If you're looking for the auto-brightness switch on the Android L preview build, you won't find it. That's because it's been replaced with the adaptive brightness toggle, shown below.

Screenshot_2014-06-26-19-18-11 Screenshot_2014-06-26-19-18-22

If you're familiar with iOS, you'll know this is how Apple has been doing things in regard to brightness for a while now, and many users prefer it. Samsung and LG, too, have shipped phones with adaptive auto-brightness in the past, though both seem to have shied away from it on US models of their phones in recent years.

In short, adaptive brightness is like quasi-autobrightness. You're essentially setting a "range" of available brightness levels when this feature is turned on, so that if you have display brightness set to 50%, the phone may only actually adjust itself between 40 and 70% brightness in a given situation. This is as opposed to completely automatic brightness, which typically gives you the full spectrum of brightness adjustments depending on the ambient light. The problem with fully automatic brightness is that's it's often slow and a poor judge of what level of brightness your eyes really need. So, this adaptive mode allows you to set a baseline brightness that the phone will then adjust from based on your surroundings.

Some people prefer full auto-brightness, some people prefer this adaptive style. Google has decided it's in the latter camp now, apparently.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • flu.


    • ronin

      The way it works on iOS is you go to a fully dark room and adjust your screen brightness to how bright you like your screen with no ambient light. Then you turn on auto brightness. Now you have set your minimum in low light situations. The brightness will never go below that minimum but will adjust between that minimum and the maximum when there is ambient light. I'm sure you can also set your maximum brightness that way. Just go outside and set the slider to the maximum you want. It works like Lux in that way. You just never see the different levels and thresholds you set like you do in Lux.

      Can anyone confirm that this is the way it works in L?

  • Simon Belmont

    Yeah. My wife's HTC One M7 has this, too.

    Looking forward to fine tuning this. Though, I've never really been upset with the auto-brightness on any of my Android devices since 2009, it's nice to have a bit more control.

  • AdamFitton

    Why not have two settings? Set minimum brightness and set maximum brightness. They could even be on the same slider. Its intuitive and provides the best of both worlds.

    • Kevin Kuo

      It might cause confusion amongst first time users.

      • mcnegro

        if they are too stupid to understand minimum and maximum then fuck them.

        • Ror


      • Lisandro O Oocks

        Anything may cause confusion among first time users. You can't drag the masses just cause you got to worry about first time users. Everyone is a first time use at some point, that doesn't mean you can't have a freaking app drawer just cause first time users may not find the icon on the screen that brings them to them apps.

    • Kookas

      What if you just want to change your current brightness quickly? Say your screen is too dark now, should you increase your maximum or your minimum? It's a lot of faffing about that you don't get with just one slider.

      • AdamFitton

        You would increase your minimum. If you increase your minimum to a higher amount than your current maximum, then it would increase the maximum brightness as well.

        Also, auto-brightness is supposed to negate the need to change your current brightness quickly. That's the goal. The problem with current implementations is that people have different acceptable minimums and maximums.

        If you want to get really interesting, have an option to define a median. That way you could put a weighting towards a desired brightness level.

    • mola2alex

      Wouldn't the minimum be different depending on the ambient light? I am running L now and basically the way it works is you set your desired level of brightness and it adapts that level for different ambient levels. Instead of auto which was a specific level associated to an ambient level, adaptive means you can go off the baseline higher or lower to fit your taste. Generally I found my N5 on the bright side with auto so I used an app called Lux to do adaptive. It wasn't perfect but was better than auto. I find the L adaptive better so far.

  • brkshr

    I like the adaptive brightness while I'm indoors, but I NEED full 100% brightness while I'm outdoors.

    • Alvin Brinson

      Yeah, my issue with Auto Brightness usually involved the fact that it never had enough RANGE. It seemed to be designed to save battery more than anything. It was always slightly too bright at night, but as soon as there was any light, it always refused to brighten up enough. It's like it was locked at 20%-70% weighted toward the middle, when what I needed was 0%-100% weighted toward brighter when not in complete darkness.

      Adaptive looks like it won't solve my auto brightness woes either.

      • RarestName

        You can calibrate the adaptive brightness on iOS, so I assume that you can also do so on Android L.

        • blindexecutioner

          Lol, yeah right. Stock Android would never let you control that. Cyanogenmod or other custom roms will I am sure.

          • RarestName

            Android Lollipop allows you to do just that.

  • Simon Belmont

    Can someone explain why setting adaptive brightness to 50% would give you a range of between 40% and 70%? Sorry, if this is a dumb question.

    I just want to understand how it works better. Thanks in advance.

    • brkshr

      I would like to know as well. I was thinking that this adjusted the 'aggressiveness' of the backlight auto-adjusting. So it could still use 0% to 100%, but used your setting as a base point. Not just using a specified range around your selected setting.

      Like I stated elsewhere. I need the 100% brightness outdoors, but I don't want to have to have a super bright screen indoors to compensate.

      • krazyfrog

        I was personally of the opinion that the slider acted more as a maximum brightness level for the auto brightness rather than set a range around the selected value.

        • Simon Belmont

          That's how I thought it should work, initially. At least it made the most logical sense to me.

          I figured it just limited the range of brightness. Maybe Google will explain it.

  • Rob

    What is CyanogenMod using in their latest ROMs. Before I moved to the Paranoid Android ROM, I recall a feature in CM11 that adjusted the screen based on the ambient light levels, and it seemed pretty stable.

    • Simon Belmont

      That's plain auto-brightness. It's what's been the norm on stock Android for years.

      I remember back in the olden days of CM6 and CM7 you could finely tune the auto brightness thresholds. That was pretty cool, but not very user friendly to do.

      • Rob

        Thanks Simon. I wasn't sure if it was just based on the AOSP brightness controls or something different.

        • PhilNelwyn

          Is it different in Paranoid Android?

          • Rob

            The settings - or options, as best I can tell/recall - are a bit different PhilNelwyn. In CM11 there are additional options, whereas it seems that PA is more akin to stock.

          • PhilNelwyn

            Ok, thank you.

      • Rafael Luik

        You can still do that.

  • http://www.ronakg.com/ Ronak Gandhi

    I doubt the adaptive brightness is the way you explained it. I think it adjusts it's auto-brightness algorithm like Lux did. When you adjust the slider to + or - from center, it simply decides if you want your auto brightness to be on dimmer side or brighter side.

    Let say you set the slider to 30% (-30 from middle point), then it would keep the brightness to 30% dimmer than usual auto-brightness. If you set it to 70% (+ 20 from middle point), it would set the brightness to 20% brighter than usual auto-brightness.

    • brkshr

      That's how I was thinking it would work. I'm hoping you are correct

    • Simon Belmont

      So, what you're saying is that the half-way point is the standard where the "old" auto brightness sat (prior to L release). So, if you set it lower than that, it'll have a dimmer range, and vice versa for brighter?

      That's interesting. I was pretty confused by the between 40% and 70% range in the article.

      • Dani

        Indeed, someone sucks at math.

    • Himmat Singh

      This is not how it works on my iPad at least. Screen brightens up, but never dims unless you sleep/wake it. I presume it'd be similar here.

      • brkshr

        It does dim automatically on the L build. I believe what you are explaining, is how auto-brightness used to work on certainearlier Android versions. I'm pretty sure my Nexus 4 did this on 4.2.

  • Martim

    This is the worst description of adaptive brightness I've ever read. It's not a "quasi-auto brightness" and if you don't like it for whatever reason, nothing changes. Basically, adaptive brightness (at least the way it's done on iOS) allows you to set the sensitivity of auto brightness.

    You can still set the brightness level to a fixed maximum or minimum if that's your thing, but now you can also set it to a dimmer range of auto brightness to save battery but still be able to see your screen in daylight.

    • Himmat Singh

      Would you mind explaining further? I have an iPad Mini and no, this is not how it works.

      • Martim

        I'm pretty sure that's the way it works on the iPad as well (I've got one lying around somewhere, I can go and double check if you insist). How would you describe the way auto brightness works?

        You've got a slider and a checkbox for auto brightness, right? If the box isn't checked, you can set the slider to whatever brightness you like and it'll stay at that level independently of the ambient brightness. If you do check the box, the screen brightness will adapt to the amount of light around you (e.g. it'll get brighter in direct sunlight). Now drag the slider around, and the screen will get brighter or darker, but it will still adapt to the amount of ambient light (e.g. it'll still get brighter in direct sunlight, but the max level won't be as high when the slider is to the left).

        • http://www.ubuntouch-fr.org/ Arnaud Ober

          Thanks for this explanation!
          Indeed, I have this setting in my iPad and my iPhone settings app.
          I didn't understand the slider when I was in auto brightness. I understand now!

  • Liam

    ... And not going to replace Lux, for me. That responds as fast as you like and let's you set anchor points (custom values at a given sensor value) for better interpolation.

  • Matthew Ponce de Leon

    Auto brightness is dead, long live auto brightness!

  • KERR

    One thing I do like on IOS is that when you turn the screen on, it "warms up" eg slowly brightens instead of blinding you. Don't know if android can do this?

  • Stanley C.

    I hve ever uses auto brigtness feature. All my devices have fixed bright indoor or outdoor...

  • Armando Rodriguez

    I think all Sony phones use adaptative auto brightness

  • cmbeid

    I just tested this in the L Developer preview. I set the brightness all the way down. With the adaptive mode enabled, the brightness went up to 100% when I pointed a flashlight at the sensor. With the sensor fully exposed to light, the brightness slider didn't do anything when I went up from 0% to 100%. Moving the slider back to 0% and removing the light caused the screen to eventually dim all the way down.

  • Prasad Tiruvalluri

    Is it the same as what I have in Xperia Z1. The name is the same not sure if the implementation is...

  • Himmat Singh

    I have an iPad Mini that uses "adaptive brightness" and sadly I dislike it. I even thought it was an issue with my device at first!

    Auto-brightness any day of the week for me.

    PS: On my iPad, if I go from a fully bright surrounding to a dark one, the screen does not dim. But if I do it the other way round, the screen brightens up incrementally.

  • Microsoftjunkie

    I thought every OS had this already?

  • My1

    so a bit like on the S4 and onward...

  • godutch

    Now that's annoying, the range of ambient light is huge, so we need the biggest range possible on our phones to deal with that range.
    Hopefully an exposed module will fix this, or better google come to their senses because this way the screen will be too dim in daylight and too bright at night (autobrightness already is!).

    • Somebody

      Don't put too much stock into an article written by someone who doesn't understand how it works. Adaptive does NOT limit the range. The full range is still available, it just raises or lowers the ENTIRE brightness curve relative to the ambient light level.

  • Renato Paredes Araújo

    I will install lux right away!

  • 4WardNL

    But... why does this slider have a blue color and do the other sliders (like the sound sliders) have a mint-like color?

    • Sorian

      "Preview" build.

  • C-Law

    I am NOT liking this at all! I've used auto brightness since day one with my og droid. I was using this new mode yesterday on my n7 and am not a fan of having to constantly adjust the brightness like this. Autobrightness did all the work for me. This just seems to set a range within which it will adjust itself. Why can't we have both options so people like me can continue using auto brightness?

    • Simon Belmont

      It's beta software. Perhaps it's just not calibrated correctly yet.

      I haven't personally tried it yet, but I'll admit I never had an issue with the old auto-brightness. I guess I'll see soon.

  • Mix

    This worries me. I have to shut my auto brightness off EVERY TIME I use my phone in complete darkness as the lowest auto setting is not low enough, this new system does not sound any better.

    Now if they had auto a smart auto brightness that you could set MIN/MAX levels or have it learn that when there is 0 light brightness should be 0 that would be killer.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Try it with adaptive brightness on and the slider all the way to the left, maybe it'll work exactly as you want.

    • Jack Jennings

      Agreed - despite what Artem says below, I think the key for me here would be some kind of calibration system.

  • someone755

    Aka what Sony was doing back in 2012 and nobody liked it. In fact, it was a reason a lot of people didn't buy Sony devices back then (not sure if they did it afterwards or are doing it now).
    Talk about that bias and double standards.

    • http://www.modminecraft.com/ Nick Coad

      Bias and double standards? On whose behalf? How do you know those same detractors are now in favour of adaptive brightness? (The answer is you don't, you're talking out of your arse).

      • someone755

        From the article; "and many users prefer it"
        I didn't say the article was biased, I said there was bias. Like, "was", as in the past form of "be"...?
        In short, the underdog (Sony in 2012) got hate for the same functionality that was praised on other products.

        Also, I do not remember being a dick to you.
        You are being one to me.
        So, um ... Let's just say that "you're talking out of your arse" here and wrap this "debate" up, eh? Not knowing what you were replying to and making assumptions, but calling me names.

        Also (and this is the last one, I promise), you took time to write a dick-ish reply to a 5-month old comment.
        Great job on following the Internet etiquette!

  • Christian

    am i the only one who's got the screen brightness fixed?

  • Shishir

    Unfortunately my Brightness is minimized to 0% & cant see anything on my phone. How can I reset brightness without watching the Screen. :/ Is there any way to reset? I tried factory reset but it did not work.