December 7, 2010 | by Michael Heller
As I’ve said before, Google likes its Nexus line of phones to be the pacecar for the Android ecosystem. The Nexus One pushed forward processor speed, camera quality, and internal memory capacity, but one thing that didn’t make the move to many other handsets was the AMOLED screen. AMOLED screens provide better viewing angles, better battery life, better contrast and better brightness than LCD.
Yet, since the Nexus One, the only phones to adopt the new technology have been the Droid Incredible with OLED, and the Samsung Galaxy S series with its Super AMOLED screens. OLED and AMOLED screens have been notoriously bad in direct sunlight; but, Super AMOLED screens have fixed that issue, so, why haven’t they been used in more phones?
OLED technology of all kinds can show richer colors, and deeper blacks than LCD screens, while using less power on those ranges, and far less on blacks. The problem is that OLED uses far more power to show its bright whites. So, as yet, battery power on OLED handsets has been less than stellar, because it has been up to the user to choose dark themes in apps, which would lead to less power consumption. Gingerbread aims to chip away at the smaller offenders that have led to power consumption on OLED screens by using dark colors and blacks in more areas. The most noticeable are the notification bar, which is constantly displayed in most instances, and the browser menu backgrounds have become draped in black rather than white. Even the dialer has dropped the grey buttons for pure black.
These are small changes, but it is often the small aggregate changes in widely used places that can have a profound effect. Sure, if more people with AMOLED screens made sure to use dark themes in news readers, ebook readers, or any other app that offers the option, battery life would be improved for those users. But, Google wants more manufacturers to adopt AMOLED screens, and for that, they needed to make fundamental changes to the OS which would benefit handsets using that technology. That is why Gingerbread is bringing in darker colors.