iPhone XS Max Oscillating brightness on XS Max

UpperDude

macrumors newbie
Original poster
May 24, 2018
13
1
San Francisco
Hi there!

I tried to find a post about exactly what I experience with my iPhone XS Max, but I am not sure the related posts are about the very same issue.

Besides issues with flickering screens on several conditions, what I can't fix no matter what I do is a kind of oscillating brightness on the screen when I'm laying in bed at night, all lights off.

It's a subtle, but noticeable, increase and decrease in the perception of brightness, like a pulsating backilight, which of course can't be, since it's an OLED screen. It never stops, that's why I call it "oscillating".

I tried most combinations of enable/disable Auto-brighness, Reduce White Point, Night Shift and True Tone and the issue remains.

If I had to guess, I'd say it's either a malfunctioning sensor that controls brightness regardless of the Auto-brightness settings, or that at very low levels of brighness the screen can't achieve a stable level of light emission and the eye is sensible enough to notice it.

Anyone has the same issue with their iPhone? Thoughts? Fixable via software updates?

Cheers!
 
Last edited:

Puonti

macrumors 6502a
Mar 14, 2011
863
388
Out of curiosity, does this happen if you're sitting, not laying down, in some other dark room?
 

UpperDude

macrumors newbie
Original poster
May 24, 2018
13
1
San Francisco
Out of curiosity, does this happen if you're sitting, not laying down, in some other dark room?
I haven't really tried, but I will.

It did cross my mind that perhaps the reflection of the screen light in my eyes could somewhat be strong enough to mess with some sensor.

Sitting instead of laying down would have an effect on the acelerometers. What's your hypothesis?
 

Newtons Apple

Suspended
Mar 12, 2014
22,759
15,219
Jacksonville, Florida
I am thinking you are pushing the screen brightness level so far down that it is having a problem. If it does not do this at higher light levels, I would not worry too much about it.
 

Puonti

macrumors 6502a
Mar 14, 2011
863
388
I haven't really tried, but I will.

It did cross my mind that perhaps the reflection of the screen light in my eyes could somewhat be strong enough to mess with some sensor.

Sitting instead of laying down would have an effect on the acelerometers. What's your hypothesis?
It's a hunch that there's somethingreflective confusing the phone's sensors in that particular spot, as you had suspected. Just a theory. It's usually good to check behavior in different locations.
 

UpperDude

macrumors newbie
Original poster
May 24, 2018
13
1
San Francisco
I am thinking you are pushing the screen brightness level so far down that it is having a problem. If it does not do this at higher light levels, I would not worry too much about it.
I would have thought this too, if it weren't for the fact that this issue started with auto-brightness enabled, and wouldn't stop even increasing the brightness manually by a large amount.
Unless this is an OLED-technology issue, I don't think there's a reason for a dim screen to pulsate. Many people must be using their iPhones in complete darkness.
I'm not *that* worried, but if this is a hardware issue, I would rather know it and consider my –limited– options.
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It's a hunch that there's somethingreflective confusing the phone's sensors in that particular spot, as you had suspected. Just a theory. It's usually good to check behavior in different locations.
I'm thinking the same, although I don't know why would it do this when auto-brightness is disabled. Perharps, the sensor still plays a part in the brightness control even with that particular setting disabled?

Tonight, I will try a few more dark places to see what happens. I tried covering the sensors with my finger to no avail last night.
I read on other threads that people discussing screen flickering issues had some success when installing the latest beta firmware.
Having an iPhone X that absolutely doesn't have this issue, the OLED-limitations hypothesis is a weak one for this problem with the iPhone XS Max.
 

UpperDude

macrumors newbie
Original poster
May 24, 2018
13
1
San Francisco
Some more info to add to this issue: I've updated to iOS 12.1.2 a few minutes ago. It didn't make any change at all.
I've also tried to check if holding the phone from different angles, different levels of darkness or different distances from my face would change something, but it didn't.

Unless I've got a defective unit, which of course could very well be the case, there's something not right with the brightness levels when using the phone in dark places. I can clearly see the brightness oscillating up and down, as if the OLED controller couldn't stay on one particular level of brightness once it's below some threshold.

I have no idea if this issue is related to the more popular one about the screen flickering, or the one about PWM, or the one about sudden brightness changes or the one about the True Tone issues.
 

UpperDude

macrumors newbie
Original poster
May 24, 2018
13
1
San Francisco
The plot thickens: I had the chance to get another XS Max, bought on California, different build week. I set it up and, sure enough, still has the brightness issue, exactly like my other iPhone XS Max. My wife, however, couldn't see the flickering even when looking for it in a completly dark room.

So, here are my thoughts on this:

1) This could be an OLED-technology limitation issue that:
a) some people can detect it and others can't.
b) it affects the iPhone XS Max, and not the iPhone X (since I have one and it sure doesn't have this issue at all).

2) This could be a manufacturing issue that still is not solved, but:
a) some people can detect it and other can't.
b) it affects the iPhone XS Max, but unsure if it's also present on the regular XS (since I don't have one to test).
c) won't be fixed because there's some limitation that can't be overcome.

3) This could be a software issue that:
a) is not fixed yet on the lastest firmware 12.1.2.
b) it won't be fixed because the quantity of people sensitive to it is just to low.

I'm kinda surprised to see that there's not much about this issue at all. I guess those who are sensitive to this oscillating brightness are just too few, because a lot of people use their iPhones at night in bed, and they should be talking about this annoying feeling of an auto-brightness setting going nuts.
 

Newtons Apple

Suspended
Mar 12, 2014
22,759
15,219
Jacksonville, Florida
I guess the saga will continue. I can not remember pushing my brightness all the way as low as it will go so I would never see this. Sounds like most others can not see it either or we would have more threads on this.
 
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