Screen burn, a term derived from old CRT (cathode-ray tube) technology — and the reason for a vast industry of decorative screen savers — describes the phenomenon of image retention, otherwise known as persistence, ghost images, blurred images, artifacts, or after-images that linger on your smartphone screen after the original image is long gone. These can mar screen readability and coloration over time and can diminish your smartphone experience.
On mobile devices, screen burn is identified most often on AMOLED or OLED screens, and even then, it’s pretty rare on newer smartphones. It happens when users leave an image on their screen for too long, causing the pixels to struggle when switching to a different color. This may happen more easily with blue colors, but can occur with any image that’s left on screen too long, especially in the brightest setting. Screen burn also may be permanent and considered a display hardware defect as opposed to a software graphics or display driver issue. For screen burn on your mobile devices, there are a few things you can do to fix the issue and, even better, prevent it from happening. Here are a few simple steps you can take.
Shut down your device
This is the simplest solution and is frequently effective, especially when you catch image retention early on and want to fix it fast. Turn your phone off entirely, powering it down fully, and let it rest for a couple of hours. If the screen burn issue is minor, this gives the pixels enough time to recover, diminishing after-images, so your phone screen will look fresh when you power back on. This is one advantage of the versatile organic pixel layer used in OLED-based screens, which can correct itself more easily than pixels of the past.
Get a corrective app
If turning your mobile device off for a while doesn’t fully solve your problem, try re-training the pixels on your screen to get them back into balance. Yes, there are apps for that. For Android devices, the Google Play Store has a robust collection of screen correctors and testers including OLED Saver. If you have an iOS device, then you can use an app like Doctor OLED X instead. This app cycles your pixels through multiple colors and brightness levels with an aim toward resetting them.
If you don’t want to download an app, check out the ScreenBurnFixer website. It features an extensive video section with color slides and checkered patterns designed to help get your pixels back on track. Run a few of these and see if they can help.
Change your settings
There are also a number of settings on your mobile device that you can adjust to help prevent or reduce screen burn issues. Make sure you are following guidelines like these:
- Lower brightness settings: The higher the brightness setting, the harder your OLED pixels have to work, which can cause screen burn. If your mobile device is permanently set on a higher brightness, switch it to auto-brightness or a lower brightness level to prevent problems. For iOS 14, go to Settings > Display & Brightness and toggle on the Automatic setting. The Options, True Tone, and Night Shift settings also help to modulate excessive brightness and prevent burn-in. On Android, go to Settings > Display > Brightness slider or toggle on Auto to automatically adjust brightness.
- Set lock screen and sleep timers: Smartphones come equipped with automatic timers for locking and going into sleep mode, both of which turn off the screen after it hasn’t been used in a while. Make sure these settings are turned on and set to a minute or so. If you haven’t looked at your phone in one minute, it’s probably fine for it to shut off the screen and lock. This essentially prevents image retention because the screen won’t stay on long enough for it to happen. For iOS 14, go to Settings > Display & Brightness >Auto-Lock and choose which time interval you want. On Android 10, go to Settings > Display > Screen timeout and choose the interval you want.
- Get rid of menu, status, and navigation bars: Image retention can happen when you are actively using an app that has a permanent bar for tools or notifications, like when you’re playing a game or watching a movie, for example. When these bars don’t disappear, they cause screen burn after long sessions. Look for options to hide these icons and tools after a moment so they aren’t always present. Immersive modes for your mobile OS will also do this.
- Enable dark mode: While it’s not a guarantee against image retention, using dark mode on your mobile device can help reduce the risk, particularly when it comes to overusing brightness levels. You can also try choosing dark keyboard skins. Enable Dark mode in iOS 14 with Settings > Display & Brightness > Dark or use the Options feature to set a timer. On Android, go to Settings > Display > Night mode or Comfort view or set a schedule for either feature.
Screen burn on an LCD screen
Screen burn can also occur on LCD mobile screens, although it’s rare and more difficult to fix since LCD pixels work differently from OLED screens. When screen burn happens on an LCD screen, the results are more likely permanent. However, you can still try using LCD Burn-In Wiper, which cycles colors similar to its OLED counterpart in an effort to repair pixels.
If your screen doesn’t look any better, contact your phone manufacturer to find out about any screen warranties or if you qualify for a replacement.