Ghosting or screen burn-in are names for permanent discoloration of your smartphone’s screen caused by irregular pixel usage. Prolonged use of static images can create a permanent shadow or ghost of that image on the screen. This problem is more common than you think and is most common on AMOLED screens (although LCD screens aren’t always immune).
In this article, we examine ways that this problem can be fixed and, more importantly, prevented.
If you are looking for a screen burn fix for your smartphone, let us start by informing you that serious screen burn cases are difficult to fix and the solution is almost always to replace the display.
However, replacing screens is an expensive proposition – especially if your phone is out of warranty. And in cases where the screen burn-in problem doesn’t appear as often, then you should look for other fixes. And that is exactly what this article aims to examine.
Therefore, the workarounds offered below are best applied to cases of minor screen burn-in.
What is screen burn-in?
To begin with, it is important to know what this problem actually is. Screen burn-in is the phenomenon seen on displays where part of the display is permanently discolored – often caused by prolonged use of a static image. It’s also important to note that OLED displays are much more prone to screen burn-in than their LCD counterparts. In fact, what people consider screen burn-in on an LCD screen could usually be a different problem.
While modern AMOLED displays can withstand screen burn-in much better, the likelihood of screen burn-in increases if your phone tends to display a lot of static images (note: display always on). However, newer smartphones and wearables have several mechanisms (aptly referred to as fire protection) that reduce the likelihood of screen burn-in. This works by shifting a static image or text a few pixels so that the pressure to stay is not carried by a group of pixels.
It’s also important to note that screen burn-in is a hardware issue and affects OLED-based panels in a wide range of products. For the same reason, any product that uses an AMOLED panel – from Apple iPhones to Samsung Galaxy devices to OLED TVs – could be potential victims.
However, the scope of this article is limited to fixing screen burn-in issues on Android and iOS smartphones.
How effective are screen burn-in apps?
In a desperate attempt to find a solution to the screen burn-in issue on your phone, search Google and it turns out that there are several apps that claim to fix the problem. But how effective are these apps really?
First, you need to know that screen burn-in is a hardware issue. Trying to use software to fix the problem is almost always a pointless exercise. So it’s not surprising that the reviews of most of these apps are mixed. But what exactly do these apps do then? And what about users who claim their problem was fixed after installing and using the app?
While some of these apps can be helpful, and there are reviews that claim they work, the general philosophy of these apps is to “burn” the rest of the screen to match the colors of the area. While this may work for you at first, know that ultimately you are not helping to resolve the problem. Think of these apps as temporary workarounds until you replace your display.
There is a special app for LCD screens, the LCD Burn-in Wiper, which may be used to resolve minor cases. However, this tool is not suitable for OLED or AMOLED displays like those found on most modern flagship smartphones. You need another app for this.
For Android smartphones with OLED / AMOLED screens, we recommend trying an app called Ghost Screen Fix – Burn-In. iPhone users can try an app called Doctor OLED X on the App Store.
In most of these apps, the “fix” is to display a sequence of primary colors to try to recreate the “burned” pixels. Interestingly, this was the original function of computer screensavers: a dynamic image that appears when the screen is idle to “train” the pixels and ensure that the same area of the display is not constantly lit.
The results you get with these apps depend on how bad the screen burn-in problem on your phone actually is.
Other fixes for screen burn-in
A workaround suggested by one of our users involves an app called Negative Image from the Google Play Store. This is what NextPit user Chai Bula did to fix the screen burn-in problem on his smartphone.
- Take a screenshot of your screen when the screen burn-in problem is most noticeable.
- Download one of the many “Negative Image” apps from the Google Play Store
- Use the app to take a “negative” picture of the screenshot you just saved.
- Open the negative image that matches the original screenshot pixel by pixel and precisely overlay the affected pixels for the same reason.
- Turn the brightness up to maximum and this can help
What if nothing works
As mentioned in the introduction, screen burn-in is an issue with the actual hardware. Proper resolution of the problem usually includes replacing the display. Be aware, however, that modern displays are significantly more resistant to screen burn-in compared to their older counterparts, and that the devices they are connected to also have multiple screen burn-in protection mechanisms. For the same reason, there is a good chance that newer devices that are severe enough to require screen swapping will rarely experience a screen burn-in problem.
However, on rare occasions, the problem is terrible. It is best to contact your manufacturer directly. If your smartphone is under warranty, you will be offered a solution. Be aware, however, that out-of-warranty replacing the screen can be quite expensive. In some cases, it’s even cheaper to just buy a new phone instead.
How can I prevent screen burn-in?
As you may have understood by now, screen burn-in can be a bothersome problem. Other than that, there are some simple steps that you can take to prevent your smartphone from encountering this problem at all. Note that the following steps apply to both Android smartphones and iPhones.
- Keep the brightness of your phone screen low or moderate. Never keep it at full brightness for long periods of time.
- If you continue to use navigation buttons on the screen, you should learn to use gesture-based navigation. This will prevent the screen from showing the permanent navigation buttons on the screen.
- If you are not a huge fan of wallpapers, the best solution is to use a black screen as your wallpaper. This effectively switches off the pixels on AMOLED displays – so there is no fear of burn-in!
- Activate the dark mode function on your smartphone as much as possible.
Does your smartphone ever have this problem? Did you use another app to fix the problem? Let us know in the comments.
This article was last updated in April 2021. Older comments have been retained.