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Active Display & Magic Flip: Power Saving or Convenient Notifications?

Active Display
Active Display

One trend we have seen the past two months is towards a more power efficient way to view notifications on Android. Motorola introduced Active Display in its X8 powered devices like the Moto X. Alcatel has its own take on how notifications should be displayed with Magic Flip.

Magic Flip
Magic Flip

Android will alert you of any incoming notifications with a beep or a chime and, if set, by vibrating. On most devices, a led light will also pulse for a preset period of time. Despite this, Motorola found that smartphone users power up their phones many times a day to check and see if they missed any notifications. Motorola created a feature called Active Display which allows you to check your notifications without waking up your phone. This was accomplished with the use of a separate low powered processor to manage notifications, combined with an AMOLED display. The AMOLED display allows for notifications to be displayed without lighting up the whole screen. Pull the phone out of your pocket, and the time and pending notifications will be displayed.

Alcatel took a different route with the same intention. Notifications are displayed on a flip cover which according to Alcatel will save battery life as the screen does not have to be powered on. Alcatel calls this “Magic Flip.” I still do not know exactly how this one works, specifically if the pending notification is constantly displayed on the flip cover

Exactly how much battery power all this will save is rather questionable. The technology designed to save battery power also has its own overhead after all. Active Display still uses more power while asleep than an Android phone without one. In addition, with Active Display, the screen is monitoring for touch input. The Alcatel Magic Flip cover is tethered to the phone and that will also consume power.

So are these new technologies power saving or for convenience? Definitely they add to the convenience. If you are the type that constantly checks your device to check if you missed any notifications, the simple convenience of not having to press the power button to display any missed notifications makes Active Display worthwhile. Still, GSMArena battery life tests peg the Moto X at 39 hours of endurance. This is a far cry from the 51 hours of the Apple iPhone 5 or the 69 hour rating of the Samsung Galaxy S4. GSMArena tests on Wifi, so expect to get about half that on LTE.

As for Magic Flip, you actually reduce the process by two steps. In terms of power savings, we still do not know how much a hit on battery life Magic Flip impacts on battery life.

So these new power efficient ways of checking notifications are a plus and minus proposition. If you are the type to constantly check for possible missed notifications, both Active Display and Magic Flip will allow you to do this in a more power efficient manner. But while they will consume less power while checking a notification, they actually consume more power when the phone is idle as compared not using the new technologies.

Photo Credits: Motorola and Alcatel