Editorial: Who Needs Maximum Brightness?


The other day I spent some time with a fellow editor of Pocketnow. He, like me, was using the Galaxy Nexus, except that his phone’s screen looked much better than mine. I quickly realized that his brightness was set to 100%. Poking around through menus and browsing the web at 100% brightness was a great experience, except that his battery went down about 1% per minute while I was using it. He admitted that the 100% brightness setting was totally unreasonable for most people, but contended that he didn’t mind keeping the phone on the charger for most of the day.

Have you ever turned the brightness on your phone to 100%? On some phones (but not all), the results are brilliant: contrast increases dramatically, colors are deeper, and the viewing angle seems to improve. It’s glorious.

Pick a high end phone: iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, HTC Titan. What do they all have in common? You cannot, under any reasonable use-case scenario, keep the brightness at 100% or even 80% or 60%, or else you’ll bleed battery life. Why do phones even have a maximum brightness setting? Or, why not trim the brightness setting to a point where a user can set his brightness to maximum, use the phone a reasonable amount during the day, and still not have to hit the charger before bed?

Under what scenarios would a user want to set their brightness to max and have a phone that can browse the web for a full hour and a half before going dead? The only scenario is one that my colleague finds himself in; he’s happy to keep his phone plugged in for the majority of the day. Not me. I want to stay mobile and not have to think about plugging in until it’s time for bed.

On some phones, the automatic screen brightness works very well to keep the screen relatively dim when indoors, then bright again when outside. But the automatic brightness setting will keep your screen brightness somewhere between 10% and 50%, and only go to the maximum setting when outdoors. You never get to a higher brightness setting.

Where do you keep your brightness, or do you keep it on auto?

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About The Author
Brandon Miniman
Brandon is a graduate from the Villanova School of Business, located near Philadelphia, PA. He's been a technology writer since 2002, and, in 2005, became Editor-in-Chief of Pocketnow, a then Windows Mobile-focused website. He has since helped to transition Pocketnow into a top-tier smartphone and tablet publication. He's so obsessed with technology that he once entered a candle store and asked if they had a "new electronics" scent. They didn't.