One of the best features of having an AMOLED display on your smartphone is that each individual pixel is its own light emiting diode. What that means to the user is incredible contrasts because when a part of the screen is displaying “black” it actually just turns off those pixels, making for a beautiful experience. What’s more is that the pixels being off when you’re on a black screen means that you’re saving battery power. The downside to that is that the screen will wear unevenly if a particular set of pixels are on more often than others and that can lead to what we commonly refer to as “burn-in.”
Burn-in is never fun and it makes your very expensive piece of technology start to look really bad, which is usually something you want to avoid. Some very popular phones use AMOLED screens, the Nexus 6P and Samsung Galaxy Note 5 actually have the exact same Super AMOLED panel on board. To find out if your phone has an AMOLED screen, you can check out GSMArena’s phone finder page, paying close attention to the type of display your phone has. In today’s School of Android class, we’re going to discuss preventing and combating screen burn-in.
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So you’ve determined that your phone has an AMOLED screen and you’d like to prevent it from permanently having navigation keys plastered across everything you do. What are some steps you should take to prevent it?
Turn down the lights!
Decreasing screen brightness, which is located in the settings menu under “display,” will drastically improve the life expectancy
of your display. LEDs wear out when they’re being used; it’s an inevitability. Decreasing brightness reduces strain and decreases overall contrast between light and dark pixels. If having the brightness turned down all the time isn’t really an option (you occasionally venture outdoors) then switching to automatic brightness will still do your display a great service.
It’s also a good idea to turn down the amount of time that your screen stays on without any activity. I keep mine at 1 minute, but if you are the kind of person to frequently forget about it, it might be better to turn it down to 30 or even 15 seconds.
Immersive full-screen mode
Because the navigation and notification bar are mostly static and often on a black background (especially before Android 5.0 Lollipop), they are big offenders when it comes to burn-in. Removing them from the screen for a majority of the time can drastically reduce their impact on your precious pixels.
A feature introduced in Android 4.4 called immersive full-screen mode allows apps to take over the entire screen and immerse the user in its content. This is usually implemented by games and video applications like YouTube, but there are apps available in the Play Store that will allow you to enforce this all the time (without root).
I found two apps that were good for this and they both have unique features that might make some people prefer one over the other. Immersive Full-Screen Mode by Pieter Pareit is a simple app that does exactly what it’s name suggests – it costs $1.50 and there isn’t a free option, but it was last updated only 3 months ago, which suggests that the developer is actively working to make it better.
GMD (Good Mood Droid) Full Screen Immersive Mode does the exact same job and it does have a free option but the pro version costs $3.55 and it was last updated December 29th, 2014. It’s worth noting that both of these apps (because of the nature of immersive full-screen mode) won’t play well with keyboards, so you’ll have to switch them off if you want to do any typing.
Adjust your home screen & keyboard
The default launcher on any smartphone is usually not particularly customizable and the default wallpapers aren’t very AMOLED friendly, so some people will tell you that to optimize battery and preserve your pixels you should give yourself an all-black background and use a custom launcher such as Nova Launcher remove a lot of the white features from the UI such as the card-based app drawer.
You can also change the theme of the Google keyboard to use darker colors and reduce screen wear. The easiest way to do this is to open the keyboard, hold down on the comma until the gear button appears, and click Google Keyboard Settings. From there select Appearance & Layouts and select either the Material Dark theme or HOLO Blue if you’re in the mood for a throwback!
Because these aren’t things that will be on your screen often, there isn’t a very high likelihood that they will get burnt-in, but the white is going to wear out the screen more quickly than black so if you’re concerned about the overall longevity of your screen this would be good practice. Here are a few black backgrounds to get your collection started. You can also check out some of our posts with AMOLED-friendly wallpapers!
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Combating existing screen burn-in
If you’ve come here because you already have burn-in, I don’t have very good news for you. There’s not a whole lot you can do but damage the entire screen evenly and hope that it improves upon the overall visual damage that has been done. One way to do this is by tapping into the existing accessibility settings on your phone, scroll all the way down to display and select color inversion. It’s kind of dizzying at first, but you will get used to it eventually. What this will do is wear out the opposite pixels that are usually being worn with your regular usage so that your entire screen will be worn evenly.
Note that you should do this before taking any of the advice above or it will not have the desired effect. It’s also worth noting that the organic material in each of the LEDs can crystallize permanently and that there’s nothing you can do to fix that. Heat will also exacerbate this problem, so that’s something to keep in mind while playing graphically intensive games that have any kind of static information being displayed.
That’s all for today’s School of Android class! If you have any further suggestions on how to prevent or combat screen burn-in, please drop them into the comments section for the entire class to benefit!