It's a tough pill to swallow, but smartphones aren't getting any smaller. And since those larger displays are unfortunately putting more of a strain on battery life, Microsoft Research is proposing a clever trick that promises to extend your phone's usable hours by detecting and dimming parts of the display already obscured by the user's fingers.

After studying how ten different users interacted with their smartphones, Microsoft's researchers discovered that on average 11.14 percent of the display was covered or obscured by their fingers. By dramatically reducing the brightness of the display in those areas already not visible to the user, the power needed to keep the screen glowing was reduced by 12.96 percent on average.

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The technique only works with devices using OLED-based display technology, which facilitates the regional dimming. And while 12.96 percent isn't a huge amount, over the course of a day's use it would certainly add up and help ensure your phone doesn't need to be charged until you head to bed. [Microsoft Research via Ubergizmo]