Why Your Eyes Hurt Using a New iPhone, iPad Or iMac

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apple logo   Why Your Eyes Hurt Using a New iPhone, iPad Or iMacThe Apple LED screen is a common source of complaint among consumers. Many new iPhone, iPad, and Mac users have reported that it causes eyestrain and general discomfort, yet if you look around on the Internet, you can’t find much backing for the problem. Apple itself hasn’t offered a solution, and some people think that it’s even some kind of conspiracy. Personally, I think that the Cupertino-based company has better things to do than blind the eyes of the world, but then again, I’m not an evil dictatorial genius.

The screens themselves have been around for a while, but after all that time, there still isn’t an explanation for their eye-trouble-inducing capabilities. I’ve done my research, and I found common concerns about the screens as well as some homegrown remedies. In the meantime, I suppose we’ll just have to work with what we know, and that’s not much.

What Are Some Complaints About The New LED Screens?

iphone   Why Your Eyes Hurt Using a New iPhone, iPad Or iMac

These days, the most common displays used for electronic devices are LED screens and LCD screens. LED displays implement light-emitting diodes as backlights, offering bright pictures, vivid colors, and low energy usage. On the other hand, LCD displays make use of liquid crystals laid over flat fluorescent lights that aren’t as bright, colorful, or energy efficient. It’s clear as to which one is superior, but at what cost?

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In 2009, Apple started pushing out the LED screens for their hardware, bringing about statements from some users that their eyes hurt from using them. This has been a common annoyance, and finding sound evidence for these users’ reports is a bit tough. I will say that there has been definitely enough of a stir that I was swayed to believe them. Reasonable people don’t usually whine unless something is actually wrong. Here’s a list of most symptoms:

  • Burning eyes
  • Sore eyes
  • Tired eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headache

How Can The LED Screens Hurt Your Eyes?

ipad   Why Your Eyes Hurt Using a New iPhone, iPad Or iMac

I can’t provide a valid reason as to why the LEDs are a cause of eyestrain. Unfortunately, my only sources include the personal accounts of people who simply claim that the LEDs hurt more than the LCDs. It’s my opinion that it’s different for different people, and as with any case of a technology usage shift, humans have to make adjustments. On that wavelength, I’ve found a few possible reasons as to why they hurt, but they are by no means well-founded.

It’s Too Bright

Common sense will tell you that bright lights hurt your eyes, and with an LED screen that is brighter and more vivid than old LCDs, it’s expected. Try adjusting your screen to be a bit dimmer than normal, and see if this alleviates anything. Additionally, try letting your device automatically set the levels for a while. See what’s best for you.

It’s Too Dark

I found a bit of information on LED televisions that is about the screen’s refresh rate. We won’t get into numbers, but the way that LED displays are dimmed is by applying pulse-width modulation to the supply current. This turns the backlight off and on faster than you can see, and much like old CRT monitors, this flickering can put strain on your eyes. If the frequency is too low or if you are already sensitive to the flickering, your eyes will more than likely hurt.

An easy test to see if the frequency is too low is by waving your hand in front of the screen. If your hand has clearly-formed edges, then it’s too low. However, if it is blurred, you should be fine.

You Aren’t Blinking Enough

Lastly, there’s the possibility that you just aren’t blinking enough. Some people say it doesn’t help, but by taking a break every 20-30 minutes to look out a window or just away from the screen for a few seconds, you could find some relief. We use screens a lot these days, and sometimes we forget that our eyes weren’t designed to stare at electronic devices for hours at a time. Speaking of which, our body wasn’t designed for a lot of technological adaptations – that includes sitting down.

The Verdict

imac   Why Your Eyes Hurt Using a New iPhone, iPad Or iMac

Let me be blunt – I do think there is a problem. People wouldn’t go around saying that their eyes were hurting if there wasn’t one, would they? Whether it be the placebo effect, intensified eyestrain, or long-lasting damage, I believe that this is something that should be looked into by Apple. However, I can’t put a finger on what exactly the problem is.

Do the new Apple LED screens hurt your eyes? How do they compare to the old LCDs?

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26 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Naz Lazar

In my opinion, being a forty year old who has been a computer junkie for ever, I think it’s not just Apple products. I’ve been hearing that staring at a computer screen for to long can strain the eyes. I also think that the LED screens are brighter and do contribute to more eye strain.

It could also be that people who buy Apple products love them so much that they end up using them a lot more than they have used other products and it’s just a matter of take more breaks and give your eyes a rest. Yea, I’m a Mac junkie, there.

Joshua Lockhart

That’s true, Naz. Sometimes people keep going at it. When we’re not using our Mac, we’re using the iPhone. When we’re not on the iPhone, it’s the Mac.

We should go look at some trees or something.

Kirby

The color green do have a relaxing effect on the eyes.

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Lorre Ruy

From experience what I see is that many people use there screens with wrong settings. Worst example I had was someone using a nice 24″ screen with 800×600 resolution, result was kind off blurry as you can imagine.

And then they complained about the phone being painful to read.
My guess is that they got used to a blurry screen and now have trouble handling the sharp image.

Joshua Lockhart

Great, great point, Lorre. Didn’t even consider that.

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Muo TechGuy

Rubbish. The screen is too bright? Have these people ever heard of BRIGHTNESS CONTROLS? Here’s what I do when it’s too bright – double click the home button, and turn it down. Immensely difficult, wasn’t it?

People complain because they have nothing better to do in their lives. You know the kind – the ones who write a letter to the BBC because they were offended by a late night comedy show that made fun of the queen. The kind who write to Watchdog to express their concerns about the 960g pack of maltesers now only being 945g.

Please, don’t dignify these people by taking notice of them!

Joshua Lockhart

Well… On that note, it may be that they do not realize the screen is too bright. Or too dark. Take a look at the other symptoms.

Granted, it does seem like I’m reminding people to breathe, doesn’t it? (Or blink.)

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Mac Witty

I’m not sure if it is the screen but I get more “tired eyes” when using the new iMac than the old 2009 iMac. Luckily for some in the family I only use the new one when I really need ML otherwise I stay on the old one with SL

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Taha Al Masri

its almost every new product have a bright screen so its not apple fault, that’s why their is ambient light sensor to lower the brightness when needed.

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Scott Krupnick

People are going to blame what they want to blame. If you stare at the screen for 8+ hours, then stare at your phone for travel back and forth to work/school and don’t look away, of course your eyes are going to hurt. From time to time you have to take your eyes off the screen

Peter

I had been using a Mac for many years, for all day long, then i was looking at my cell phone / PDA, and then at home i was watching TV, WITH NO PROBLEM!!!!
As soon as i replaced my old mac with a new MPB (that has a LED screen) i cannot work for more than 30mins without getting eye strain, headaches, and dizziness.
My eye doctor told me my eyes are in perfect health.
I am in a extremely difficult position since i am a 40 year old accountant looking at screens all day long. Getting a PC did not solve the problem for me since new PCs also use LED screens. I honestly feel trapped. What am going to do, switch to agriculture for a living in order not to use screens?

Richard Hanson

Here is a a solution from a Mac Powerbook user who posted on the Apple Support forum. He suffered from the same problem and claims the problem stems from a basic limitation in LED screens. Dimming them requires them to flicker. This flicker is not seen by most people. His solution was to turn the screen brightness to maximum — no flicker and his symptoms disappeared.

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Rob Hindle

Could it be anything to do with the light wavelengths generated by LEDs.

I seem to recall that the first people found the light from the first “white” LEDs somehow uncomfortable. The reason was that the white was constructed from a combination of the 3 primary colours but each of those was a very specific narrow wavelength. A normal “real world” red, for example, would include a wider part of the spectrum with some almost purple and some almost orange components.

Joshua Lockhart

Yes… That’s true. I’d like to look into that a bit more. Hm. Good input.

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Jimmy

Could it have anything to do with small screens? :) I have a small flip phone, because I Have a perfectly good 24 inch monitor at home that lets me read everything comfortably at the write size and font size. No eye issues. I could be old fashioned (if there is such a thing in the computer world) but I really do think it’s not too smart to use 10 inch and smaller screens to replace large easy to read monitors.

Joshua Lockhart

Maybe, Jimmy. I like small screens, though. Much easier to fit in your pocket.

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Hilary Predale

I am glad someone touched on this issue! I definitely agree that the LED screens (my iPhone and iPad) hurt my eyes and I think it takes less time to effect them then the old LCD screens. Dimming the brightness helps, especially in darker settings but it still bothers me. I would be curious to learn more; it could certainly have a long term effect.

Either way, you were right about taking a break every so often; I keep a little desk lamp next to me at work and try to stare at that for few minutes every so often to give my eyes a break :)

Joshua Lockhart

Same here with the lamp. My desk (well, right now it’s a card table – just moved to a new apartment) is right next to my window, too.

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John

Way back in 1970 my job was to set up brand new TV sets out of the box. We had a showroom. I tried my damnedest to get the same quality picture on each one so it looked good. Colour TVs were very unreliable then. We rented TVs out rather than selling them. It was common to go and revisit a newly installed TV causing “headaches and dizziness”. What had the customer done to my set up? Turned all the colour and brightness controls “full-on”! (So they got their money’s worth) Forty years later I still see 50 inch telly’s bolted high up on the wall still set in “showroom mode”. I can’t imagine its any different with phones and PC screens. Most folk can barely swipe the screen with their opposable thumb never mind find the brightness controls!

Joshua Lockhart

Very interesting, John. I never knew that TVs were rented out, by the way. That’s really interesting to me… I love radio/television history, for the record. I could go on and on about it. Ha!

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Joshua R

It isn’t the brightness, screen size, or any other theory mentioned here. I have used the pppc 6700, touchpro, and touchpro 2 without any issues. I have 20/15 vision and within a few minutes of using the iphone 5 my eyes felt like they were splitting apart; I had a hard time focusing on objects around the house after looking at the screen. I never had a problem with the iphone 4 or the iPad 2, but have heard that people are having issues with the latest ipad as well as the iPhive. So, whatever it is it is the retina display causing the eye problems.

Hopefully someone will do some serious research on the matter, because I haven’t found a solution that works, except not using a retina display. #Opti-grab

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Anish Parameshwaran

That’s why I use F.lux on my mac as well as on my iPhone (had to jailbreak it first, though). It definitely helps me sleep more easily at night especially since i like to read articles in bed right before i sleep.

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RustyPolo

I’ve never had any problem viewing my iphone, but maybe that’s just me

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Paul

I bought a MacBook Pro in 2011 and was absolutely gutted when I had to return it as it caused my eyes to feel like my Retinas were on fire. I didn’t know it was an LED screen before I bought it or I woudn’t have wasted my time. I had previously had to return a Samsung LED TV for the same reason. Replaced with a regular LCD and eye strain was remedied.

From what I have read, it is due to the nature of LEDs being either on or off. They are made to flicker 1,000s of times a second to create different shades of colour. Some users are susceptible to this flickers, but most aren’t.

I can’t tell you how unhappy I am that the world is going LED. I can’t buy a new laptop as they are all LED. I can’t buy a 32″ tv for the bedroom as they are all LED, thankfully Plasma TVs are still around so I can get a new one for the Lounge. New phones are LED or OLED. Car lights and brake light are LED.

I think in 40 years time someone visiting my house will ask why all my technology is from 2013, and I will tell them that was the last year before LED technology took over. I had to make a choice between new technology and burning retinas/possible blindness.

Take time to research so you are buying with your eyes open!

Dave

I work in IT, so I’ve noticed this issue getting worse over the last few years. We are looking at tablets for the sales floor so I’ve just spent the morning setting up a HP Elite Pad at work and my eyes are on fire, the Galaxy tab I set up before that was even worse. I could barely focus on my friends Samsung Galaxy S3. Due to this issue, I booked my self in for an eye test and I have 20/15 vision, with no other issues.

It doesn’t seem to be all LED illuminated LCD either, my HTC One X’s screen causes me no problems (yet the illuminated buttons at the bottom drive me mental) All iPhones with the exception of the 5 have been fine too (at least for me). I have noticed no issues with the older generation iPads, the latest iPad gave me blurry vision for 30 mins or so after a short duration of tests.

It’s horrible. I’m dreading my TV or home PC monitor breaking…

Good Luck everyone.

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Richard Hanson

There is a lot of discussion on other forums about screens with LED backlighting implementing dimming by flickering the image. This flickering apparently causes problems for a small percentage of viewers. The solution is it turn the brightness to maximum which prevents the flicking. Of course you may then have a bit of a glare issue.

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