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How-To | Prevent OLED burn-in on the iPhone X

An iPhone X display quick-tip.

An iPhone X with a ghosted image

Capabilities and Limitations

The iPhone X is an amazing example of mobile technology. While other mobile device OEM’s have adopted OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) for their mobile handsets, the iPhone X and the Apple Watch are the only devices Cupertino has deployed with an OLED display. The IPS (In-Plane Switched) LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) Apple has used in past iPhones has some advantages like brightness and clarity when used outdoors, and disadvantages like the power consumption required to keep the back-light lit across the entire panel even when a pixel needs to be black.

The OLED display on the iPhone X (which is designed and manufactured by Samsung) has some physical attributes that Apple found attractive and even required for use in the iPhone X. First, OLED displays are flexible:

Image Credit: Apple. The iPhone X OLED display fold

The iPhone X OLED display. Apple Inc.

A foldable display panel allows an edge-to-edge design for the first time in an iPhone. As all-display devices have become the coveted design of choice among consumers, Apple finally delivers with the OLED equipped iPhone X. But it does come with some challenges:

  • OLED displays have blacker blacks because individual pixels can be turned off. This can provide a power savings, but users will tend to run brightness at max while outdoors or in brightly lit environments.
  • OLED displays are more susceptible to screen burn-in where bright objects in UI (User Interface) elements are commonly painted.

Quick-Tip

The common-sense solution to prevent burn-in on an OLED display is to not use the display when you don’t need it. The best way to automatically do this is to set the Auto-Lock time out to the shortest setting possible, which is 30 seconds:

iPhone X display auto lock

This can be somewhat annoying because in the past if you were working on the handset while reading or  completing some other task that doesn’t require touch input, the device would auto-lock requiring you to hit the sleep/wake button or the home button (which no longer exists for iPhone X) to wake the device, then use TouchID or your pass code to get back to the active session.

The iPhone X mitigates this annoyance in a few ways. A single tap on the display will now wake the device if it goes to sleep, and FaceID will bring you back to the active session. But thanks to the TrueDepth camera, you can use a feature called Attention Aware:

FaceID and Attention settings for the iPhone X

If you do the smart thing and set the auto-lock to 30 seconds, right before the time out expires, the TrueDepth camera will scan your face to see if your eyes are looking at the device. If you are, the screen will not dim and the device will not auto lock, thus increasing your productivity by preventing an interruption.

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Also published on Medium.

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