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Screen burn-in

Have you ever had a line on your screen that remains permanently fixed on it or the ghost of an image that never seems to disappear entirely? Well, you may have a screen burn-in.

A screen burn-in, also known as image burn-in or ghost image is a discoloration of areas over an electronic display.


Read: What are Smartphone displays?


So no. A screen burn-in does not mean that your screen is literally burnt. Screen burn-in is caused by an uneven use of pixels on the display. If some parts of a display show the same image, over and over again for a long time, the pixels that display the image lose their ability to reset and display something else.

A burnt in line of dead pixels

When this happens, the previous image will remain on the screen as a ghost even when other pictures are being displayed. In severe cases, the affected pixels may lose the ability to turn on, leaving that part of the screen dead.


Mechanism of screen burn in

Everytime you use your phone and your screen lights up, the pixels that display the image age (or grow older). The more they age or the older they get, the lesser their ability to completely reset and display a new image. When they totally lose this ability, screen burn-in sets in.

If you tend to leave your screen lit up for a long time and stay put on only one app (e.g Facebook), you’re definitely inviting screen burn. This is because the part of the screen displaying the F logo of facebook will age faster and the F may be burned into your screen.

OLEDs

OLED and AMOLED displays are highly susceptible because the pixels have dual functions (displaying images and being self-lit). So an overused OLED pixel may not just be unable to display a new image. It also may fail to be able to light itself up.

When this happens, that part of the screen goes dead.


Read: LCD vs OLED & AMOLEDs


LCDs

LCD displays on the other hand are backlit so the pixels only have one function i.e. display images. As a result, LCDs don’t suffer the consequences of uneven aging as much as OLEDs do.

In fact, if another image is purposely displayed over the burnt-in culprit, it slowly fades away and the pixels can then reset. This means that LCDs do not suffer from true screen burn-in. They suffer from what is otherwise known as Image persistence or Temporary image retention.

An example of temporary image retention


Factors responsible for screen burn-in

The length of time for screen burn-in or temporary image retention to develop on a screen could be due to several factors relating to individual usage patterns. They include length of screen on time, level of screen brightness, pixel aging or degradation, consistency of app use, heat/device temperature, high refresh rates etc.

Using a device at top brightness for long periods of time is not healthy for a smartphone display. Staying on a single app like Facebook, Opera mini or Snapchat just tends to compound the problem. Excessive gaming too could also be a contributing factor as well.


How to avoid screen burn-in

As much as possible, avoid using your device’s display at maximum brightness especially if it’s an OLED/AMOLED panel. Try to reduce outdoor use and increase reduce the screen time out. As much as possible, try to keep the screen’s brightness to an acceptable level.

Give your display breaks in between use. If it is heating up, then turn it off completely. Also avoid staying on one app or page for too long.

Dark mode on OLED or AMOLEDs is highly effective at reducing screen burn in. Wallpapers/screensavers on the other hand are more efficient on LCDs although a dark wallpaper works fine for OLEDs/AMOLEDs.


How to fix screen burn-in

There is unfortunately no known method of fixing screen burn-in in OLEDs/AMOLEDs. Those so-called methods promising to fix it do not work. They’re just clickbait.

Image retention on LCDs is mostly temporary and goes away on its own after some time. Although you could speed it up by changing screens, running a pixel refresher app or simply turning off your device for a brief period of time.


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