How to avoid burn-in and protect your iPhone X OLED screen

iphone X unlock screen
iphone X unlock screen (Image credit: iMore)

For so many years, iPhone users didn't have to worry about retention issues on our screen. That's because iPhone screens were traditionally made with IPS displays. The iPhone X is Apple's first dive into OLED display technology. You can argue for days which type of screen is better, but the fact is, OLED still produces burn-in on screens if you're not careful.

It's not too big of an issue. If, however, you're worried about potential issues with burn-in, there are a few things you can do to protect your screen.

What is burn-in?

Screen burn-in (also known as image persistence or image retention) happens when a particular image remains on the screen for very long periods of time without moving, causing something like a ghost image to remain on your screen when the image is gone. It used to be very common with plasma screen TVs, but technology has improved over time to reduce the possibility of burn-in.

For example, Apple uses pixel-shifting technology to keep certain icons on your screen moving (like the Wi-Fi, battery, and cellular bar icons) so they are never constantly in the same exact spot.

Unfortunately, some level of burn-in is expected over time with OLED screens. Chances are, you might start to notice a slight color shift after a few years.

There are some things you can do to keep your iPhone X screen healthy longer and avoid serious image persistence issues that could really mess up your screen.

How to reduce potential burn-in issues

Always keep iOS up to date - Apple uses software technology in the iPhone X to help combat potential burn-in effects. Whenever there is a new update, you should install it. Not only will you get new features, but there might also be a specific display screen issue that you'll be able to avoid.

How to download and install an iOS update

Auto-Brightness actually does help - I know some people don't like auto-brightness because it can sometimes drastically change the brightness or dimness of your screen, but in the case of the iPhone X, auto-brightness can really benefit the long-term health of your screen.

How to enable auto-brightness on iPhone in iOS 11

Lower the length of time before your iPhone auto-locks - If you're not using your iPhone, your screen shouldn't just be on. If you're like me, you tend to use your iPhone, put it down for a minute, and pick it up again. You can adjust your auto-lock for a wide range of time. I suggest 30-seconds for most people and 1 minute for people that tend to use their iPhone intermittently and prefer it not to lock right away every time.

How to change auto-lock on iPhone

Don't keep a bright image on your screen for a long period of time - If you have a special clock app or fish tank app that you like to keep open on your iPhone all day long, consider not using it anymore on your iPhone X. If you really love it and don't want to give it up, you should, at least, lower your screen brightness while the app is open so that the image doesn't burn into your screen.

How to adjust brightness level on iPhone

What to do if you see burn-in

If you're seeing ghost images on your screen, there's a chance you accidentally caused a premature burn-in (that is, color shifting didn't happen naturally over the life of the screen). If it's new and didn't do much damage, you might be able to make it go away.

If the damage is bad, you'll probably have to replace your screen (or just live with it).

The first step is to turn off iPhone for a while. If your iPhone X has a slight bit of image retention, you might be able to fix the problem by powering off your iPhone for about 15 minutes. If the image was just an aberration, it might simply go away on its own.

Next, turn it back on and use it as you normally would, even if you still see the image ghost. It's possible that the retention will disappear as your iPhone display is used for all of its normal activities. This tends to work for me on my TV screen. Retention just goes away after a while.

If the ghost images don't disappear on their own, you may have to replace the screen (or just live with it). If it's true burn-in and not just a slight bit of retention, there's not a lot you can do about it. If your iPhone X is new, its probably something you'll want to replace.

I should point out now that some Android devices have been dealing with screen retention issues for a long time now and there are even apps that you can download to help fix some of the issues. If they really do work, we'll probably start seeing something similar in the App Store.

Any questions?

Do you have any questions about what burn-in is or how to protect your screen over long-term use? Put them in the comments and I'll help you out.

Lory Gil

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).

  • Every time I see an article like this one I chuckle. Apple has been castigated for years by the technorati on forum message boards for being behind in OLED screen technology. Oh, the screens are so beautiful, so life-like, so sharp. Just ignore that gremlin in the corner that will eat your beautiful screen if you don’t watch out. Well, Apple critics, you got your OLED screen, now live with it.
  • Anyone know if setting the wallpaper to “Perspective” would help reduce burn-in?
  • Doubtful. Burn in tends to affect parts of the screen that stay the second for extended periods of time, such as the icons at the top or the home screen button/line. Wallpapers are only there on your home screen, not in apps etc.
  • Ironically, we could see actual screen saver apps that come on the screen after a predetermined amount of time and display constantly moving images, just like the screensavers in computers back in the days when displays were CRTs
  • Hi Lory
    I wonder if Apple would replace a burned-in display under the AppleCare+
  • AppleCare+ covers two incidents of "accidental damage" with a $29 fee for screen damage. I think burn-in would be covered under accidental damage. I'll try to get something more official from Apple and follow up.
  • One thing is for sure, if you have AppleCare+ and you plan to keep the phone more than two years, I would check closely at 23 months and take it in then before AppleCare+ expires if it has any detectable burn-in (or other damage.)
  • I wonder what software updates can do.. is it simply changing color tones and slightly shifting location of icons? Maybe Apple will cycle the icons in top right: next update we'll see battery percentage and whether do-not-disturb is on, but not WiFi and signal strength :D
  • I know with samsung and pixel devices they shifted the home button up a few pixels so that it is not always sitting in the exact same spot. Burn in is nowhere near as bad as it used to be. If you do not crank the brightness (like they do in store models) and don't have the screen on 24/7, you should be fine.
  • One thing I'm curious about is using your phone for GPS during long road trips... I used to leave all my iPhones displaying the GPS for hours without issue but I am sure this isn't possible with iPhone X without consequences?... Or did Apple do something to try and limit burn-in for the Maps app?