How to use your iPad in direct sunlight

How to use your iPad in direct sunlight

Have you ever had trouble reading, watching, playing, or otherwise using your iPhone while caught out in direct sunlight? Here's an easy workaround that's doesn't involve taking your iPad back inside

The iPad has a big, bright beautiful display that looks absolutely amazing under normal condition but, because it's glossy, can become reflective or washed out to the point of uselessness under the glare of direct sunlight. Luckily, all hope is not lost!

Here's what's going on. The iPad has an in-plane switching (IPS), light-emmiting diode (LED), liquid crystal display (LCD) that produces crisp, clear colors under normal conditions. It's not laminated the same way the iPhone screen is, so it's even slightly more reflective when it catches rays.

So, what can be done? There are various anti-glare screen protectors you can try out, but those aren't practical to put on and take off every time you're out in the sun.

Chances are, however, if you're out in the sun, you'll have a pair of sunglasses. Like any self-respecting beach boy or bikini chic, they might even be polarized. If not, pick up a pair that is. You can also use passive 3D glasses if you're geeky enough to have those handy. They can make all the difference in the world when it comes to reading the web or eBooks, watching movies or TV shows, using apps or playing games.

To explain why, we're turning to Mobile Nations' own Stephane Koenig, our very own ocular science guy!

How to use polarized sunglasses (or passive 3D glasses) to see your iPad in direct sunlight

I'll spare you the fascinating explanation (it really is a clever trick of light that facilitates passive 3d, non- reflective coatings and a bunch of other good things).

Phew! So we can skip ahead to putting our polarized sunglasses on!

If you experience a black screen with your sunglasses on turn the iPad 90 degrees... i.e. if it's black in portrait rotate it to landscape and vice-versa.

The effect is dramatic, gradual and proportional to the amount of turn.

It happens because the lenses block light polarized in one dimension and LCD panels produce light polarized one (potentially different) dimension as well. Coatings on some panels reduce this effect in order to reduce reflection/glare at the cost of lower 'compatibility' with polarized glasses. Sometimes they oppose each other and no light gets through. It's sort black magic if you don't understand what happening.

Here's a simple explanation and here's a deeper explanation -- scroll down past the science bit to see examples of uses...

  • Radio: AM/FM radio waves are polarized which is why radio antenna tend to be vertical for best reception and TV antennas are horizontal
  • Shop windows have similar coatings to reduce ambient reflection - they want you to see the products not yourself.
  • Passive 3D glasses work because the left eye only lets light through polarized one way and the right eye lets light through polarized the other way. The projector polarizes the light from alternate frames to give a pseudo-3d effect because each frame show an image slightly with perspective slightly off-set from the other. Try tilting your head during the performance to test the extent of this technology. Better yet... pop out the lens, place them on top of one another then turn one of them 90 degrees to block out all light.
  • Camera lenses have coating which can remove reflection from windows (an a commensurate amount of light) in the same way that some windows have coats as above
  • If you view car window through polarized lenses you can see the stress lines in the glass, manufacturers exploit this as one of the quality tests for their tempered glass.

Thanks Steph! So bottom line, if you want to take your iPad to the beech or the pool, out on a sunny street or park, or anywhere where there will be bright, direct sunlight, just bring a good pair of polarized sunglasses with you!

Bonus tip: Because of the way the iPhone display is constructed, polarized sunglasses can greatly reduce glare and increase visibility in both portrait and landscape mode!

Variable - Polarized sunglasses on Amazon.com - Buy now

Georgia

Senior Editor at iMore and a practicing therapist specializing in stress and anxiety. She speaks everywhere from conferences to corporations, co-host of Vector, Review, and Isometric podcasts, and should be followed on Twitter @Georgia_Dow.

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Reader comments

How to use your iPad in direct sunlight

26 Comments

My issue with the iPad outdoors has never been a glare problem but rather the device overheating. That's what lead me to buy a Kindle last May.

I was on Brighton Beach in 25 degree full sunlight recently. Not a cloud in the sky. I had no sunglasses on, but I had no problem reading, gaming or watching moving images. Wanna know why ? I simply sat so the sun wasn't behind me reflecting on the screen ! Sure it's not as amazing (especially on the new ipad)as it would be indoors, but then cinemas aren't much good with all the lights on, and they've been happily doing business for over 100 years !

Apple has peaked? I have to assume you're just trolling for comments because unless you've been living under a rock (apologies if you have, in fact, been living under a rock) you'd know that Apple hasn't even connected the living room in a meaningful way yet. The current Apple TV box doesn't count. It's neat. I love mine. But it's just a small step.
If you think Apple has peaked, wait until you see what happens when Apple creates a real TV set and opens it up to apps.
Once upon a time, the computer was the be all and end all. Now, it's just a piece of the puzzle. With a real Apple TV (an actual TV set) on one end, and the Mac at the other, with iPhones and iPads in between... Apple isn't even close to having peaked.
It's going to end up being divided into three areas:
Mac, with the Mac App Store.
iPhone and iPad, with the iOS App Store
Apple TV with its own app store.
In many ways, Apple was at the right place at the right time with the right leadership. Surely, at some point, Apple will peak (their second peak, really). All companies go through ups and downs, but Apple is still headed nowhere but up. Apple (2.0) still has another decade before it peaks if its leadership stays strong and focussed.
Apple? Peaked? Not even close.

Bah! That middle section should read:
Mac, with the Mac App Store.
iPhone and iPad, with the iOS.
App Store Apple TV with its own app store.

Bah! Bah! That middle section should read:
Mac with the Mac App Store.
iPhone and iPad with the iOS App Store.
Apple TV with its own app store.

Not a day or hour goes by where someone, somewhere doesn't say "Apple has peaked"... eventually, someone will say that and be right. But that doesn't mean they were smart or intuitive in making that prediction.
Throw enough darts and you'll eventually get a bulls-eye.

I hate to say this, but you guys have really been going downhill lately. Is Mobile Nations making you do this?

What are we doing now that's any different than what we did last year, or the year before that, or the year before that?
Nothing. Last year this time I was dressed in an ugly Hawaiian shirt doing the iPad Tourist video.
We've got a better, faster loading site template now, we're doing better photography, more in depth reviews, and more accurate rumors than ever before.
We've also always been part of Mobile Nations (it was just called Smartphone Experts before).
The truth is, you (and everyone) always probably disliked a certain aspect of our content (which is fine, no one can love everything), and it's just more noticeable in the present because the past fades quickly.

I think you guys are doing an awesome job! I personally enjoyed the video hahaha Keep up the good work!

Great article. Honestly I rely on you all for my apple info. Your right, this site does give accurate rumors.
Side bar- I know you get haters fyi beach is spelled wrong in last paragraph

I'm surprised there were more shocked and celebratory comments. Maybe it's still too early in the morning. But I remember being blown away when I recently discovered the benefits of Polarized sunglasses. I wondered if they'd be useful on the iPad for reducing glare. Sadly, I don't own a pair because I can't seem to go a significant period of time without smashing crashing or losing sunglasses. So I only buy the cheap kind. -Dictated

I was very surprised that the iPad screen cleared up when rotating to landscape mode. Good tip! But I'm not sure what you mean about viewing the iPhone with polarized sunglasses. My iPhone looks very odd and oil slick/rainbow like while viewed with polarized sunglasses.

Ive been meaning to read this and just never oeaitnbd a chance. Its an issue that Im incredibly interested in, I just started reading and Im glad I did. Youre a excellent blogger, 1 of the best that Ive seen. This blog undoubtedly has some information and facts on topic that I just wasnt aware of. Thanks for bringing this stuff to light.

You don't have to spend big bucks on polarized glasses for this purpose.
Trout fishermen have known the benefits of polarized glasses for years. you can get a pair for about $25. Google: "strike king monsta polarized sunglasses" for example.
And if you are reading your ipad near a lake or stream..take a walk over to the water and look through your glasses. You will be able to see fish below the water like you have x-ray vision.

You can get a pair at WM for $5 in the fishing section. Not the greatest looking. The more expensive ones are about $15.

I realize this is not quite on point, but I have an iPhone 3Gs (you don't have to tell me it's out of date, but I cannot afford to replace it yet). When I take it out in my kayak (moisture protected of course)I cannot view the screen with my sunglasses on. If I turn it, the screen just turns with it & I still can't see anything but dark. Any suggestions?

Hi, my company has created a new product that allows one to read the iPad in direct sunlight without sunglasses:

Hoodi™ magnetic shades for the iPad® and iPad mini.

Hoodi™ magnetic shades provide iPad privacy and overheating protection in direct sunlight too.

Please check our product out at:

http://www.hoodivision.com

Thank you,
Mike