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Don’t Worry, Your Pixel Watch Has “Image Retention,” Not “Burn-In”

Okaaaay ...

An illustration of a Pixel Watch with burn-in.
Google (Modified)

The Pixel Watch is finally arriving at customers’ doorsteps. But some of these early buyers are encountering a strange problem—and it looks a lot like burn-in. When its always-on display is enabled, small bits of images and text refuse to disappear from the Pixel Watch’s screen.

As you may know, OLED displays don’t rely on a backlight. They contain a bunch of independently-controlled organic LEDs. This provides an increased sense of contrast, as an OLED display will only illuminate the pixels needed to create an image.

But these organic LEDs slowly degrade with use. And unfortunately, they may degrade unevenly when a static image (such as a watch face) is displayed for too long. This effect, called burn-in, leaves a ghost image on an OLED display.

Early reports indicate that the Pixel Watch, which uses an OLED display, suffers from burn-in very quickly. But Google says that the Pixel Watch doesn’t suffer from burn-in. In a conversation with 9to5Google, it calls the problem “image retention.”

What you are seeing is image retention. It is a non-permanent issue that affects OLED displays. It is not a precursor to burn-in and should not be confused with burn-in. The image retention will go away but the longer it is on the screen the longer it will take to go away.

According to Google, you can clear “image retention” from the Pixel Watch by disabling its always-on display. This is a “non-permanent issue,” and it is “not a precursor to burn-in.”

Google’s description of this problem is correct. You can clear “ghost images” from the Pixel Watch by disabling the always-on display and waiting a few minutes or hours.

But the idea that this problem won’t lead to OLED burn-in, which is more accurately described as “permanent image retention,” is questionable. And the fact that some customers haven’t run into this problem (Google admits as much) is also worrying.

Most modern OLED displays, especially those that are intended to show static images, use a ton of fancy tricks to avoid burn-in or image retention. They automatically refresh their display panel, for instance, or gently shift pixels around the screen. So, we’re not sure why the Pixel Watch has this “image retention” problem.

I suggest disabling the Pixel Watch’s always-on display for the time being. We’ll probably learn more about this problem as customers continue to complain.

Google Pixel Watch - Android Smartwatch with Fitbit Activity Tracking - Heart Rate Tracking Watch - Matte Black Stainless Steel case with Obsidian Active band - LTE

The Pixel Watch features Fitbit integration with an array of sensors to track your sleep, heart rate, and exercise. It runs on the Wear OS 3 platform and offers a hands-free control with Google Assistant.

Source: Google via 9to5Google

Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew is the News Editor for Review Geek, where he covers breaking stories and manages the news team. He joined Life Savvy Media as a freelance writer in 2018 and has experience in a number of topics, including mobile hardware, audio, and IoT. Read Full Bio »