Skip to main content

How to adjust Android Pie’s adaptive brightness feature

How to adjust Android Pie’s adaptive brightness feature


If it doesn’t help, turn it off

Share this story

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Sometimes new features that come with updated operating systems turn out to be more trouble than they’re worth. Take Android Pie’s adaptive brightness mode, which is meant to intelligently adapt your phone’s display to your lighting preferences. For some people, it works. But if you’re not one of those people, you can just turn it off.

I recently bought a Pixel XL phone — yes, I know: it’s way out of date, but it was really cheap — that runs Android 9 Pie. Everything seemed great, until the first time I tried to read with the room lights out. The display couldn’t seem to decide how bright it wanted to be. Every minute or so, it would slightly brighten or darken. I wondered whether there was something wrong with my screen, and so I did a little research. It turned out that the screen was fine. The problem was with Google Pie’s new adaptive brightness mode.

In an interview for VentureBeat last August, Google group product manager Ben Poiesz said that after about a week or so of use — during which time you are supposed to adjust the brightness manually to help the phone “learn” your preferences — you shouldn’t have to adjust your display at all. This will not only make it easier to use the phone in a variety of lighting environments, but it will help save battery power by not keeping the display constantly bright.

Unfortunately, I found this learning process not easy to put up with. Trying to read with my display brightness flickering constantly from slightly darker to slightly lighter and back again nearly gave me a headache. It wasn’t just me, either; I found online reports from people who had similar issues and others who found that their displays became inappropriately bright or inappropriately dark.

Under those circumstances, it’s hard not to say, “The heck with it.” Luckily, it’s easy to turn adaptive brightness off:

  • Swipe down twice from the top of your screen. You’ll see the manual brightness slider at the top. You can use that to adjust your brightness, but if you want to turn off adaptive brightness altogether, tap on the Settings gear icon in the bottom right corner.
  • Tap on “Display”
  • Tap on “Adaptive brightness.” This will bring you to a screen where you can toggle it on or off.
adaptive brightness


Sometimes, even if adaptive brightness works for you, you may need to reset it because you’ve moved to a new house, a new workplace, or any other different lighting environment. Once reset, it can then adapt to your new circumstances.

Unlike the adaptive brightness on / off toggle, however, the reset is not all that easy to find. Here are the directions:

  • Go to your phone’s Settings
  • Tap on “Apps & notifications”
  • Find and select the app “Device Health Services”
  • Tap on “Storage”
  • Tap on the button labeled “Clear storage.” (Don’t worry; nothing will happen yet.)
  • For some reason, this is where you’ll find the button labeled “Reset adaptive brightness.” Tap on it. You’ll get a pop-up window asking if you’re sure. Tap “OK.”
adaptive brightness


And there you go!

Meanwhile, I’m going to give adaptive brightness another try and see if it can adjust to my needs — assuming it will let me read my ebooks in peace.

Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.