When shopping for a TV or phone, you probably aren’t thinking about what type of screen you’re getting. If you’re buying a newer device, especially if it’s a smartphone, chances are it will come with an OLED screen.
Many new smartphones feature OLED screens, including Apple’s iPhone 11 and the Galaxy S10 from Samsung. OLED is also a common screen type for current TVs and some that haven’t hit the market yet, like LG’s new rollable TV and 8K TVs.
If you have or plan to purchase a TV or phone with an OLED screen, you can expect exceptional picture and color quality. One thing you may not expect, however, is for remnants of the picture to get “burned” into the display.
It’s commonly called burn-in or ghosting, and while permanent damage to your OLED screen isn’t likely, it can cause temporary discoloration. To help protect your OLED screens from burn-in, we’ve detailed everything you need to know about it below, from what screen burn-in is to how you can remedy it.
What is screen burn-in?
Screen burn-in is a discoloration that results from imbalanced pixel usage, typically resulting from the same image remaining static on the screen for an extended period of time. How long it takes for burn-in to occur depends on a few factors, such as brightness and contrast settings, the size of the screen and the image displayed, but it’s likely to take hours before any noticeable discoloration will set in.
On your TV screen, burn-in may happen when you leave the TV on a channel with a stationary image such as a logo or news feed, or if you pause the screen and forget to come back to it. Playing a video game with a constant image, such as a scoreboard or heads-up display, can also cause burn-in if you play non-stop for a long time.
As far as burn-in on your smartphone, stationary blocks such as navigation buttons and notification bars are often the main culprits. You may not notice it during normal phone use, but when the full display changes, say to watch a video, you might see a faint impression of where the camera button was — that’s burn-in.
Think you’ve been burned? Don’t fret, it’s probably just “image retention”
If you’re concerned burn-in ruined the display on your TV or smartphone, don’t be. In most cases, the ghost image you see is actually just transient image persistence or image retention. This is a temporary discoloration and will go away after a short period.
How to prevent screen burn-in on OLED screens
The best way to avoid the distraction of burn-ins is to prevent them from happening to begin with. Here are a few measures you can take to protect your TV or smartphone from burn-ins.
Lower screen brightness
Go to your TV or phone’s display settings and make sure brightness isn’t set to max. For TVs with preset picture displays, the vivid or dynamic settings often default to the highest brightness, so you’ll want to adjust the brightness when using those presets. Keep the brightness at 50% or lower to minimize the risk of burn-in.
Lower the screen timeout, use a black or moving screensaver
Most smartphones have a screen timeout setting. It’s designed to save battery life more than anything, but it’s also helpful for preventing screen burn-in. Make sure this setting is turned on and set the timeout to 30 seconds or less. If your phone display goes to a screensaver after the display timeout, choose an all-black or moving screensaver to avoid burn-in.
Use the sleep timer
If you like to fall asleep to the sounds and soft blue glow of the TV, make sure you’ve got the sleep timer set. Otherwise, the “Are you still watching?” prompt from your streaming service or “off-air” screen can stay on all night and damage your display.
Change the screen frequently
Avoid leaving your TV on the same channel continuously, especially if there is a static image such as a logo or news feed on the screen. Use a commercial break to flip through the channels and give those pixels a break. Or if your video game has a stationary image, turn the screen off or change to a different input and display every now and then to help keep the image from getting burned-in.
How to fix screen burn-in on OLED screens
If you notice burn-in on your TV or smartphone’s screen, you have essentially two options: wait to see if it goes away, or use a pixel refresher or an app to fix burn-in.
Give it some time
Like we mentioned before, noticing a burned-in image isn’t a cause for immediate alarm. More likely than not, it’s just image retention and the problem will fix itself after a few hours, just make sure to change the screen occasionally or turn it off for a while.
Run a pixel refresher or an app designed to detect and fix screen burn-in
OLED TV manufacturers LG and Sony have a panel or pixel refresher feature that you can run if you notice burn-in. It may take up to an hour to fully refresh the picture, but your display should be back to normal once it’s finished. Select LG TVs run this feature automatically as needed.
For burn-in on your phone display, you can try any of the various burn-in “fixer” apps made for Android and iOS devices. Many of these apps are designed to test your phone for burn-in and run a pixel refresh or adjust your display settings so that the burn-in is less visible.
Is screen burn-in covered by insurance or warranties?
Probably not, unfortunately. Warranties generally only cover manufacturing defects. Burn-in is more often the result of irregular viewing habits or prolonged use, not a defect. LG and Sony directly state that their OLED TVs are not covered for image retention or screen burn-in. Other manufacturers, such as Apple and Samsung, consider burn-in to be normal “wear and tear,” which isn’t covered under a warranty.
Don’t let it keep you from purchasing a new phone or OLED TV
Burn-in sounds scary, but it’s likely to never be an issue with normal use, so it shouldn’t be a dealbreaker when shopping for a new TV or phone. Just remember our tips for avoiding and fixing burn-in above and you’ll be able to enjoy a high-quality OLED display for years to come.
For more TV maintenance tips and info on how to get the most out of your TV, phone or other devices, visit our Resource Center.