Last week, a report came flying in stating that the new ‘Made by Google’ Pixel 2 XL is showing signs of screen burn-in. Although the issue isn’t something unheard of when it comes to OLED panels yet it has created a rift ever since it was spotted.

The pertinent questions we are facing are: What exactly is Screen burn-in? Why is it creating so much hype if it is not new? Should they be wary before buying a new OLED smartphone? Are there ways to prevent it?

All your queries will be answered in this write-up, so sit back, relax, and read along.

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What is Screen burn-in?

Sometimes, frequently displayed text and images get imprinted on your display and can be continually seen no matter what content you push on the display, or in other words, they get permanently burned in on the screen. Screen Burn in is a defect that manifests as screen discoloration across any part of the panel. This can be in the form of image or text outline or fading outlines.

The display will still remain active and responsive but reflects ghost-like images or discoloration every time you switch on your phone.

Courtesy: Alex Dobie

As for the technical definition, the Screen burn-in is an issue that occurs when the blue LEDs have lower luminous efficiency than there sibling, red and green pixels. Or in simpler words, organic LEDs (Red, green, and blue) that constitute a single pixel decay with time or with overuse and one of them doesn’t glow as brightly or accurately anymore.

In a set sized pixel, a blue pixel will require more electricity to achieve the same level of brightness as the red or green one, shortening the lifespan of blue pixel. Therefore the OLED display’s color tilts towards red and green colors, causing screen burn-in.

The term originates from the old CRT monitors. These monitors used phosphor compound which emits light to produce images that lost its luminance with time (and that’s why we had screen savers on old CRT monitors, to avoid burn in). LCD panels are also not 100% secure, but screen burn-in on LCDs are rare, partly, due to the way they are constructed.

Not as serious as the CRT panels, today’s OLED panel also suffer from a similar issue. However, the intensity or burn in is barely noticeable and usually takes a lot of time before any such error occurs. The prominent areas for screen burn-in patterns are the navigational buttons or the notification bar – places where static data is persistently pushed on the screen.

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Are Manufactures Aware?

OLED displays are made up of red, green, and blue LEDs, but each colors have different lifespan.

Of course, manufacturers are aware of it and they are taking viable steps to overcome it. Like Samsung, who has been the leading manufacturer of the AMOLED panels, uses pentile subpixel arrangement on the display to bring down the burn-in effect. They use larger blue subpixels in order to provide required light with less current. Driving less current means increase in lifespan of the pixel and avoiding color disorders in the long run.

Also, on the Note 8 and Galaxy S8/S8+ Always on display, Samsung uses a shifting home button to avoid burn-in.

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What’s the Hype?

The reason why it is getting so much attention now is that every smartphone maker is making a shift towards the high-tech OLED panels. This is making consumers go warry about whether or not to buy the OLED display smartphones.

To clear the dust, the issue is not as major as you think. The burn-in effect is quite rare or hard to notice unless you know what you are looking for. Also, modern OLED panels have a longer lifespan than the previous gen of OLEDs, even then the burn-ins are rare. The bottom line is, one shouldn’t hesitate to buy OLED display smartphone.

However, if you are concerned about the issue, here’s what you can do to avoid it:

Note: If your screen is already burnt-in, there’s nothing much you can do. 

To avoid burn-in ensure that you display doesn’t show the same data in the same place for too long.

  • Keep the display brightness low wherever possible. More brightness means more current, hence, short LED lifespan.
  • Turn the display off when you’re not using the phone.
  • Avoid using bright wallpapers on your home screen.
  • Use keyboards with a dark theme to prevent discoloration in the lower half of the display. Or you can keep changing keyboard theme every few weeks.
  • Avoid using certain display filters, for instance, Twilight app that covers the entire display in red, as these could accelerate burn in.
  • Use the phone in Immersive Mode. In this, the notification bar is hidden; thus, eliminating static icons. Or pick a launcher that offers a similar feature.

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