How to Quickly Fix Stuck Orientation on the iPad, iPhone, iPod touch

Jul 3, 2013 - 28 Comments

Every once in a while an iOS device or app will get stuck in the wrong orientation, unresponsive to rotating the device and it either stays in portrait or horizontal mode, despite every effort to rotate the device any which direction. Though this seems to happen more often on the iPad than the iPhone or iPod touch, it can still occur on every iOS device and with just about any app.

Orientation stuck in iOS

Thankfully, resolving this inconvenience is usually a very simple process.

1: Toggle Orientation Lock On & Off

Though this may seem like a no-brainer, it’s not terribly uncommon to either forget that the orientation lock is on (or off), and it’s easy to double-check. Also, sometimes just toggling the switch off/on again is enough to dislodge a device stuck in either horizontal landscape or vertical portrait mode. For the iPad, just flip the side-switch ON and OFF again. Or you can do it through software as follows:

In iOS 6 and before:

  • Double-tap the Home button to summon the multitasking bar, and scroll to the left until you see the Orientation Lock button
  • Orientation lock in iOS multitasking bar

  • Tap the button to toggle it ON and OFF again, then go back to the app that was stuck and try rotating to the desired orientation again

In iOS 7 and newer:

  • Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to summon Control Center
  • Tap the Orientation Lock button in the upper right corner so that ON and OFF

Orientation lock in iOS Control Center

This is particularly effective on the iPad for those who set the side switch to be function as an orientation lock rather than as a mute button.

2: Kill the App & Relaunch

Sometimes the app is just stuck, and in this case just quitting and relaunching it usually enough to dislodge the orientation weirdness.

In iOS 6 and before:

  • Double-tap the Home button to bring up the multitasking bar
  • Tap and hold on the app icon until it starts jiggling, then tap the red (-) button to quit the app
  • Quit an app in iOS

  • Relaunch the same app to find orientation functioning as usual

In iOS 7:

  • Double-tap the Home button, then swipe over to the app that is stuck
  • Swipe up on the app window to quit it, then relaunch the app

Quitting an app with a swipe in iOS 7

If the app is unresponsive and actually frozen, you will need to use force quit instead.

Quitting and relaunching most apps will resolve the issue entirely, and it’s pretty rare to have to reboot the device unless the home screen itself is stuck in an orientation.

3: All Else Fails? Reboot iOS

Though iOS is remarkably stable, sometimes just rebooting the iPhone, iPod, or iPad is enough to set orientation working again (not to mention other stubborn bugs or quirks). This is particularly true if the Home Screen and Springboard are stuck in portrait or landscape mode and the above tricks didn’t do anything. The simplest way to reboot the device is to basically just turn it on and off again:

  • Hold down the Power button until the “Slide to Unlock” message appears, then slide
  • Now hold down the power button again until you see the Apple  logo on boot

Once the iPad, iPod, or iPhone has rebooted, orientation should be responsive again, but don’t forget to double-check the settings again to be sure.

This is the same approach when a device freezes up or is relentlessly crashing, and it often works to resolve the more peculiar unexplained issues of all sorts.

Orientation Stuck in iOS 8?

Another issue seemingly unique to iOS 7 and iOS 8 is that orientation gets stuck and none of the above solutions worked. In this situation, the Compass app may demonstrate a solution as outlined in our comments by David B. Simply open the “Compass” app and go to the Level, then turn calibrate the Compass, then turn the iPhone onto its side repeatedly until it registers. This seems to resolve issues with iOS 7 and iOS 8. Let us know in the comments what works for you.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting

28 Comments

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  1. David B says:

    I had the same thing happen to me with my iPhone 5s with latest iOs 7. Phone was stuck in landscape mode for any app that wasn’t already locked in a certain orientation. I tried closing all apps and reopening them and tried restarting several times. Nothing worked. I decided that the accelerometer must be physically broken so I decided to test it with the “compass” app. At first, it was all messed up, but then I went to the “level” app which is part of the compass. After turning the phone on it’s sides several times, the accelerometer seemed to re-calibrate itself and now everything seems to work fine. Try that.

    • Aaron Adams says:

      I’ve tried All the things in this help and the only way I can my screen to rotate is to lock my screen then turn my device then unlock it again then it works but can’t get it to automatically turn any other I try any ideas please
      Thanks
      Aaron Adams

  2. Bijay says:

    Thank you very much. It worked.

  3. Bill-from-SF says:

    Hi David B, thank you very much, that worked for me with iPhone 6 and iOS 8.

  4. Dunk says:

    Omg….. This issue has been bugging me for months! The compass fix worked….. Thank you! :-)

  5. deb says:

    It’s hopelessly stuck! The lock icon is able to open and close the lock but it won’t disappear. There is an update in the background that is perpetually verifying. I can’t turn the thing (ipad) off with the switch to reboot. I can only press and depress the on/off button quickly to get the frozen screen on…any hope for me?

  6. Mark says:

    Hi any other ideas for iOS 8 !? Tried compass and level but no luck, I’m stuck in portrait if that helps??

  7. Norbert says:

    Hi, my lock screen is severely stuck and super enlarged, difficulty moving screen if at all to punch in code. Have tried to turn off and reboot. Same thing , I can’t orient the screen to punch in code. Using an iPad2 with IOS 8. Can anyone help??

  8. Greg says:

    Nothing anyone here has said works. Furious.

  9. osunderdog says:

    Mine has been stuck for months in portrait mode. Compass level didn’t help. Fortunately a restart fixed the problem. Compass app now works.

  10. Bonita Smith says:

    My ipod 5 ios8 stuck in lock screen and super enlarged! The battery seems like it will never die! Have tried all fixes above, cannot reset because can’t unlock to take off “find my ipod” Any ideas!

  11. Paul says:

    Thanks! IOS8 iPhone 5. This problem cropped up recently, and I’d already tried all the fixes suggested in the article bar the final one. The compass recalibration worked for me. Great stuff.

    • James Nicol says:

      I have this problem with my iPhone 5. Spent an hour with Apple Support on chat and nothing worked, finally reset EVERYTHING and reloaded fresh ios 8.3 & did not restore anything. Checked to see if the new Compass would calibrate. Same problem, red calibrate ball stuck at 90deg and won’t move. Apple support gave up and setup an appt at my local Apple store today. They did a full reset to factory defaults and reloaded new ios 8.3. Same problem, can’t calibrate by moving red ball. Display orientation will rotate and 3rd party Level app shows level bubble moving around as it should. HELP!

  12. JAnet Jones says:

    Yeeeaaaahhh thank god it worked… Swipe app closed and reopen!!! Was doing my head in all day. Thanx for advice!!

  13. Stefano173 says:

    My iphone 4S Mail App got stuck. The connection with the server works as it updates the number of unread emails in the icon, but when opening the app, it doesn’t show anything. Is there a way to “reinstall the App, considering that it is a default ?

  14. Carey says:

    It worked!!!! My txt message screen was completely messed up, on its side and I couldn’t fix it doing anything I tried. I did the double tap of the home button and swiping up on the txt msg screen and went and reopened it and, voila, problem solved.. Thank you soo much! (iPhone 5s)

  15. Leo says:

    Thank you David B. It worked!!!!

  16. Mahesh says:

    Hi All,

    I researched my orientation problem for 2 days for my iphone 5. I downloaded an app in the appstore called sensor kinetics which shows current readings for all the sensors. I could see that my accelerometer Z axis was fixed at 97+ value reading, even when the phone was laid down flat on a level table, but the X and Y axis data was fine and fluctuating when the phone is moved. (The ideal reading when laid flat is about 9 for the accelerometer z axis).

    I though that the sensor was broken. The calibration approach via the compass did not really fix it for me. Well, out of frustration, having this app open i started slapping the iphone 5 several times against my palm and lo and behold it corrected itself and Z axis value dropped. The reading is still not 9, but something like 12 for Z axis, but the most important thing being the auto rotation works as expected for apps. Hope this helps someone, so clearly a matter of playing around till it auto corrects. So the age old banging on electronics approach still works. :-)

  17. Jodler says:

    I have tried everything suggested in this thread (and a couple of others) to no avail. I have iPhone 5 running 8.2 Seems like it’s been stuck in portrait since the last iOS update. May need a trip to the Apple store. :-(

  18. Leo says:

    There is no compass app on my iPad 2, and it can’t be downloaded from the App Store. It’s part of the operating system on my iPhone. I’m on iOS 8.3 on both devices.

  19. Tmot says:

    I just threw that junky piece of apple on the floor. That fixed it when none of these worked. Hate this phone

  20. Karl says:

    There’s a bug. Rebooting my phone fifteen times s day ? brilliant!

  21. Joy says:

    My iPad only sends Mail on three orientation sides portrait all the time but when you write an email and then try to send or cancel when holding the iPad landscape with the camera top left it won’t do anything

    Anyone had this problem or know how to fix it

  22. nikita says:

    my ipad got to around 5% battery and has repeatedly restarted over and over again i havent been able to do anything because as soon as it turns on it will restart again. if i take it off charge it will stop but it is flat so i cant do anything :/ someone please help.

  23. Karen LaCuesta says:

    My iPad air suddenly started showing Google in the sideways position. After rebooting and trying several other recommended adjustments I accidentally activated Siri and thought “what the heck” – I asked Siri to turn Google right side up and it worked!

    • Karen LaCuesta says:

      I went to Apple and the technician removed the Google app that was sideways and then reinstalled the app – it now works right side up!
      Karen LaCuesta

  24. John Pettigrew says:

    I’ve just experienced this problem and nothing, absolutely nothing seemed to work.

    But then I checked the display settings: sure enough I remember I changed the screen display from standard to zoomed. Zoomed view doesn’t allow for landscape view at all!

    I changed it back and everything was fine again.

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