Managing PWM on OLED iPhone & iPad Displays

May 14, 2021 - 4 Comments

OLED PWM on iPhone

Some iPhone and iPad users are sensitive to PWM flickering on the latest devices OLED displays. PWM, which stands for Pulse Width Modulation, can cause some users to have eye strain, feel nauseous or dizzy, or have headaches from the screen flickering when using an OLED screen device with PWM.

All new model iPhone and iPad devices with OLED displays have PWM, including the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XS, iPhone X, and iPad Pro 12.9″ M1. The remaining iPhone models that use LCD displays do not have this issue (at least to an extent that bothers users anyway), which includes the iPhone 11, iPhone SE iPhone XR, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone 8 and older.

While the majority of people do not have any issues with OLED PWM, if you are bothered by OLED PWM, it’s fairly obvious. Assuming you fall into that unfortunate latter category, this workaround may help.

Workaround for Managing OLED PWM

  1. Open Settings on the OLED iPhone / iPad, and head to ‘Display & Brightness’
  2. Set the Brightness level to 90% or higher
  3. Next go to ‘Accessibility’ settings, and go to ‘Display & Text Size’
  4. Enable ‘Reduce White Point’ and adjust the slider to a suitable screen brightness level

If you’re lucky, you may notice a difference immediately.

The theory behind this approach is that at higher brightness levels, PWM screen flickering should be reduced on the OLED. Thus, using a higher brightness setting can help to reduce the ill effects.

This does not work for everyone however, so don’t expect a miracle if you’re particularly sensitive to PWM on OLED displays.

As someone who is sensitive to PWM on OLED displays, the eyestrain and dizziness is annoying enough that it makes using the newest model OLED iPhones impossible. Thus my primary iPhone is the last generation iPhone with an LCD display, which is the base model iPhone 11.

Given this can be a pretty serious accessibility issue for some users, hopefully an official solution for those sensitive to PWM will become available. For the meantime, try out the workaround above, or consider using devices with an LCD display, which tend to use a much higher refresh rate and thus no noticeable screen flickering.

If you’ve never heard of PWM and want a more thorough understanding of what it is and why it’s unique on OLED, check out this article on oled-info.com on PWM.

Do you have issues with PWM on OLED screens? Does using an OLED iPhone or iPad bother your eyes? Did the workaround discussed here help? Did you find another solution or workaround? Share your experiences with PWM in the comments!

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

4 Comments

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  1. Oplix says:

    Flickering (PWM) turns off completely at 100% brightness which leads me to believe these are simply subpar OLED screens that cannot operate normally under full power.

  2. Jeremy says:

    I am sticking with the iPhone 11 also because of flickering issues. I hope they manage to fix this with mini LED because I will not be using an OLED phone ever. My 2018 15″ MacBook Pro has never bothered my eyes and neither has my 2020 27″ iMac or M1 Macbook Air. I figure between those devices I am set for a while and will just have to ride it out.

    • Fron says:

      I really would like to upgrade to an iPhone 12 or iPhone 13 but the PWM flickering is too much. I returned an iPhone 11 Pro Max because it gave me headaches and made me feel like I was about to vomit when using the screen.

      Very disappointing, hopefully there is a solution to iPhone PWM some day, or what are we going to do? Many Android phones have options to stop or reduce PWM.

  3. Tioptic says:

    I too had to go back to the iPhone 11 because of the 12’s pwm. I also sent back an iMac Pro because it killed my eyes. I got the m1 MacBook Pro and don’t have any problems with eye strain while using it, but I am worried about the mini-led m1x/m2 MacBook Pro coming soon.

    Do you know if the m1 iPad Pro 12.9 has pwm?

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