Those of you with Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode (AMOLED) displays may eventually suffer from a defect known as “burn-in”. Frequently displayed images — like the lockscreen — can permanently imprint onto the screen. Fortunately, there’s a number of apps and precautionary methods that can mitigate display damage. For already burned screens, there are some somewhat experimental steps which might offset the damage.
If you are unsure whether or not your device includes an AMOLED screen, many devices from Samsung, LG, and Motorola include AMOLED screens. They usually appear on flagship devices, although they also show up on other models, such as Samsung’s “Mini” line of Galaxy S series smartphones. Note, though, that because Samsung uses hardware buttons, its burn-in problems aren’t as pronounced as those on phones from Motorola or LG.
Why Does Burn-in Occur?
The individual light-emitting pixels, or diodes, within an AMOLED matrix decay over time. Whenever a diode emits light, it begins breaking down. As it loses coherency, its color accuracy begins to fall off. This is partly because individual pixels do not decay at the same rate. Because navigation and status icons appear all the time, these light-emitting pixels wear out first.
Compounding this problem is that all user-interface buttons are white. To produce white light, the display switches on three different colors in close proximity to one another: Red, blue, and green. Red diodes are the most durable, followed by green. Blue diodes wear out the fastest.
Neither LCD, E-Ink, or other display technologies suffer from this issue. Longevity is the price that we pay for getting better contrast. They say that the candle that burns brightest, burns shortest. No display tech is more representative of this saying than AMOLED. So how can you extend your display’s lifespan? First, start simple.
Saving Your AMOLED Screen: The Basics
The first steps everyone should take:
Go to Settings;
Then go to Display;
Reduce your screen brightness. Optionally, turn auto-brightness on. It sometimes lowers screen brightness below the minimum possible through manual control.
Decrease your screen timeout to as little as possible.
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.
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 automatically do this 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 pull up the navigation and Action Bar by touching either the top or the bottom of the screen and dragging your finger.
It’s both free and without advertisements, although it adds 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. Fortunately, the Pro version of GMD Immersive allows users to remove the red line, though it costs $3.32 and is available via in-app purchase.
Change Wallpaper with Colors
Some might notice that the stock wallpapers in Android aren’t usually suited for AMOLED screens. AMOLED screens consume very little energy when displaying the color black, and they do not burn-in when displaying blacks. Unfortunately, Android’s default wallpapers don’t include solid colors.
Fortunately, the free app Colors 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.
Change Your Launcher
The default Android Google Experience Launcher isn’t exactly AMOLED friendly. In Android 5.0, it forces the App Drawer wallpaper to white (the worst color for AMOLED screens). One of the better launchers: Nova Launcher. Not only is it more responsible, it offers better customization options.
Invert Colors to Reduce Already 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 noticeability.
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 combatting burn-in and remains experimental. So use it with caution. To invert colors, go to:
Settings, and then:
Accessibility, and then:
Display, and then select:
Color inversion. Turn it on.
There are a few other options that can reduce burn-in (and improve battery life). For example, the default keyboards are sometimes not properly optimized for use with AMOLED screens. You can install third party apps, like SwiftKey, that allow users to change the color of their keyboards. The best I’ve seen so far is SwiftKey’s Pumpkin keyboard theme (which is paid).
For AMOLED screens, you are better off using dark keyboards, with reddish text. Most third party keyboards include support for dark-colored keyboards — the best of these is SwiftKey. While SwiftKey offers a number of dark-themed keyboards, additional themes cost money.
My favorite theme is Pumpkin, which uses black keys with an orange typeface.
Other Options to Reduce Burn-in
There are a few other options, which I do not recommend, since they either require root access or can increase screen damage. However, for reference, you can read about them below.
Change Google Now Launcher to Black
You can change the color of Google’s launcher. This flashable .zip file requires root access, a custom recovery (what’s a custom recovery?), and Android 5.0 or better. It simply changes Google Now and Google Now Launcher to black.
Simply flash the file from your recovery and it will install a themed version of Google’s launcher. Be warned though: Flashing files from a custom recovery always carries risk. Make sure to create a Nandroid backup before proceeding.
Screen Burn-in Tool
Screen Burn-in Tool flashes red, green, and blue colors on your screen. I do not suggest using this app. AMOLED burn-in occurs as a natural part of an OLED’s life cycle. Screen Burn-in Tool “fixes” burn-in by causing uniform damage across all AMOLED pixels. While it might resolve the aesthetics of burn-in, it might dramatically decrease the life expectancy of your device.
A Note of Warning
Some screen filters can turn the screen to another color — for example the app Twilight can make all images red-hued. However, this was reported to intensify screen burn-in. While red-shifted colors will decay less rapidly than blue or green, overusing any particular hue will eventually create a noticeable impact on the color accuracy of your screen.
Has Your Device Suffered from Burn-in?
None of these methods will stop the inevitable death 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 screens introduced in the Android ecosystem) have phones with very little burn-in. So the durability of even first generation screens seems to be good.
Anyone else have an AMOLED screen with burn-in? What steps have you taken to fix it? Let us know in the comments.