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HTG Explains: Does Plain Black Wallpaper Save Battery on Mobile Devices?

black-wallpaper-on-android[4]

In a world where you can have 3D scenes rendered in real time as your smartphone’s background, plain black wallpapers aren’t the most eye-catching option. However, they can offer battery life improvements over colored wallpapers on some displays.

Plain black wallpapers can also make text easier to read, helping the icons stand out. They won’t be lost in the jumble of colors — or animated fish, if you’re using a live wallpaper.

Will It Save Battery Life?

On most computer displays, such as the computer screen you’re probably reading this article on, using a black background won’t save you any battery life. No matter what color a pixel is – whether it’s dark black or blinding white – there’s a backlight at the back of your screen and it’s constantly outputting light. The black pixels block more of the backlight, but it’s still behind the black pixel, using power.

For many portable devices – including Apple’s iPhone – you can’t save any battery life by using a black background. Like on a computer’s LCD monitor, the iPhone’s backlight is constantly shining when the screen is on.

However, this doesn’t apply if you’re using a mobile device with an AMOLED (also known as Super AMOLED or OLED) display. OLED screens don’t have a solid backlight. Each pixel on an OLED screen is an “organic light emitting diode” that produces its own light. When the pixel is black, it isn’t producing any light. When the pixel is white, it’s producing light.

In other words, if you use a black background on an AMOLED display, your display will produce less light. This will help save battery power, squeezing more battery life out of your device.

There are many devices with AMOLED displays out there, including the popular Samsung Galaxy S3. The Nokia Lumia 900 has an AMOLED display, although the Lumia 920 has an IPS LCD display. To check the type of display your smartphone or tablet has, examine its specifications or perform a Google search.

samsung-galaxy-s3

Image Credit: KhE on Flickr

Setting a Plain Black Wallpaper on Android

To set a plain black wallpaper on Android, open this page in your browser and tap here to view the plain-black wallpaper image. Long-press the image and tap Save image to save it to your device.

android-save-image

Long-press on your home screen and tap Gallery to select a wallpaper from your device. If you’re using an older version of Android or a manufacturer-provided interface, you may have to tap Wallpaper after long-pressing your home screen.

android-choose-wallpaper[4]

Tap the Download folder in the gallery, select your plain black wallpaper, and confirm the operation.

android-set-black-wallpaper

Remember: Setting a plain black wallpaper will only improve your Android’s battery life if it has an OLED display. However, we’ve also got some tips that will help maximize any Android device’s battery life. Don’t use a task killer, though.

Setting a Plain Black Wallpaper on iOS

To set a plain black wallpaper on iOS, open this page in Safari and tap here to view the plain-black background image. Long-press the wallpaper and save it to your device.

Return to the home screen, tap the Settings icon, and select Brightness & Wallpaper.

image

Browse for a new wallpaper and select your Camera Roll – you’ll see the black image you saved. Select it as your background.

Setting a plain black wallpaper won’t improve your battery life on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. Don’t worry, though – we’ve got some tips for improving your iOS device’s battery life.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 12/27/12

Comments (16)

  1. ianco

    ONE DOES NOT SIMPLY PERFORM A GOOGLE SEARCH TO SEE WHAT KIND OF SCREEN A DEVICE HAVE

  2. Gandolf

    Well said Boromir!

  3. RA

    I have a Lumia 822 and there’s only two background colors, black and white. It came with black by default and changing it to white gives you a message that it will reduce the battery life.

  4. Usman

    Chris, what are your views on ‘burn-in’ on AMOLED screens?

  5. heinrich

    @ianco – if you know what to search for, then yes a google search should suffice.

    Caps indicate screaming… did you intend to scream? I hope not.

  6. BadJasper

    @ianco..

    Why, YES one simply does:
    1) Go to Google
    2) Type “[Your phone make and model]” + “Screen Type”
    3) Viola!

  7. Josh

    I learned this a few years back. I’ve always had a dark picture of my rabbit for a background.

  8. Josh

    Also, another trick is to set iphone’s triple click to invert colors. Since most readable content, web pages and the like, have white backgrounds, a quick color inversion would also conserve power.

  9. Nathan

    Of course, having a heavy 3D live wallpaper will be much worse for your battery life than a plain black wallpaper.

  10. db

    I did this a few years ago for my phone by simply taking a picture in a darkened closet, then set that as background.

  11. Keith

    Did this for my walkman. Have no idea if it saves on juice but the icons stand out much better.

  12. Two Replies

    @ianco
    One does not simply hold down the shift key to make their incorrect statement correct.

    Google does hold the answer… but Wikipedia is a better resource for specs. ;-)

  13. 318mph4me

    I prefer to use black wallpapers. My home screen and app drawer have black wallpapers with grey and white icons. It is simple yet sophisticated. Bright, primary colors on home screens, apps and wallpapers are too busy for my taste. Reminds me of a kindergarten classroom. I do have an amazing Super AMOLED Plus screen so I ROCK my lock screen with some color.

    Samsung Galaxy S2
    ATT SHG-I777

    (It would be nice if I could download a screen shot)

  14. psyjohn

    I just put my phone’s camera lens against my leg, snap a pic, and instant black wallpaper. Also, the Samsung Galaxy S3 has a widget to invert colors. I use that when I want to browse the web, etc. with white text on a black background.

  15. jarvis

    Question – TFT is a type of LCD, right?
    This won’t work for TFT?

  16. Daniel

    Like the short article said.. it won’t save battery on LCD screens like the iPhone has..

    For people saying they just take a dark picture.. That’s really not the best way because you’ll get pixellized noise in the image which will look ugly in the background. Just make a quick black image using any graphic software or online.

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