Companies are constantly racing to make phones thinner and thinner. At the same time, the demand for high-resolution screens is at an all time high. It seems like sometimes what we think we want isn’t what we want, because these specifications come at the expense of battery.
Which would you rather have? A device with less resolution, or a device that is dead when you need it most? For many people, this choice is a no-brainer. Apps that turn off pixels on your phone to conserve battery are emerging as an option to save battery. Pixel Battery Saver, called Pixel OFF Save Battery AMOLED in the Play Store, is one such app.
Pixel Battery Saver does exactly what it claims. The app lays a ‘mesh’ over your screen that turns off a percentage of the pixels. The result is a dimmer screen at a lower resolution. Since it costs less energy to keep such a screen lit, your battery can last significantly longer.
The cost of this longer battery life is pretty steep. Even the lighter meshes make your phone significantly dimmer, making it very difficult or even impossible to see under sunlight. The heavier meshes make text hard to read, and after using it for a few hours, I began to feel the strain on my eyes.
The Bottom Line
Although the app delivers on its promises, I found that the increased battery life isn’t worth the decreased quality.
Your screen is almost always the heaviest source of battery drain for any device so it will be pulling a significant amount of drain no matter how dim or low-res you make it. I find that I would rather enjoy the experience of looking at my screen while it’s on rather than squint and strain to see. Using other methods of battery conservation, like simply dimming the screen, reducing screen time, and trimming apps that run in the background, is far more preferable to me.
However, this is largely a matter of preference. If you’ve tried everything else and your battery is still giving you fits, maybe Pixel Battery Saver is the right app for you.
Pixel Battery Saver installs quickly and easily. There are no setup options, and at 3.4MB, the app is fairly lightweight.
The app’s interface is clean, clear, and easy to understand. Swiping left and right decreases or increases the number of pixels that the app turns off, and tapping the magenta button toggles between battery conservation mode and normal mode.
A short checklist of additional options appears above.
The unpaid version of the app offers three degrees of battery saving. “Mesh 2” offers low battery saving with only a slight decrease in the brightness and resolution, while “Mesh 4” saves lots of battery at the price of significant dimness and near unreadable text. “Mesh 3” strikes a balance between these two.
Meshes 1 and 5 are only available on the paid version of the app for $1.68. “Mesh 1” offers the very slightest decrease in resolution but makes a nearly undetectable impact on battery life. I literally could not tell the difference between Mesh 1 being on and off. “Mesh 5” promises the most battery savings, and I believe it because it renders your screen nearly unusable.
You can allow Pixel Battery Saver to start on boot and toggle whether or not it displays a notification while in use. However, you have to purchase the paid version of the app to unlock the ability to start using the mesh of your choice only when the battery is low. Further settings let you pick an exact level of battery life to begin turning off pixels.
Overall, there aren’t any particularly advanced features, but these get the job done.
Using Pixel Battery Saver is incredibly straightforward. Select a mesh, adjust any additional settings, and tap the magenta button to turn off a percentage of your screen’s pixels.
One irritating aspect of the interface, however, is the app prompts you to buy the paid version whenever you try to do anything not included in the free version. The paid-version-only functionalities aren’t marked in any way. Because you swipe to select meshes, it’s easy to stumble into paid territory accidentally, prompting pop-ups that you have to close.
Using the dimmer, lower resolution screen with other apps can be frustrating. Reading text online is especially bad.
As far as I was able to determine, Pixel Battery Saver made a minimal impact on my battery life–if any. I used it for two days on the maximum setting, and I still had to charge my phone at normal intervals. Whatever positive effects may be gained from this app are simply too small to be worth the eyestrain.
Note that if your phone has an LCD display instead of an AMOLED display, you will experience absolutely no changes to battery life with this app.
LCD screens use “shutters” to control individual pixels. The real battery killer is the backlight. In effect, using Pixel Battery Saver on a phone with an LCD display is like closing most of the shutters on your house’s windows and expecting to save on the electricity bill. The lights are still going full blast inside; it doesn’t matter that less light is getting outside.
If your phone has an LCD screen, simply lowering your screen’s brightness will dim the backlight, which is the same as turning off some of the lights in your house. If you really want to save on battery power, this is most likely your best approach.
My Moto X does have an AMOLED display, but I still only noticed a subtle increase in battery life.
Pixel Battery Saver has some unusual permissions that aren’t entirely necessary. To use the app to turn off pixels, you need to agree to give access to you accurate location display and Wi-Fi information.
These permissions have to do with collecting information for advertising purposes, but they aren’t required to run the app, and you are free to opt out of them.
Although Pixel Battery Saver may give your phone a small boost to its battery life if you own a device with an AMOLED screen, it comes at the high price of reduced visibility and definition. If you’re not looking to fork over the two bucks for the extra features, then the interface can be irritating and intrusive. The increased battery life simply wasn’t worth the negatives for this reviewer.
As you can see in this side-by-side comparison of my battery life, it does seem like the app saves battery life. With Pixel Battery Saver (bottom), my charge lasted longer, and I didn’t need a mid-day charge.
Careful observers may note that the rate of battery loss during times of heavy use are close to the same slope (red lines). Moreover, with Pixel Battery Saver activated, the screen actually took up a very similar percentage of battery use.
Taken together, one could conclude that my battery life may have been made slightly longer by Pixel Battery Saver because the loss of quality made my phone much less enjoyable to use. Since the display was ugly and strained my eyes, I found myself less inclined to spend time looking at my phone.
So yes, Pixel Battery Saver does save you battery, in its own way, but a better option is simply reducing your screen brightness and avoiding battery-sucking apps.
Since this is an ongoing issue for almost everyone who uses a smartphone, we always like to know your tips.
How do you conserve your battery throughout the day?