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The most annoying part about watching HDR content on Android might be a fix

That’s what happens when the film is HDR and everything else isn’t

Watching HDR content on your phone can be a great time. What’s not so fun is when a toast notification pops up, or even when the playback UI pops up. All those bright graphics seem to slam into your eyes like they have nothing to do with looking at them. What gives? Well, it depends on how your Android device handles mixing standard dynamic range or SDR content with HDR content. And yes, there is a fix for this in the works.

Take a look at a spec sheet for a decently equipped device and you’ll see that the display can have two specific maximum brightnesses: a typical brightness and a peak brightness. You’ll max out at typical brightness in most situations where you’d expect uniform brightness across the screen, but when it comes to displaying HDR content, access to an extended range of brightness is key to getting the important things done Highlight parts of scenes.


By default, when the operating system detects HDR content, it sets the display’s brightness to the highest level it can deliver so that it can output the best possible image. The rest of the UI isn’t encoded for HDR, however, and what usually happens is that those SDR elements are also displayed at that maximum brightness level. This applies to notifications, the status bar, labels, and most other overlays. Any breaks that rely on these UI elements are not a welcome sight.

There’s hope on the horizon, though: Esper’s Mishaal Rahman, in his Android Dessert Bites newsletter, broached a feature called SDR Dimming that would downscale the brightness for those SDR onscreen elements while the device is primed to output HDR content . It’s been in the works since the Android 12 development cycle, and looks like it’ll need several dependencies to work before it can actually work (Rahman tried toggling switches to see if he could brute force the feature can), and it is not clear if it will be available when Android 13 becomes stable. That said, it’s one of those quality of life things that people appreciate when, say, they’re stuck on a cramped night bus with no chance of sleep. The sooner it can be released, the better.

We definitely recommend reading the full article to learn how dimming would work and where to connect those lines of code.