Android code change hints at ‘Ultra Low power mode’ for Google Pixel phones

Without a doubt, the biggest complaint shared by reviewers of the base Google Pixel 4 was its subpar battery life. Those looking to radically cut back on their Pixel’s battery usage may have reason to celebrate, as new evidence hints at a new “Ultra Low power mode” coming to Pixel phones and possibly Android devices in general.

Today, if you activate battery saver mode on a Pixel phone, the most noticeable change is that everything will switch to dark theme, but less obvious things are also happening. Your apps will stop doing work in the background, your phone won’t give apps your location while the screen is off, and a handful of other improvements.

While this will go a decent way toward reducing battery use, there are more techniques to radically stretch battery life, which could make the difference in emergency situations. For example, Samsung phones offer an “emergency mode” which puts your screen into grayscale, disables Wi-Fi & Bluetooth, and disables “non-essential” apps, guaranteeing you hours more battery life.

It looks like Google may be interested in making its own ultra low power mode for Android and more specifically Pixel phones. In a new code change, spotted by XDA‘s Mishaal Rahman, “ultra low power” mode joins other under-the-hood power “modes” like low power, VR, and — oddly — double-tap to wake. The code change includes a brief description of what ultra low power mode is supposed to do.

This mode indicates Ultra Low power mode is activated or not. Ultra Low power mode is intended to save battery at the cost of user experience.

For a bit of comparison, the existing low power mode is described as saving battery “at the cost of performance.” By suggesting that the “user experience” will be different, this Ultra Low Power mode sounds a bit like Samsung’s emergency mode.

Rahman points out that the engineer responsible for the code change has so far only been publicly seen working code related to the Pixel 4, which makes this likely to be a Pixel feature. That said, I wouldn’t expect Ultra Low power mode to debut with this year’s mid-range Pixel 4a, if only because that phone is likely just three months away and this code change was submitted only a few hours ago.

Perhaps we’ll see Ultra Low power mode arrive on Pixels with one of the Android 11 betas over the next few months. If that ends up being the case, other Android OEMs would be able to rebuild their various ultra low and emergency mode settings on one standard way of doing it.