How To: Check your iPhone for dead/stuck pixels - Macenstein

How To: Check your iPhone for dead/stuck pixels

Posted by Dr. Macenstein

I was watching a certain Harry Potter movie last night on my iPhone, and since it is a particularly “dark” movie, I decided to turn my iPhone’s brightness all the way up. A couple minutes in, I noticed an annoying speck of “dust” on the screen, but try as I might, it would not come off. To my horror, I soon realized it was not a speck of dust at all, it was actually a “stuck” pixel.

A stuck pixel is one that is permanently in the “on” position, in my case, always a white-ish blue, and it is particularly noticeable when viewing dark content. I never noticed it surfing the web or e-mailing, but once I turned the brightness of the display all the way up and watched an almost entirely black movie, it became all too obvious, to the point where I began obsessing, and it was all I could see. After a few minutes of freaking out, I did a thorough check of the screen to see if I could find any others. Sure enough, there was one more on the opposite side.

Above: This is as good a shot as I could get of the first bad pixel. It looks red here, due to the flash, but in normal light appears white-ish blue.

Since it was still relatively early (7:30pm) I decided to call my local Apple Store and see if I could have them take a look, and (hopefully) exchange it for a new one. The guy on the phone said sure, and I raced to the store with visions of a brand new iPhone dancing in my rattled brain. Apparently, what they guy meant by “come on in tonight and we’ll see if we can swap it out” was “come on in and then we’ll tell you you have to make a Genius Bar appointment, even though you could have done that from home”. Oh well. I made one for this afternoon, and long-story-slightly-less-long, when I showed it to the Genius, he showed it to the head Genius, and they swapped it no hassle.

Above: This is horrible picture, but shows the relative location better. You can see it was relatively close to the middle of the screen, kind of hard to miss once you noticed it. In this photo the dust spec at the top left looks like more of a problem, but again, in normal lighting, the pixel becomes obvious. (At least once you are obsessed with it).

So, a quick word of warning to all you iPhone owners; do a quick test. The Geniuses at the Apple Store admitted at the moment there is no official “stuck pixel policy” for the iPhone as there is with the monitors and laptops, so if your iPhone does suffer from stuck pixels, now is the time to try to get a replacement. They also gave me the impression I was the first to bring in an iPhone for that reason, so this is likely not a widespread problem. However, as I said, I used mine for almost a week without noticing it. The pixels are quite small on the iPhone, and it is less noticeable at the default “half-brightness” setting.

I made a Stuck Pixel Test Page you can view with your iPod to test for both stuck (white) and dead (dark) pixels (yes, I was tempted to put one tiny white spec on it just to screw with you). Turn your iPod’s brightness to 100%, turn off Auto-Brightness, and scroll around (The black “shut down” screen with the spinning wheel also works for testing, but it goes dark relatively fast). It’s always better to find out something like this before the 14-day return period is up. You don’t want to get “stuck” with a stuck pixeled iPhone.

[UPDATE: I spoke with my colleague Michael Johnston over at iPhone Alley, and he mentioned he also had “a couple” stuck pixels on his iPhone, although he didn’t seem too broken up about it. Perhaps we will see this “stuck pixel” issue prove to be more than an isolated incident.]

[UPDATE 2: At the suggestion of faithful Macenstein reader Erik Kennedy over at Ars Technica, I added RED, BLUE, and GREEN screens to the pixel test page. Thanks Erik!]

43 Responses to “How To: Check your iPhone for dead/stuck pixels”
  1. Dave G says:

    AAARRRGHHHH!! Damn you! 🙂 Found 2 stuck on pixels on mine. Not sure if it’s enough to make me take it back though, those pixels are tiny. Eh, I have another week to decide.

  2. Stan Fan says:

    Yep, found 1 of the blueish-white variety, but it’s at the very bottom of the screen. Hardly noticeable since in most functions there is a menu bar there.
    Good to know where I stand, however.
    Is this a condition I should expect to get worse over the life of the device or is it a kind of one-time manufacturing error?

  3. Stan Fan,

    Honestly, I don’t know, and I was actually thinking the same thing. I don’t know whether I didn’t notice the stuck pixels during the first 8 days because I wasn’t viewing the iPhone at full brightness and with dark content, or because the stuck pixels weren’t THERE at first.

    I am going to keep my eyes open on this new phone, and see if in the coming weeks any stuck pixels occur. It seems to me dead pixels might be something a display ships with, but stuck pixels might get that way for whatever reason during use. I am now worried that perhaps the enemy iknew might be better than the unknown. Who knows if, where, and potentially how many stuck pixels my new phone might develop? It’s realy a matter of placement. If, like you say, my stuck pixels were off to the side, I could easily have ignored it. They weren’t all that bad. However, if something I pay $600 for breaks, I want to be the one to break it.

    I remember there being some utilities for LCD monitors that were designed to try to “unstick” stuck pixels by rapidly flashing through a series of different colored screens. Maybe Apple can design a similar app for the iPhone? There is a whole empty line for new apps, after all!

  4. Erik says:

    I had four dead pixels that at times looked more like bubbles in the glass, but as was the case for the author, a trip to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store got me a brand new one with no hassle.

  5. Mario says:

    none, zero, zilch

    I have actually had very good luck with having 0 dead pixels between my iphone, ibook g4, mac book pro and gateway tablet. i’ve tested them all and never found a single one

    also, just noticed, at work i use the smaller blue micro fiber cloth that comes in the iKlear cleaning kit you can get at the apple store, and the iphone will pickup you touching the screen through the cloth

    might be good to prevent smudges when you just looking to switch songs or check for new email

  6. matthew m. barnes says:

    i just checked mine and there are tons of the stuck ones. i mean… like 15 or more! i’m not sure what to do. they’re definitely there, but i had never even noticed them before. will they get worse? crap.

  7. dan baxter says:

    I actually had a red stuck pixel and took mine to the Apple store. The agreed to replace it but were all sold out. When I got home the stuck pixel went away and hasn’t come back in 3 days. I’m not sure what to do, but the problem seems to be gone for now.

  8. Danny says:

    I have just one that I can see. I never noticed it, and I’m not sure I ever would have if it wasn’t for this. My dilemma now is this: should I return it while i can, or should I keep it since I really have to look to notice it? Of course, now that it has been revealed, it is really bothering me. But it is so small, I think I can live with it. Any suggestions?

  9. Honestly, Danny, if it bothers you (like it did me) I would at least TRY to exchange it. You have nothing to lose, and reactivating my new phone was a lot easier than the first time.

    (I fully expect for AT&T to think I own 2 iPhones now, however).


    Oh, and please spread the word by “Digg”ing this if you found it helpful.

    -The Doc

  10. Jeff Edsell says:

    I had a stuck pixel about 3 days after buying mine — but it went away. Then a couple of days later I had 2, the same one and another one. I even restarted. I determined to take the phone to the Apple Store…then I picked up the phone a little later in the evening and the stuck pixels were gone.

    I’ve noticed the original stuck pixel once since then, but it went away again. It seems to appear after a lot of intense usage, and go away after the phone is left alone for awhile. (Heat perhaps?)

  11. Bill Mac says:

    No stuck pixels here, or my eyesight is bad enough that I cant see them… so they wouldn’t bother me anyways. 🙂

    After the test I almost forgot to reset my brightness levels, which I think would tend to eat up the battery faster. So you might want to remind your readers to do so after they are done with your test. 🙂

  12. John says:

    Two stuck pixels here – of the blue/white variety. They’re not very noticeable under normal use, but I haven’t tried a movie yet. I’m still debating taking it back. I wonder, though, wouldn’t this be covered under the one year warranty instead of the 14-day return policy? I’d think it would technically be a manufacturing defect.

  13. John, it may very well be. However, Apple may officially decide that it takes 3 dead pixels to warrant an exchange, and then you would be out of luck. The point here is since the iPhone is in its infancy, Apple has not yet told its Geniuses what warrants a return/exchange, so if you are on the fence, I say try it now while the Geniuses are left to their own devices. If they say no, and Apple eventually comes up with a 2 p[ixel policy, then you are covered.

    It’s up to you.

    -The Doc

  14. Vern says:

    Wow. I have three stuck pixels. And no Apple store nearby. I’ll take it to the AT&T store where I bought it and if I don’t have luck there, I’ll give Apple a call.

  15. Mathyou says:

    I don’t have any dead pixels but I have a small spot that tends to brighter than normal. Only is visible on white backgrounds…. I’m trying to use it as way of helping control my slight OCD lol. Maybe I should swap it out? lol If it gets worse i will more than likely visit the store…

  16. Nick says:

    I had a couple stuck pixels in the “original” iPhone I picked up on the 29th. Noticed them right away. I called on Saturday, made a Genius bar appointment for Sunday. On the phone, they told me something about “they need to look at it to determine if it was a defect”. Sure enough, they looked at it, and swapped it out for a new one. No problems on my new iPhone, I am a happy customer.

  17. Hemant says:

    Damn you, I found a dead pixel I prolly wouldnt have ever noticed! Dont think I wanna return it though, I’ll prolly be buying the next iPhone v2.0 which should come out within a year for sure.

  18. Dizzy D says:


  19. Anonymous says:

    Try massaging out the stuck pixels. I had a green one that came back a few times after I massaged it out. It hasn’t come back in about a week now.

  20. Koolio says:

    Thanks for the test page. I’m glad to report that I don’t have any stuck pixels. 🙂

  21. JirachiRob says:

    NONE! But it’s kind of hard to tell with all those little gray dots in a grid formation everywhere.

  22. wtf says:

    holy crap i have at least 6 or 7 of them. off to the apple store at lunch today!

  23. Danny says:

    Well, I took mine back today for 1 stuck pixel. I can report that Apple is replacing mine. No questions asked. He said, “I don’t have any in stock, but I can get one for you.” To which I replied, “great!” So, I have a new iPhone coming my way for 1 stuck pixel. Go figure…

  24. Vern says:

    For what it’s worth, I called yesterday and the associate that I got on the phone said the policy is 7 pixels. It’s probably a case of calling back to get a different associate to get a different answer. Or maybe the Apple Care call-line has the policy but the individual stores haven’t gotten it yet.

  25. Andrew Cornett says:

    I noticed 3 a few days ago and went to the apple store. They too took mine in the back for about 30 minutes and came out with a brand new one already activated and everything. I just had to re-sync with iTunes and everything (including settings) was back to normal. Thanks Apple. Now I’ve just noticed another one! Just one. And its right above the ‘U’ in ‘Slide to Unlock’. Am I being too picky? I’m making an appointment just to ask. It doesn’t hurt, and it’s still within the 14 days. I’d really like to be one of the people without stuck pixels.

  26. CJ says:

    I have a dead pixel right in the middle of my iPhone. 🙁

  27. Nick says:

    I’ve got a bright red one right in the middle of the screen. Had mine 3 days.

  28. Mike says:

    If a monitor manufacturer of 1680×1050 TFT monitor has policy to replace the monitor in case of five stucked pixels during warranty period, what should Apple’s policy about stuced pixels be to have as good service as that monitor manufacturer?

  29. Kevin says:

    I had two stuck pixels on my last 2nd iPhone. Got my 3rd day and was disappointed to see that there was still one stuck one but luckily it wasn’t in the middle of the screen like the other two were.

    Oh well, this is my 3rd iPhone and the geniuses told me this was my last exchange and it would be a $60 restocking fee if I wanted another one.

  30. Mike says:

    Apple policy: only two swaps a customer, even there is a clear HW fault? Seems, that those geniuses thinks, that your usage pattern is to blame, not the product.

    Is Apple in the path of destroying the iBrand?

  31. Andrew says:

    I would fight that. I’m on my 4th. I confirmed with a store manager that as long as you’re within the 14 days and there’s a problem you can exchange. No question. You have the right to a perfect product. She said the iPhone is in a “growing pains” stage and they’re doing everything they can to make customers happy. Any exchange is pretty much ok. She even offered to give me a full refund with no restocking fee. The genius told me when I got my 3rd that I couldn’t exchange without the fee. But I didn’t exactly agree with that and the iPhone I got had a dead pixel right in the center. Instead of going to a genius I asked to see the manager. I explained my case. My first iPhone had 3 ‘stuck’ pixels, the 2nd had only one, and now my 3rd has one DEAD one right in the center. Now I have my 4th one and I’m happy. She said if I find one on this iPhone I could come straight to her and exchange for another. And she told the genius that some customers will be more pixel-picky than others. And we have to make them happy. Hope that helps.

  32. Nick says:

    When reading this and the other iPhone threads the only conclusion can be, that iPhone can not be the only reason, Apple’s stock has risen from 90$ mark to 134$ (+48.9%) in the last three months.

  33. Alan says:

    I think each IPhone have stuck pixels and a lot. In fact, depending the brightness and the display position you will notice visible stuck pixels or not, but if you look closer, very closer with a magnifier, you’ll see hundreds of bright red, blue our green defects. Some are bigger. The stuck pixels you see are just more visible. Anyway, it’s my 2nd iPhone, and I think to exchange it again, but the next can be worse…this is the problem. In fact, I bet with people that exchange their iPhone and are happy now without bad pixel to look again and closer (with a magnifier). What do you see ? Let us know.

  34. paul says:

    it’s just next to impossible to get a perfect high resolution screen as they continue to pack more pixels and colors into a smaller space….

    pretty soon, there will be a new word for fear of dead pixels in Webster’s Third.

  35. Jon says:

    Thank God I found this site. I actually discovered a dead pixel on my iPhone the minute I turned it on, it was clearly noticeable in dark situations. I went to get it exchanged and took it straight to the cashier. She acknowledged a dead pixel and pointed me to one of the Geniuses to do the SIM swap-out. The Geniuses at Apple are f*cktards. They tried their best to talk me out of an exchange. One denied seeing the pixel when he did a “test” (he loaded a white webpage with words on it) HOW the hell are you supposed see one that way? He kept asking where it was until I literally shoved the phone 2 inches away from his face to point it out.

    Another Genius told me that his iPhone even has dead pixels and that it was “normal in technology”.

    I put my foot down and demanded for a new phone. They did a swap and everything was settled in about 35 minutes. Don’t let the Geniuses talk you out of an exchange. They’ll be rude and condescending, but remember you have the right. If not demand to see a manager and create a scene if you have to. It’s your hard earned money.

  36. Anonymous says:

    You guys are nuts. When I have an all black screen I can see some whitish microdots, about 5 of them or so. But who cares? Are you holding this thing in front of your face on a black screen all the time? I think you are all overreacting. I bet anyone who says they have no frozen pixels is full of crap. Like the other guy said, check with a magnifiying glass.

  37. Lennon Aldort says:

    I just checked my iPhone on the shutting down black screen, and I saw maybe 10 white-ish specs here and there. But you can’t see them when you’re doing anything but staring at a black screen! Like the last poster said.

    I have a different problem though. There is a white speck of dust right ABOVE the top of the screen. It’s not a dead or stuck pixel because it’s there even when the phone is off. It must be a real speck of dust that got caught underneath the glass somehow. Any ideas on how to remove it?

  38. Eric says:

    I found one dead pixel. My phone is unlocked and I use it with TMobile. Will the apple store have a problem with that when I take the phone into them?

  39. mark says:

    I had noticed a dead pixel or two before but now I see a bunch.mine are all green and red for the most part.I also some how got a scatch right in the middle of the screen. I barely notice the dead pixels but that scratch posses me off. Yeah I cant wait to exchange my itouch!

  40. Dan says:

    I just returned my iphone from christmas which had like 10 dead pixels…and my new one has one right in the middle of my screen. bad luck…

  41. MarkM-D says:

    Hi guys.

    I hope this helps any if you who are having trouble getting rid of dead pixels.

    This is by no means a quick job nor am I to blame of you crack your screen.
    I had dropped my iPhone and had around sixty dead pixels in the bottom right had corner. I thought that I would be able to just make do as most of them were hidden by the menu button. This lasted a day. I then thought well if its an LCD display then maybe I can unstick them. So I have been doing this for 30 minutes and removed around thirty of them. As I said it takes time. If you have a couple then it won’t take too long.

    Ok how to do it. First turn on your iPhone so you can see it, then rub hard with your finger so the screen starts to show signs of stress. I.e. You start to make the screen turn colour. As you rub the screen it starts to free the pixels. But be warned you can make dead pixels as well as remove them. So don’t do it just for the fun of it. You can get rid of these pixels from your beloved iPhone and have many a happy memory watching your full display once more.

    I hope it works for you


  42. Peter says:

    mark you are a genius. It worked. I had one stuck pixel and rubbed on it and it went back to normal.

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