Help! The sun is shining! Why can't I see my smartphone screen? (2023)

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The sun is shining, the sunglasses are out. You go to Insta that perfect picture and … wait … you can't see a thing on your smartphone display!?!

It's not necessarily the phone that's at fault, but it could be how it behaves with your expensive polarising sunglasses.

Polarising lenses on glasses are popular because they reduce the glare, or reflected light, coming off surfaces. They are particularly useful for skiers or drivers for reducing eyestrain, and pretty common on good quality sunglasses.

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However, mobile device displays also contain polarising filters and it's the alignment of display and glasses that causes the problem. At a particular orientation, the visual part of the display can be extinguished, leaving you looking at a black surface, as all the light is filtered out.

Or, in some cases, you'll find everything dims and looks purple, or has a diffracted coloured shimmer to it.

This varies from device to device, and you can easily experiment with your own device - be that smartphone, tablet, or even your laptop - just by holding your polarised glasses out in front and rotating them. At some point, it will just black out.

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Help! The sun is shining! Why can't I see my smartphone screen? (1)

The MacBook Air, for example, extinguishes at 45 degrees, an angle that's unlikely to be problematic when using a laptop.

Your giant TV probably extinguishes when viewed in a portrait orientation, again, not likely to be a problem unless you're lying down watching in sunglasses (does that ever happen?).

For smartphones it's a bigger problem, because they are designed to be used in both orientations, landscape and portrait, for example when taking photos.

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Some phones, such the Samsung Galaxy S21+, unfortunately tend to dim drastically in landscape when viewed through polarised glasses - exactly at the angle you might want it for taking photos. You can cock your head, or hold it at and angle to get round that, but it's hardly convenient. Amusingly, Samsung's cheaper Galaxy A52 5G doesn't suffer the same problem.

Many phones, however, remain visible in both orientations. You might sometimes see a shimmer, but nothing like the blackout you get elsewhere.

Be aware that it's not only polarisation that causes problems on a sunny day: the display has to have the power to remain visible in brighter conditions, so always remember to try turning the brightness up before you start swearing.

One of the things that can stop this happening is power saving modes. Usually the first target for saving power is to reduce the display brightness, and a reluctance to increase brightness so aggressively in bright conditions. If you're at a summer festival for the day, you'll want power saving, but you'll also want to see those photos you're sharing, so it's a lose-lose situation.

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The moral of the story is this: if you have a penchant for polarised sunglasses, be warned, your favourite phone might not like them so much.

And before you ask, most Ray-Ban glasses aren't polarised, unless you've specifically bought polarised lenses (they'll have a P on the front, like in the image below).

Help! The sun is shining! Why can't I see my smartphone screen? (2)

That's because aviators aren't just designed for good looks, they're designed to ensure that pilots can see the instruments in the cockpit - and yes, those instruments have polarising filters, so aviator glasses do not. Most Ray-Ban aviators will be fine with your phone.


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How do I make my screen more visible in the sun? ›

Adjust and Increase Brightness Settings

By increasing the monitor's brightness, you'll be able to see the screen more clearly, especially when working under direct sunlight. There is one catch, though! Make sure to check the computer battery often, as increased brightness uses more power and rapidly drains the battery.

How can I see my cell phone screen in the sun? ›

Go to settings , then brightness, then enable auto brightness and it will adjust according to the environment. How do I see my mobile phone's screen in bright sunlight? Increase the phone's screen brightness to the max.

Why does the sun make it hard to see your screen? ›

Reflection is the major reason it is difficult to read a phone screen in bright sunlight, as the strong light reflecting off the screen's surface washes out the display.

How do I make my iPhone screen more visible in the sun? ›

Go to Settings > Display & Brightness. Turn on Automatic, then tap Options. Select either Sunset to Sunrise or Custom Schedule.

How do I reduce sun glare on my screen? ›

Sit in the Shade

Glare occurs because light strikes your laptop's screen and bounces off of it, so moving to a shady area can help to reduce the amount of light that turns into glare. Even if you don't have any shade, sometimes just changing the angle at which you use your computer can help, as well.

Why can't I see my phone screen? ›

Plug in phone, wait five minutes, and then try to do a Force Restart. This ensure the phone has enough power to restart, and restarting could clear any errors that might be affecting the screen. If possible, remove the battery, wait 30 seconds or more, and then reinstall the battery and start your phone.

How can I reduce sun glare on my phone? ›

How to protect your eyes from smartphone screen glare
  1. Apply blue light filter.
  2. Stick to moderate brightness.
  3. Use special screen protectors.
  4. Keep distance.
Aug 15, 2017

Why is my iPhone hard to see in sunlight? ›

What you more than likely are experiencing is something called True Tone, which adjusts both the color and intensity of the display based on the available light in the environment. Check out the "Turn True Tone on or off" section of Adjust the screen brightness and color on iPhone for steps to do that.

Why can't I see my iPhone screen outside? ›

Try Settings > Accessibility > Display & Text Size > Auto-Brightness = “off”.

How long does it take for the sun to expose a screen? ›

Once you see it darken considerably it has been should only take 2-3 minutes depending on how strong the sun it. If it is overcast it may take a few more minutes.

How do I see my screen in bright sunlight? ›

How to use your phone in bright sunlight
  1. INCREASE BRIGHTNESS. The brighter you can make your screen, the better you'll be able to see it in sunlight. ...
Jan 3, 2018

Can I expose my screen in the sun? ›

The best time to expose a screen using the sun is at noon on a sunny day. You'll get the most concentrated sunlight at that time. Make sure that you choose a sunny day to expose your screens, or you'll get disappointing results. Check the UV index on your weather app to coordinate the best days to expose your screens.


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