AMOLED burn-in on screens and displays can’t be repaired, but you can slow it down and reduce its visibility by using a few simple tricks.
If you see a persistent image etched into your screen and own an Android device, iPhone X, or iPhone XS, your device may have screen burn-in.
What Is AMOLED Screen Burn-In?
If your screen has an afterimage, mostly where your navigation bar is, and you have an OLED display, you might have burn-in.
The individual pixels within an Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) decay when they emit light. The burn-in appears because individual pixels do not decay at the same rate. The most used light-emitting pixels, such as for navigation and status icons, wear out first.
So the more you use a device, the more visible the burn-in.
It doesn’t help that many user-interface buttons are white. For an AMOLED panel, to produce white light the display switches on three different sub-pixels in close proximity to one another. Each sub-pixel produces a different color: red, blue, and green. Together they appear white.
On smartphones, red sub-pixels are the most durable, followed by green. Blue colors wear out the fastest. When you see burn-in it’s often caused by a weakening blue sub-pixel. All “fixes” aim at addressing the failing blue sub-pixel.
AMOLED Screen Burn-In Test
Everyone with an OLED display has some burn-in. But oftentimes it’s not fully visible unless you display a solid color at maximum brightness. The Android operating system has access to a lot of apps that detect burn-in damage. The best of these is Screen Test by developer Hajime Namura.
Screen Test is ultra simple: install and run the app. Touching the screen shifts between colors and patterns. If you see a persistent image impression or blotchy coloration, you have burn-in.
For my AMOLED phone, I’ve taken every precaution against screen burn-in. Even so, the display is still a little blotchy after over a year of use. Fortunately, there are no indications of burn-in where the navigation buttons are.
If the app does indicate burn-in (and it almost always does), some options are available to reduce its appearance.
AMOLED Screen Burn-In Fixes and Hacks
Here are a some of my favorites methods for avoiding AMOLED screen burn-in:
- Lower screen brightness and timeout.
- Use an immersive full-screen mode.
- Change wallpaper to black.
- Change launcher.
- Install an OLED friendly dark icons.
- Install Firefox Mobile with a dark theme.
- You can even install an OLED-friendly keyboard.
Let’s take a look at each of these in more detail.
1. Lower Screen Brightness and Screen Timeout
The less time your screen stays on, the better its lifespan. Also, the more intense the brightness, the shorter the display’s life. After that, consider installing a few applications. The first steps everyone should take:
- Go to Settings.
- Then go to Display.
- Reduce screen brightness (or set to automatic brightness).
- Decrease screen timeout.
2. Immersive Full-Screen Mode
Immersive mode in Android allows the removal of the top and bottom bars in Android’s user interface. We’ve covered Android 4.4’s introduction of immersive mode. Unfortunately, Google implemented this feature on a per-app basis, so if you wanted to rid yourself of persistent on-screen images, you’d need to configure it for every app on your device. Fortunately, there’s a handful of apps that do this automatically for you.
A great app that can remove the navigation bar is GMD Immersive. It gets rid of the persistent navigation buttons at the bottom of an Android device, and, when needed, you can summon the navigation or Action Bar by sliding your finger from the top or bottom of the screen.
It’s both free and without advertisements, although the app sticks a red line at the bottom of the screen. As mentioned earlier, red light is less damaging to the screen relative to white or blue, so it’s not that big an issue.
You can remove the red line, though it costs $3.32 through an in-app purchase. (What are in-app purchases?)
Download: GMD Immersive for Android (Free with in-app purchases)
3. Change Wallpaper to Black
Some might notice that the stock wallpapers in Android aren’t usually suited for OLED screens. OLED screens consume very little energy when displaying the color black, and they do not burn-in when displaying blacks. Unfortunately, older Android versions don’t include a solid black wallpaper option.
Fortunately, the free app Colors, from developer Tim Clark, allows users to change their wallpaper to a solid color. Just install and run the app, then choose a solid black background as the new wallpaper.
Using a black wallpaper will actually improve the battery performance of your device, so this one is a win-win. However, if you have Android 8.0 or newer, you might already have solid colors available as a wallpaper.
Download: Colors for Android (Free)
4. Change Your Launcher
The default Android Google Experience Launcher isn’t exactly OLED friendly. In Android 5.0, it forces the App Drawer wallpaper to white (the worst color for OLED screens). One of the better launchers for darker colors is Nova Launcher. Not only is it more responsive, it offers better customization options.
Download: Nova Launcher for Android (Free)
Enable Dark Mode for Android 8.0 Launcher
Android 8.0 and newer, though, includes a dark mode. To enable dark mode:
- Tap on Settings.
- Choose Display.
- Tap on Advanced.
- Select Dark mode from the options.
5. Install AMOLED-Friendly Dark Icons
Minma Icon Pack (which just went completely free) changes your bright, screen-damaging icons to a darker, OLED-friendly palette. Over 300 icons are available, which cover the default icons as well as many others.
Minma is compatible with most Android launchers and, best of all, it’s completely free.
Download: Minma Icon Pack for Android (Free)
6. Install Firefox Mobile With a Dark Theme
The only browser that I’m aware of that has a default dark theme is Firefox Mobile. Firefox offers an optional dark theme by default but it isn’t very good. I recommend installing an add-on. The easiest to use add-on is Dark Night Mode.
7. AMOLED-Friendly Keyboard
Android has a few virtual keyboard options that can reduce burn-in (and improve battery life). The best of these is SwiftKey, which allows users to change the color of their keyboards. The best I’ve seen so far is SwiftKey’s Pumpkin keyboard theme, although others are available.
My favorite theme is Pumpkin, which uses black keys with an orange typeface.
Download: SwiftKey for Android (Free)
Other Screen Burn-In Fixes (Not Recommended)
There are a few other burn-in repair tools, but I don’t recommend them since they either require root access and/or can increase screen damage. However, for reference, you can read about them below and why using them is a bad idea. They fall into two categories:
- Invert colors.
- Screen burn-in tools.
1. Invert Colors to Reduce Existing Burn-In
I do not recommend using this option unless your screen is already trashed. It will cause additional damage but may reduce the appearance of already existing on-screen burn. Inverting colors simply reverses the colors displayed on your screen. Whites become blacks and vice-versa.
If you use the phone with the colors inverted for extended periods of time, it will burn-in the areas surrounding the burned-in navigation bar, reducing its visibility.
The Invert colors option was introduced in Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) in order to reduce eye-strain when reading in the evening. It’s not at all designed for the purpose of combating burn-in and remains experimental. To invert colors take the following steps:
- Navigate to Settings.
- Select Accessibility > Display.
- Turn on Color inversion.
2. Screen Burn-In Tools
Several different tools claim to reduce the appearance of burn-in by attempting to age the entirety of your OLED panel. These screen burn-in tools flash red, green, and blue (or other) colors on your screen.
None of these are very good, although they might do what they claim. They might also make your burn-in far worse.
The reason is pretty simple: AMOLED burn-in occurs as a natural part of an OLED’s life cycle. Tools that claim to fix OLED burn-in will cause uniform damage across all AMOLED pixels thus reducing its life expectancy.
Do You Have AMOLED Screen Burn-In?
None of these methods will stop the inevitable and slow destruction of your device’s screen. However, using all the recommended options in this article will dramatically decrease the rate at which it decays. That said, some Galaxy Nexus users (one of the first AMOLED phones) have phones with very little burn-in.
If you don’t have an OLED display and your device has a stuck pixel, check out ways to fix a dead pixel.
Image Credits: flames/Shutterstock