While smartphones with touchscreens have become ubiquitous and the quality of materials used to make them have improved, many smartphones of today continue to experience a rather annoying issue called 'ghost touch'. In this article, we have put together a list of solutions that could help solve the ghost touch issue once and for all.
At the outset, let us warn you that while the ghost touch issue can be caused by several external factors that normal users like you and me can fix by simple troubleshooting, there may be some cases wherein a visit to the service center is inevitable. Especially if the underlying cause is a hardware issue.
With the intro and the disclaimer out of the way, let's try to understand what this 'ghost touch' problem really is and how it affects the usage of your phone.
- What is the ghost touch problem?
- How to fix the ghost touch problem on Android and iOS?
- Advanced troubleshooting
Ghost touch (or touch glitches) are the terms used when your screen responds to presses or inputs that you're not actually making, or when there's a section of your phone screen that's completely unresponsive to your touch. Exactly what the 'ghost' presses will do varies from device to device, but it seems to be more common in some devices than others.
Some of the devices that have been (in)famous for being susceptible to ghost touch issues include the old Motorola Moto G4 Plus, several models of the Apple iPhone—including the iPhone X, iPhone 11, and the iPhone 12 series, and some older OnePlus devices. All of that is to say, if you're having a ghost touch issue, it's probably not a problem with the software.
In more severe cases it's a hardware problem with your display and the way it's housed inside the chassis of your phone. If you're an engineer and are ok taking electronic devices apart (and have all the required specialty tools), multiple people have reported success simply by disconnecting the screen from the data connectors.
In other situations, water or dirt damage (or beneath the screen protector) can cause 'phantom' presses that aren't being made. There's no definitive single cause, or fix, for the problem, however, so you'll have to use some trial and error to fix the issue. This is especially true if you are out of warranty and wish to avoid a (usually expensive) visit to the service center.
Listed below are some basic steps that you can try on your smartphones before you delve into more advanced, complex fixes. Note that these steps are applicable to both Android and iOS devices.
Surprising as it may seem, many a time, ghost touch issues happen only when phones are connected to a wall outlet. This is especially likely if you happen to use a charger/cable of spurious quality. Basically what happens here is that these chargers and cables affect the functionality of the digitizer—which is the sensor that detects your touch inputs.
If you are facing this ghost touch issue while charging your phone, it's best you replace the charger or charging cable with a new/better one. To check if a charger is really the cause, try charging the phone using a different charger/cable combo and check if the issue persists.
A simple solution that can solve plenty of problems! Having many apps running in the background can cause a lot of issues. Generally speaking, open applications in the background can cause glitches on the software level which may result in ghost touch issues. So clearing them is a solid first troubleshooting step.
Although in Android, the process may vary from device to device, the rule of thumb is to open the overview panel, either by pressing the overview button on the bottom right. If you have gesture navigation on, you can either swipe up from the bottom of your screen, hold and then release. If you have a two-button navigation you simply swipe up from the middle of your screen. After that, depending on your device, you either swipe up or press the "Close all" button.
To clear apps in iOS, you swipe up from the bottom of your screen and then using one, two, or three fingers, close the individual apps that appear on your screen.
If you're lucky, the problem for you is being caused by a screen protector that's got a tiny piece of dirt stuck behind it. The advice then is to remove it, clean your screen thoroughly and then replace the screen protector. Be sure, however, to replace it with a good-quality screen protector.
If you try to skimp on the quality, you may end up with screen protectors and tempered glass that are made of poor materials. These types of "protectors" cause more damage to your phone than save them from cracking. Basically, the poor quality of materials used on such screen protectors affects the touch sensitivity of the screen beneath it.
A more extreme position would be to avoid screen protectors altogether since most modern smartphones come with adequate scratch and fall protection thanks to better quality glass made by Corning (Gorilla Glass) or AGC (DragonTrail).
Especially with the popularity of edge screens, the actionable area in many smartphone screens now extends to the sides of the device. That not only can lead to unwanted touch detection issues caused by our hands, but also when a phone case is not properly installed, or worse, is dirty.
Similar to the screen protector's tip above, remove the phone case, clean it properly and then reinstall it on the phone after drying. Remember to take special care if the case has a special feature—like built-in magnets, battery, or other—before cleaning the accessory.
As simple (or outright stupid) as it may seem—before we move to more advanced troubleshooting methods, it is always best to try and thoroughly clean the display. To do this, take a slightly moist soft cloth and wipe the screen. Follow this step with a dry cloth and wipe it clean. It is actually a good practice to wipe your screen every couple of weeks to prevent any smudges or dust accumulation which could eventually lead to the dreaded ghost touch issue.
Before we move on to more advanced solutions like a factory reset or device disassembly I heavily recommend making sure that your device is running the latest version of its software whether it is iOS or Android. Assuming that you keep your device updated one last effort to resolve the problem is to reset all of your settings to default. This process is almost the same as a factory reset but automatically maintains your data.
On iOS navigate to Settings > General > Transfer or Reset iPhone > Reset and choose Reset All Settings. This will only reset your device settings and will not delete any of your files. Keep in mind that network settings will be cleared too, so you will manually need to reconnect your device to your Wi-Fi. The home screen layout and keyboard settings will also be reset.
On Android, you will have to do a safe factory reset that will sustain all your data but reset all other settings. To do that you go to your settings and search for "Back up and Restore" (usually located in Settings > About Phone) and from there you can choose where you want your backup to be stored: Locally on your phone or your computer or in a cloud. If you need more information on this process, read the linked articles below.
If none of the relatively simpler solutions worked for you, chances are high that your phone is suffering from more severe (i.e. actual) ghost touch problems. As such, your options aren't quite as straightforward.
This is because the cause can now be due to either a software issue or worse, a hardware problem.
To check if buggy software is behind the issue, the easiest method is to perform a factory reset of your phone. This will bring your phone back to its original factory settings. If the issue was caused by an unruly app or a biggy software update, chances are high a factory reset will solve it.
Warning: A factory reset will delete all your data. Please make sure you backup all your data before going ahead with this step
To know how to factory reset Android and iOS devices please take a look at our dedicated articles below
This step is definitely not recommended for the average smartphone user. For folks who have the technical know-how to perform this task, and if they have the right tools at their disposal, opening up the affected smartphone, disassembling it, and putting it back together could potentially fix the issue.
Many people (and indeed, a bunch of YouTube videos) suggest that taking the phone apart, disconnecting the screen from the data connectors, and reseating all of that has been enough to fix the problem for them.
You could, of course, pay a third-party repair shop to reseat your screen in the connectors for you to see if it fixes the problem, which would be cheaper than a whole new panel.
The unequivocally best way to fix a screen glitch problem is to return the device to the manufacturer, ideally under warranty for a replacement. When within warranty, many companies will offer a new device in exchange for the faulty one, though some may opt to replace the screen instead to try and resolve the issue.
Although this is a simple option, it's probably not the quickest unless you're walking into a store to hand it over for a new one. If your handset is out of warranty, you'd probably have to pay for repairs and a swap won't be offered.
As you might have realized by now, there could be multiple reasons that cause ghost touch issues. And you might have to perform a series of steps to really know what is causing it. In case the simper steps do not work for you, the more advanced methods (save for the factory reset options) are best performed by a trained technician.
This article was last updated in November 2022. Older comments have been retained.