play)

  • jeff Jan 28, 2015 Link to comment

    it would be cool if you guys done a black theme for this app

  • Sorry I know this goes against everything here but the s5 has a great looking screen with great graphics. Why would I want to waste that on a black background and dark themed apps? I know it will save battery but if I didn't want to see the great graphics etc I may as well have gotten an s1 or an iphoney. Just my thoughts sorry. Great article though.

    • Think of it this way, you get more time to use the screen for looking at photos or watching video, rather than wasting the power on having a pretty UI that is completely unimportant.

      I generally have the brightness on my Note 4 down really low. It still looks great (AMOLED screen have excellent contrast ratios regardless of the brightness setting) and it preserves the battery for when I will most appreciate it.

  • GT Ohh Jan 27, 2015 Link to comment

    And why did Lolly Poop change all the screens from nice battery saving black to a power hungry white theme again?

    • They are probably trying to burn out the AMOLED screen so you have to upgrade your phone more often.

  • durga syn Jan 26, 2015 Link to comment

    yeah, and the worst is that they are the creators/most ardent believers in the amoled technologie.
    i mean it's like they just forgot what they designed works O_o

  • Lee Jan 25, 2015 Link to comment

    Yep and Samsung have added the WHITE lollipop background to settings and in other places throughout there phones 😕 well done Samsung well done 👏👏👏 Samsung need to read this and take notes 📝😊

  • A.F.Kmail Sep 13, 2013 Link to comment

    I have downloaded a 3rd party app which let me stop some applications to start up at boot time .. that saved me a lot of memory and battery life on my note 2 in addition when its night time and have dimmed room , just start an application which decreases the light from phone screen .. which helped a lot

  • Agreed, the number of times I've had my phone turn on by accident on planes is disturbing (I'm a stickler for aviation safety), now I just take the battery out.

  • The potential for replacing a battery (also being able to flip the battery out if your device freezes) is why I dislike the idea of phones with a non removable battery.

  • There was an interesting comment in an article we recently did about extending the battery life of the Note 2 - the suggestion was to buy this massive new battery, but one of the commentators noted that the new battery gives 50% more power at double the thickness of the original, so why not just buy another original battery and have 100% more power at the same thickness (and just switch batteries). Good point for battery makers to listen to!

    • Well its darned inconvenient for one, as you lose whatever you were doing to switch the battery out.

      You also risk shorting the spare battery unless you keep it in a carry case, and nobody wants a explosion in their pocket. (although arguably that's a greater risk using a third-party battery too as you do not know if it meets safety standards)

  • A bigger battery is what every smartphone owner wants Kris :) I've just brought a power pack for boosting my phone battery while out and about, In the mean-time I've found a very nice black background with a tigers head depicted in white at one side.

  • A bigger battery is what every smartphone owner wants Kris :) I've just brought a power pack for boosting my phone battery while out and about, In the mean-time I've found a very nice black background with a tigers head depicted in white at one side.

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