May 20, 2023 at 5:57 p.m. PST
- You can calibrate your iPhone’s screen by adjusting touch duration, True Tone, Color Filters, and many other settings.
- Apple calibrates the iPhone’s touchscreen and colors to suit most individuals.
- Some may prefer different screen settings than Apple’s defaults.
- After replacing an iPhone’s screen, some users find it necessary to use the Color Filter setting in Accessibility to improve the display’s quality.
This Guide Is for Beginners
Whether you’ve used an iPhone for years or just started last week, this guide will help you get the most out of your smartphone’s display. You won’t need to download apps or sign up for services. Just follow the simple directions in this tutorial to improve your iPhone’s touch response, brightness, tone, and even add color filters to suit your preferences.
Even if you’re not a newbie, this guide presents valuable information. Apple’s improvements to customization, particularly regarding its high-end display technology, are worth reviewing.
This tutorial is still helpful even if you don’t have the newest iPhone model. Although Apple’s newest Pro models feature the most advanced screens, you can still alter settings to improve screen quality on an older iPhone. I also keep an old iPhone 6 around to research and support users with older models, even though I own the latest, greatest iPhone 14 Pro Max,
You don’t have to be a genius to calibrate your iPhone’s screen. Let’s look at all of the iPhone’s screen calibration options and what they mean in detail. Each section will cover a specific setting, along with recommendations.
How to Adjust Your iPhone’s Touch Response
Although the iPhone wasn’t the first touch-screen device, it’s the first one that people really cared about. Apart from a microwave, ATM, or gas pump, it’s the first touch screen many people have ever used.
If you find it hard to imagine what an iPhone would be like without a touch screen, just look at the Blackberry. Without Steve Jobs’ vision realized, that may have been the favored design. In fact, many celebrities and tech pundits panned the iPhone’s keyboard as unusable, preferring their Blackberry. All of these people now use iPhones.
Touch screens are now a widespread reality. Everything from smartwatches to notebook computers offer touch screens. You can even see TV news personalities manipulating massive touch screens, often to manipulate the public.
The good news is that you have some control over your iPhone’s touchscreen. For example, if you’re accidentally tapping on icons and buttons, you can increase the duration for tap detection. For those who lack the dexterity to tap an icon or control only once, it’s possible to ignore repeated taps. Let’s look at how to do this.
First, open the Settings app and tap Accessibility > Touch > Touch Accommodations. From here, adjust settings such as Hold Duration and Ignore Repeat to prevent accidental touches.
Hold Duration is the duration one must hold a finger down on an object or control before an event fires. If you lack manual dexterity and accidentally tap on UI elements, turning this on and adjusting the duration to a higher threshold will help reduce accidental taps.
Ignore Repeat is another feature aimed at reducing accidental touches. It sets a duration for how long a second touch is recognized. If your hands are shakey due to a disability, stress, or frigid weather, you may accidentally tap icons or controls multiple times. This setting will only recognize a second tap or touch after a certain period.
Both settings enable users to set precise timings down to tenths of seconds. It’s impossible to recommend specific settings for anyone. You’ll need to experiment with different values until you find the sweet spot.
It’s important to understand that none of these features work unless you turn on Touch Accomodations. It’s at the top of the screen. The text below this control claims you can toggle Touch Accomodations by triple-clicking the side button. This is false. You can only turn off Touch Accomodations this way. If it’s not on, triple-clicking the side button launches Apple Pay. That’s definitely a bug. Oops!
Calibrating Light Mode and Dark Mode
The Display & Brightness Settings screen provides essential display controls for your iPhone. You can access this screen by tapping on Settings > Display & Brightness.
The first setting on this screen is Light and Dark mode. These modes refer to the overall look of your iPhone’s screens. If you prefer white and light-gray screens with dark text, select Light. For those who like dark screens with light text, choose Dark.
Light and Dark modes aren’t just about aesthetics. Very bright screens can interrupt sleep at night or disturb others in a dark location, such as a movie theater. Also, a bright screen can look washed out in sunlight, making it difficult to read. If that’s not enough, bright, white screens use more battery power. Research shows that Dark mode conserves energy by as much as 42%.
I use Dark mode on my iPhone 14 Pro Max for these reasons. I recommend Dark mode to everyone because it will prolong your iPhone battery’s lifespan and reduce power consumption, which is good for the environment. Dark mode always looks good, whether it’s daytime or night.
If you enjoy Light mode, then by all means, use it. The Automatic setting displays Light mode from sunrise to sunset, with Dark mode used at night.
Adjusting Text Size and Bold Text
The next group of display settings regulates the text for iOS and most applications. If an app uses images for text, it will have no effect. Developers can also override a user’s preference for text size and boldness, but for the most part, apps will abide by these settings.
Tapping on Text Size takes you to a screen with a slider and an example sentence that grows or shrinks as you adjust the control. As previously mentioned, not all apps will support this setting. The developer may opt out of Dynamic Type for good reason. Some apps can’t tolerate massive layout shifts from dynamic font sizes.
Most should opt for the default middle setting. While researching this article, I set it for the largest font size, which I like for now. It’s different. It’s like the iPhone 14 Pro Max Fisher-Price edition. If you ever need to read your iPhone from a distance, just set Text Size all the way to the right.
There’s also some use for extremely tiny text. You can fit more information on an iPhone screen. Working in the Valley for years, I’ve noticed that some software engineers love small text. It’s also a great way to make your iPhone more private. If the text is minuscule, people won’t be able to read your text messages or emails over your shoulder.
As with all things Apple, neither extreme is too much. Apple constricts the range from the smallest font size to the largest, so it’s usable. Other tech companies seem to allow users to change settings to absurd extremes. It’s like their product managers went out for a three-martini lunch, allowing overcaffeinated engineers to make those decisions.
Bold Text does precisely what it should. It makes all of the text in iOS and most apps thicker and easier to read. I always turn this setting on because it makes the text more legible on any display.
Brightness is a complicated subject. By default, Apple controls this aspect of your screen. You can turn Auto-Brightness off, but you probably won’t want to do this. Apple is so sure that they buried the setting in another screen because most customers benefit from this feature.
Unlike a TV or computer, your iPhone is a very mobile device. People often use it while walking or riding in a bus, car, train, or airplane. In these environments, lighting conditions change constantly.
You could be outside, and it suddenly becomes cloudy. That happens a lot in San Francisco. The light changes again if you’re on a train and it goes into a tunnel.
Given the reality of the iPhone’s mobility, allowing iOS control over brightness makes sense. It eliminates the need to fiddle with brightness controls constantly. Automatic brightness will make your iPhone experience much better.
The only reason I disable this feature is if I need to keep my iPhone unlocked for an extended time. For example, if I’m downloading a large file, I will often set Auto-Lock to Never. I do this to preserve battery life and prevent screen burn-in.
If you’ve ever turned your iPhone’s brightness down all the way, you may notice it will creep up on its own within a few minutes. That’s Apple’s Auto-Brigthness feature. For some reason, it doesn’t like to be turned down all the way. In these cases, I disable it altogether.
To temporarily or permanently (not recommended) turn off Auto-Brightness, first tap on Settings > Accessibility > Display & Text Size. Apple stashed a collection of useful iPhone display calibration settings on this screen. Scroll down to the bottom to turn off the Auto-Brightness switch. I recommend turning it back on and using manual brightness controls only for rare situations, such as when you need to keep your iPhone unlocked.
Of course, you can still manually adjust the brightness on your iPhone, even with Auto-Brightness activated. The Brightness slider controls your preference for screen illumination. iOS will alter this as ambient lighting conditions change in the moment.
Control Center is the best way to go if you wish to change brightness settings quickly. Simply swipe down from the top right corner of your iPhone to reveal Control Center. Then use your finger to adjust the slider.
Try holding your finger down on the brightness slider to display an expanded control with additional features. This user interface allows you to toggle Dark/Light modes, Night Shift, and True Tone, in addition to fine-tuning brightness.
We’ll cover True Tone and Night Shift in the next sections. Both advanced technologies help you get the most out of your iPhone’s display. We’ll also recap Auto-Brightness later in the article, focusing on other aspects of the feature.
Turn on True Tone
True Tone is another intelligent and amazing feature that justifies the high price of an iPhone. No matter where you take your iPhone, the display will constantly adjust to keep colors consistent as you move through life.
Your iPhone features a sensor to detect colors and ambient light intensity. True Tone takes this data as inputs and adjusts colors and their intensities, keeping them consistent no matter where you are.
True Tone is especially useful outdoors or in environments with large windows. Apple’s display management feature will make a bigger difference in Light mode, as it impacts different shades of white more than any other color.
You should turn on True Tone whether you’re using Dark or Light mode because it will improve white point and colors in photos, videos, and other displayed media.
Features like True Tone are why you pay big bucks for an iPhone. They even added a dedicated sensor for this feature, so turn it on and leave it on!
Night Shift Isn’t For Everyone
Night Shift is a product that Apple “Sherlocked” from a third-party developer. The term “Sherlocking” refers to stealing ideas from third-party developers and placing them into other software (such as iOS) without compensation or credit. Since Apple has a massive team of lawyers, third-party developers seldom bother to pursue the matter.
Such is the case of f.lux. Developed by a husband and wife team, the app allows users to control the color temperature of their smartphone’s display and even schedule it.
The point of controlling color temperature is to avoid exposure to blue light, which stimulates wakefulness in the brain. If you’re about to sleep and start using your iPhone, a specific slice of the light spectrum could make slumber difficult. f.lux enables users to attenuate sleep-interfering light spectra, preventing alertness and wakefulness at night or whenever they schedule it.
Apple ended up creating a similar feature called Night Shift. They eventually banned f.lux because it relied on private application programming interfaces to function. Apple only allows developers to use public APIs.
From the perspective of its developers, it must be frustrating to have your idea and product ripped off by a major corporation. If that’s not enough, Apple banned the original version.
Aside from the abuse of corporate power, Night Shift is beneficial for many people. I don’t use it because I dislike warm display colors. I prefer bright and crisp visuals all the time. I stop using my iPhone if I intend to go to sleep.
If your career has you answering emails and text messages at all hours of the night, Night Shift is useful. The science behind it is valid and solid. I turned it off because I sometimes need to work at night, and it makes me tired. If you’re fatigued at the end of a busy day, a little blue light won’t interfere with sleep.
Tap on the Night Shift label to adjust its settings. You can schedule it or turn it on until tomorrow. There’s even a slider to change the color temperature.
If Night Shift is getting in the way and you’d like to turn it off quickly, swipe on the top-right corner of your iPhone screen to reveal Control Center. Hold your finger on the brightness slider. A new user interface will pop up, along with a button to toggle Night Shift.
Night Shift really works, and you should use it if you have trouble sleeping. It’s a shame that Apple treated its originators harshly, but we can’t do much about it. All big tech companies have ripped off third-party developers at one time or another. If you let this influence tech purchasing decisions, you’ll have to use paper and pen because they all Sherlock.
Compared to the abuses in other industries, it’s small potatoes, but the least Big Tech could do is compensate the developers. They could make them whole for a few million dollars, which is nothing to Apple and all the other massive technology corporations. Doing so would encourage developers to create operating system tools that could be Sherlocked. It wouldn’t be a tragedy but a reward for all, including Big Tech corporations. But they can’t see past the next quarter, so the abuse will continue.
Auto-Lock Saves Battery Life and Improves Security
The next setting, Auto-Lock, has been around for a long time. Auto-Lock enables you to set the duration your iPhone remains open when idle. For example, if you set Auto-Lock to one minute, your iPhone will secure itself after you place it down for a minute.
iOS is fairly sophisticated. If you have a modern-day iPhone, it will stay unlocked while you’re reading or watching a video, even if you set Auto-Lock to one minute or less. Videos in full-screen mode remain open, and typically, even smaller videos defy Auto-Lock. But when you’re reading something, your iPhone’s front sensors will detect your presence and attention, keeping your device unlocked. That’s pretty cool!
Auto-Lock serves two purposes: preserving battery life and enhancing security. It may also prevent screen burn-in, but that’s rare these days. Auto-Lock saves battery power by turning off the screen or deferring to the Always On Display on the newest iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max models. It enhances security by locking your iPhone if you forget to do it yourself.
Of course, there are valid reasons to set Auto-Lock to Never. I sometimes need to run batch jobs to enhance the speed of websites. I often run these on my iPhone. The process stops if the screen locks. To keep the screen open, I set Auto-Lock to Never.
You must be very careful about setting Auto-Lock to Never. I usually turn down brightness all the way to preserve battery life and prevent screen burn-in, should I forget to lock my phone after its work is complete. If you set Auto-Lock to Never and leave your iPhone on a static screen with the brightness turned up, you could permanently burn an image into the display.
Some iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max users complain about screen burn-in with the Always-On Display, which continuously shows wallpaper and information on the Lock screen. I haven’t experienced this myself, and I use the Always-On Display. It may be their choice of wallpapers. I use the weather wallpaper, which changes constantly throughout the day.
The AOD wallpaper may burn into the screen over time if it’s static. I’ve seen images of this, but it’s impossible to say if they’re real and, if so, how big of a problem it is.
Raise to Wake is Obnoxious
Raise to Wake is one of the more obnoxious features that’s turned on by default the first time you purchase an iPhone with Face ID. The good news is once you turn it off, Apple will migrate this preference to all future models.
My main objection to Raise to Wake is that it makes it difficult to move your iPhone anywhere. It seems to interpret a wide array of movements as “raising.” When I got my first Face ID iPhone, I accidentally launched apps and faced all sorts of confusion due to this feature.
Raise to Wake also uses a lot of battery power. It will constantly run Face ID scans whenever you move your iPhone. This ends up using a fair amount of battery power.
I think many people have this setting on and assume it’s how their iPhone works. They may not like it, but they put up with it.
The good news is that you can turn off this heavy-handed feature. Tap on Settings > Display & Brightness and turn off Raise to Wake. Instead of raising your phone to wake it, simply tap on the screen. You’ll notice this prevents unnecessary activity and accidental touches.
Always On Display Is Useful
Apple didn’t invent the Always On Display. Android phones have had this technology and 120Hz (or greater) display refresh rates for a few years before Apple.
Part of this issue is the supply chain. Since Apple sells hundreds of millions of iPhone models yearly, obtaining cutting-edge displays in these quantities is impossible, especially with competitors like Samsung edging them out of some components. Apple must wait for manufacturers to develop a higher manufacturing capacity of new, cutting-edge parts before incorporating them into an iPhone.
Regardless of who was first, the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max now have advanced screens capable of displaying information, even when locked. Variable refresh rate display controllers are critical to any always-on display. They can slow the refresh rate to 1 Hz, allowing the screen to display wallpapers, widgets, and other information, without draining the battery.
iOS also dims the AOD to save battery life. It’s just bright enough to read, with sensors adjusting illumination based on ambient lighting conditions.
I love my iPhone 14 Pro Max’s Always On Display. Instead of unlocking my iPhone, with a quick glance, I can find out the time, temperature, air quality, and weather conditions, thanks to Apple’s excellent weather wallpaper. You won’t need an alarm clock if you have an AOD. Just put your iPhone on your nightstand, and you can check the time (and more) without unlocking your device.
Some iPhone users complain of screen burn-in with the AOD. I’m not convinced, but it is theoretically possible. If this concerns you, try using the weather wallpaper or forgo a background altogether. Apple’s innovative weather wallpaper constantly changes throughout the day, displaying weather conditions and shifts in illumination. I’ve been using it since I got my iPhone 14 Pro Max, and I can’t see any evidence of screen burn-in.
When you drill down into Always On Display settings, you’ll see there’s not much to choose from. You can turn the feature on or off. You can toggle showing wallpaper and notifications. If you really want to alter the Always On Display, It’s best to do this from Settings > Wallpaper or by invoking customization tools directly on the home screen.
Apple’s new Always On Display is a subject that deserves more depth. Fortunately, Appledystopia has an entire article about the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max AOD. For more information, please read “How to Use Your iPhone’s Always-On Display.”
Display Zoom Great for Larger iPhone Models
If you have trouble reading small text, the Display Zoom setting in iOS can help. Unlike text size, Display Zoom will also increase the size of controls. If you have large or fat fingers and face difficulties interacting with the user interface, Display Zoom may help. It can also help those who have trouble reading small text but don’t want to wear reading glasses to use a smartphone.
There’s not a lot to this feature. It makes everything a little larger, which is more beneficial on large-screen iPhones like the iPhone 14 Pro Max and iPhone 14 Plus. You can either switch on Larger Text or leave it at Default.
Personally, I stuck with Default because I like having more information on the screen. The consequence of Larger Text is that it makes everything bigger, forcing you to scroll more.
Advanced Screen Calibration
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s look at the more advanced options iOS offers for screen calibration. Don’t worry. They’re not complicated concepts. It’s more that they’re advanced because they go beyond what most users need.
These screen calibration settings tend to be more powerful and can have sweeping changes over the look and feel of your iPhone. Of course, you won’t damage your iPhone if you calibrate the screen with these settings. They’re all reversible. At worst, your iPhone’s display will temporarily appear strange or ugly.
You can access the settings covered in the following sections by tapping Settings > Accessibility > Display & Text Size. These controls tend to be more radical and powerful than the ones under the Display & Brightness section. Because these are Accessibility settings available to improve usability, often for people with disabilities, they allow you more control than standard iOS settings.
We don’t cover all of the settings under Display & Text Size because they don’t all pertain to screen calibration. For example, the Button Shapes feature adds underlining to clickable text within iOS. It may be handy for some, but it has little to do with calibrating your iPhone’s screen, so we omit it.
Bold Text is the Same Setting as Display & Brightness
It’s a bit odd, but Apple duplicated settings for Bold Text. Since we already covered this topic early on, explaining it further is unnecessary. It makes text bolder across iOS. For more information, refer to the “Adjusting Text Size and Bold Text” section above.
Larger Text to the Extreme
Unlike Bold Text, the Larger Text feature is based on the same control in Display & Brightness settings, but it’s not an exact copy. Apple added the ability to enlarge text to a greater extreme to accommodate users with disabilities. It’s also helpful to anyone who needs to view their iPhone from a distance.
Tap on Settings > Accessibility > Display & Text Size > Larger Text to access the controls. When you turn on “Larger Accessibility Sizes,” the slider presents a larger scale on the right, enabling users to view super large text on their iPhone.
Remember that this feature only works with apps supporting Dynamic Text. iOS and most Apple apps support this technology, but some third-party vendors might not. For example, a complex game might not implement Dynamic Text because differing text sizes could compromise core functionality. If the text is so big that it covers the game and makes it unplayable, developers will likely opt out of supporting Dynamic Text.
The largest extreme of Dynamic Text actually resembles many mobile websites. As big as the text can get, it’s still usable. But once you open a browser window, you’ll see smaller text again.
Reduce Transparency Saves Battery Power and Speeds Up Your iPhone
As iOS becomes more sophisticated, it tasks your iPhone with rendering more complex graphics. Transparency is an illusion. It’s a GPU-intensive task of merging different layers of graphics to generate the appearance of transparency.
The transparent and translucent panels in iOS look cool, but they’re not essential. For some visually impaired people, they cause problems. In all cases, they use more processing power and therefore drain the battery faster.
Although Apple’s Reduce Transparency feature controls your screen, it also influences the efficiency of your iPhone. Consider turning this switch on if your older iPhone is sluggish and draining fast. It will improve your iPhone’s performance while preserving battery life.
The difference isn’t dramatic, but it matters over time. It may add another 10-30 minutes of usage per charge to your iPhone. Transparency and translucency look cool, but if they slow down your iPhone and drain its battery, it’s best to limit the feature.
As with many iOS features, this only promises to reduce transparency, not eliminate it. After all, third-party developers may implement transparent or translucent user interfaces in their apps that don’t abide by these settings.
Increase Contrast For Better Daytime Viewing and Legibility
Apple tucked away one of the most helpful display settings under Accessibility. You can transform your iPhone with one switch, making it easier to view in daylight and bright indoor lighting conditions, such as in an office.
When you flip this switch, the change happens instantly. It looks so much better that I wonder why it’s not on by default or at least presented to the end-user outside of Accessibility settings.
This setting is new to me, but I love it. It really makes colors pop. For example, Messages’ light blue text bubble is darker, making the text much brighter in contrast. These changes are throughout iOS, and once you activate Increase Contrast, you probably won’t go back.
Smart and Classic Invert Reverse Display Colors
People with visual disabilities often find it difficult to see specific colors. For this reason, Apple makes it easy to invert colors. Inverting colors transforms white into black and vice versa if you’re in Dark Mode. It’s akin to a photo negative.
With iOS 16, Apple gives us two ways to invert color. Smart Invert reverses screen colors, except for media assets and apps that require dark shades. Classic Invert inverts colors no matter what.
You probably won’t use these settings much at all. For the average person, they’re more like special effects. Nonetheless, since they alter the screen significantly, it warrants their inclusion.
Color Filters Are Remarkably Powerful
For many, screen calibration means the ability to control colors. If this is you, you’ve come to the right place. In this next section, we’ll cover iOS’s most powerful screen calibration tools.
Since Apple designed Accessibility features for people with disabilities, Color Filters offer presets for various sensory perception issues. If you suffer from Protanopia, Deuteranopia, or Tritanopia, simply switch on Color Filters and select the preset that best addresses your condition.
Of course, anyone is free to use Color Filters. If you’re some Joe or Josephine Hollywood type that believes they can do better than Apple with colors, have at it. Unfortunately, you don’t have as much control as with other systems.
If you want a customized Color Filter, tap on Color Tint and adjust the two sliders below. You can use the different color panels at the top for reference.
As you can see, even Apple’s most powerful screen calibration feature is limited. This is because Apple engineers and technicians work hard to deliver the best color out of the box.
If you don’t believe this, compare a live channel on a cable TV box to one on Apple TV. Use the same channel for comparison. You’ll see that Apple TV will offer better colors and improved overall screen calibration than any cable box on the same television.
Reduce White Point Makes Daytime Use Difficult
Playing around with this feature, I wonder why anyone would use it. In my research, bright white seems to irritate some. Reducing white point supposedly helps with eye strain. If this is the case, reducing white point will attenuate all bright colors.
You could also turn down screen brightness and save battery power, but reducing bright point is slightly different. It has more of an impact on bright colors.
The problem is that an iPhone is mobile, and its display needs to work in all environments. Reducing white point tends to look washed out in bright rooms or with outdoor daytime usage. It may actually increase eye strain in some situations.
Auto-Brightness Makes Life Easier
As I’ve mentioned a few times in this article, an iPhone is a mobile device. People take and use their smartphones everywhere. For this reason, iOS is constantly adjusting the display to suit the environment. Auto-Brightness is one of a few features that actively control your screen as you navigate through life.
Auto-Brightness will also conserve battery power. For example, if you crank up brightness all the way and your outdoors, Auto-Brightness will automatically darken your screen when you walk into a darker interior space. As far as your eyes and brain are concerned, the screen brightness remains the same. But Apple adjusts it so it always works best for the end user.
If you turn off Auto-Brightness in the above scenario, your iPhone’s screen will be uncomfortably bright when you walk into a darker area. It may even cause eye strain and give you a headache. I’ve made a few iPhone screen changes while writing this and other articles that have made my head hurt and made me feel dizzy. If you turn off Auto-Brightness, your iPhone can be so bright that it could make you feel unwell.
I occasionally turn off Auto-Brightness when running batch jobs on websites or downloading large files onto my iPhone. Internet service in the SF Bay Area is substandard, so I often need to download large files on my iPhone and “sneakernet” them over to one of my computers. Welcome to 2023. I’m hoping all of this clever AI can figure out how to deliver reliable Internet access, but more likely, it’s hyped.
When your iPhone locks, it will often shut down downloads or batch processes requiring an open screen. So I use Auto-Brightness in conjunction with Auto-Lock set to “Never.” I turn on both of these settings, start my download or batch job, then slide brightness all the way down. With Auto-Brightness deactivated, brightness stays down. When it’s on, it will always gradually nudge its way up. I’ve even seen the brightness slider move on its own.
If you need to keep your iPhone’s screen dim, turn off Auto-Brightness. Other than this, it’s a killer feature you should always use. Thanks to excellent hardware sensors and top-notch software, it’s done better on an iPhone than any other smartphone. Auto-Brightness may seem like a small thing, but it’s one of the reasons you pay the big bucks for an iPhone.
Many iPhone Screen Calibration Options
Apple often garners criticism over its inflexibility and lack of customization. As you can see, users have excellent control over their iPhone screen. It’s far more than my Sony flat-screen TV offers, and a TV is all about the display.
Over time, Apple will continue to update iOS, adding more screen calibration features for your iPhone. Appledystopia will update this article to cover any future screen calibration technologies included in iOS.