How to fix Galaxy S4 screen burn in and ghosting

How to fix Galaxy S4 screen burn in and ghosting

The Galaxy S4 is well over a year old now, and as you would know if you read my comparison of LCD, AMOLED and Retina displays last week, one of the characteristics of OLED displays is that they deteriorate over time. This is because they are made of organic material. Another side effect of AMOLED screens is that they are prone to screen burn-in. A little bit of a bogey monster in tech circles, we're going to share a couple of tricks to avoid screen burn in as best you can.

AndroidPIT Galaxy S4 Screen
Static elements on screen can eventually stick around long term, making your S4 look tired. / © ANDROIDPIT

Anyone that has used an OLED device for a while is familiar with this issue, especially if the device is one with static elements on board like icons on a smartphone or menus on a TV. Some displays are worse than others, but all will eventually succumb to one degree of screen burn or another. The good news is that a lot of the time you won't even notice because of the dynamic nature of your screen's contents, but if you're looking at a mostly white screen you'll be able to see just where the problems lie.

AndroidPIT Screen Burn In Tool
Simple apps like Screen Burn In Tool can help alleviate the seriousness of burn in by flashing full screen colors on your device. / © ANDROIDPIT/Code For Travel

Screen Burn In Tool

First thing's first, the app version. There's a few screen burn in tools available in the Google Play Store but their effectiveness depends largely on just how bad your burn is. Ideally, these apps would be run on a regular basis from the first month you buy your device. Prevention is better than cure, as they say. Simply grab one of these apps like the aptly named Screen Burn In Tool and run it for an hour or so every now and them: once a week, once a month or however often you can remember. It is now optimized for KitKat's immersive mode and will simply flash primary colors on your screen intermittently to theoretically keep the appearance of burn in at bay.

AndroidPIT Inverted Galaxy S4 Home Screen
While technically true, inverting your screen and letting that burn in doesn't really solve anything. / © ANDROIDPIT

DIY versions to be wary of

Don't be fooled by the ''display a white screen for 12 hours'' fix: this is what is used for LCD displays, not OLED displays, and it can actually make your screen burn in worse, not better. Displaying static is another technique I've heard about for TVs, because of the constantly moving black and white pixels, but take this route at your own risk. The best urban myth I've come across to fix ghosting or burn in is to take an image of the ghosted display (on a white background) and make a properly scaled negative version to display for several hours on your phone. This is obviously a silly idea. LCDs can have burn in reversed, but because OLED displays are organic, degrading them on purpose to balance things out is a poor fix, even if it does technically reduce the appearance of burn in.

AndroidPIT Galaxy S4 Play Store
Simple things like app icons, keyboards, and app interfaces can stick around. / © ANDROIDPIT

Screen replacement

If the app trick didn't work and the other options (which are fine to try for short periods of time) haven't produced any noticeable solution you might need to consider replacing your screen. You can take your phone back to Samsung for repair but this could cost you a tidy little sum. Replacing your own screen is actually not as difficult as you might think, but we understand if it seems too daunting, especially when it costs around 150 USD. Still, as I hope I have impressed upon you by now, once screen burn in has really taken root, the best you can hope for is minimizing its visibility, but a complete cure is pretty much out of the question due to the nature of the display technology.

s4 mini teaser kitkat
Looking after your S4's screen from day one is the best approach / © ANDROIDPIT

Get proactive!

As soon as possible when you get a new smartphone you should start regular screen care. Use the app mentioned above to regularly flush out any burn in build up before it becomes permanent. Once it has become permanent though, there's very little you can do to fully reverse it without replacing the screen entirely. Using an immersive mode that automatically hides system bars and other persistent screen elements is a good start, as is using floating menus and notifications to avoid burn in wherever possible. Switching from light to dark themes also helps minimize the effects of burn in, but again, inverting colors should be part of a prevention plan rather than a sustained attempt at a fix.

Have you suffered from screen burn in? Have you found any sure fire fixes?

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  • As mentioned I can reverse most if not all of the damage, the problem is timing. Most folks can't be without their phones for 2+ weeks which is needed also have to keep phone cool.

  • I just got one of these second-hand, and I do definitely see the ghosting. It shows up when the battery drops below 90% ( which is pretty quick as I'm sure you know) and the screen gets almost unusable at 60%. Trying out the screen burn-in tool tonight. I might try a screen replacement eventually.

  • I would like to ask if the flashing screen from the app maybe just overuse the pixels so they burn out before time..? I mean burn in is more correct "burn out" as the organic pixel is dead after a long use from a bright light setting. It is recommended from the app that you set the light to the brightest and then run it. Isn't the truth that heavily use of these flickering lights just damage the pixels by burning them out to an extent similar to the burn in pixels and because the "damage" is overall from using the app then the original burn in just doesn't seem that bad? I have immediately stopped using this app on my new s7 edge as I guess it will just cause all the pixels to get burned out too fast. Am I wrong? Sorry my bad English, but English is not my first language.

  • I have some serious screen burn going on... the battery got so hot, I guess, that it burned the screen while I was sleeping.... You mentioned replacing the screen myself... how do I do that???

  • I have had an s4 for around 12 months now and have never had an issue .am I lucky or is that pretty common

    • Individual screens, like individual components, vary quite a lot, so some phones have lots of problems and some do not. So you might just be lucky.

  • While scrolling the blacks leave a purple trail and green pixelation while watchin videos on the stock video app but not on mx player...

    • Maximus
      • Admin
      Jul 24, 2014 Link to comment

      select the stock video app from application manager then clear cache and data. this may work.

      • it did not help the colours somewhat spread where there are black scenes in a movie i see greenish pixels...

      • before this smearing i faced the flickering issue also..

      • Maximus
        • Admin
        Jul 27, 2014 Link to comment

        So this happens only when you watch a movie! right?
        if yes, then it will be a software problem.
        either factor reset your phone or re-flash with a latest firmware

      • Yeah, if it's a problem isolated to the stock player then it's clearly an issue with that app. If clearing the cache etc doesn't work you could try uninstalling updates and then update to the latest version again through the Play Store. Otherwise, you might just have to abandon the stock player.

  • I am facing the screen smearing and screen flickering issue on my s4 since the kit kat update any fix for that?

    • Maximus
      • Admin
      Jul 24, 2014 Link to comment

      This is common in Kitkat, Try wiping your phone and restoring it to factory settings or reflash it with odin.

  • Good article! Wasn't really aware of this issue but have since downloaded the app and will hopefully help prevent any screen issues!

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