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This article was published on July 4, 2010

“Night vision” hack on some Android phones almost doubles battery life

“Night vision” hack on some Android phones almost doubles battery life
Chad Catacchio
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Chad Catacchio

Chad Catacchio is a contributor writing on a variety of topics in tech. He has held management positions at a number of tech companies in th Chad Catacchio is a contributor writing on a variety of topics in tech. He has held management positions at a number of tech companies in the US and China. Check out his personal blog to connect with him or follow him on Twitter (if you dare).

Developer Jeff Sharkey has come up with an Android hack for OLED display phones (Nexus One, Incredible, etc) that he claims almost doubles battery life: go into “night vision” mode by filtering “separate pixel elements for each color channel” so that only one color shows at a time (red works best) .

First of all, it’s worth noting that he did this hack in airplane mode with GPS off, though it doesn’t seem that that is necessary for the hack to work. As Sharkey puts it:

Filtering to show only red pixels only requires 35% of the original baseline OLED panel current, on average. Adding back the baseline current, the best case overall is about 42% of the original system current, effectively doubling the battery life. Also, showing only red pixels doubles as an awesome night vision mode, perfect for astronomy.

The hack uses a “low-level window compositer” called SurfaceFlinger. Have to say, after watching this video, we would certainly pay for an app that does this (heck, maybe even if it doesn’t save that much battery – it just looks cool):

Images and video by Jeff Sharkey.