Adaptive brightness – a clever thing that can be a right niggle

By | November 15, 2021
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Some tablets and smartphones can change the brightness of their displays so it looks good and is easy to read, whether you’re inside, out in the bright sunshine, or reading with the lights out while your other half sleeps.

If you’re outside in bright light, you need the brightness turned right up or you won’t be able to see the screen.  But if you’re in a dark room then a really bright screen might be uncomfortable on the eyes.

On some tablets and smartphones you have to adjust the screen brightness up and down yourself, but most now are a bit cleverer.

They use the built in camera to check how well-lit the room is and adjust the brightness to suit automatically. It’s called “adaptive brightness”.

It’s a very nifty little feature, but it does have a couple of snags.  It’s worth knowing about them because if they bother you, you can go into settings and turn the feature off and choose the brightness automatically.  For example, on an iPad or iPhone you can swipe up from the bottom of the screen to adjust the screen brightness – on a lot of Android based devices you swipe down from the top. 

The first snag is that if the light level in the room is on the cusp between two levels, some tablets won’t be able to make their minds up and will keep swapping between two settings.  That can be really off putting when you’re reading or doing whatever you’re up to.  You can go into settings and turn off the auto-adjust but you might not need to.  Often, just moving the angle of the tablet a little will be enough that it gets a clearer idea of how bright the room is and stops flip-flopping between two levels.

The second snag is when you’re in a fairly bright room and it turns the brightness right down – and you don’t know why.

Usually what’s happened is you’ve either put your thumb over the camera where you’re holding the device, or a bit of your jumper or cardigan or whatever has slipped over the camera.  So the camera thinks it’s pitch black and turns the brightness down to match.  So all you need to do is make sure the camera isn’t covered… and maybe turn the device around so the camera’s at the top instead of the bottom, so a fold of your jumper can’t cover it.

It beats squinting trying to see the screen clearly!

Julie Wakeling

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