The Pixel Watch is a first-generation wearable and some are experiencing what they think is screen “burn-in”, but Google tells us that’s just image preservation.
In my case, the “burn-in” affected a Pixel Watch (Bluetooth/Wi-Fi) that had been in use for five days – Wednesday through Monday – with Always On Display (AOD) enabled for at least 12 hours per day. You can dimly see the stacked numbers for the “Everyday” watch face and the right circular complication slot (for the date) in the apps menu, or any other gray background that’s not completely black.
[Note: The problem is more pronounced when looking at the zoomed-out photos below.]
This issue goes away after another 30 minutes or so if the AOD is turned off. However, it comes back as soon as the watch face appears again. The Pixel Watch has a 320 pixels per inch AMOLED display that provides a “brightness boost of up to 1,000 nits,” and adaptive brightness is enabled on the affected watch.
Other similar reports of this have surfaced, although this issue has not appeared on another Pixel Watch of ours which sees similar usage patterns and settings.
According to Google, permanent screen burn-in does not occur on the Pixel Watch, and image retention, a temporary issue, does occur instead. The company insists that this is “not a precursor to the explosion” and that it will disappear over time, although “the longer it appears on screen, the longer it takes to disappear”.
In terms of protection, the Pixel Watch has a “software algorithm to change the brightness of the lit pixels every minute to reduce the possibility of image retention.” Google says “the majority of users should not experience this”.
This extends the time before you see the image retention and reduces the time for the image to disappear. If users encounter it, it will disappear over time, but users can also turn off the AOD and/or use the sleep time mode to sleep so that the screen stays off all night. “
Historically, Android Wear and Wear OS have offered screen burn protections that gradually change pixels on the screen over a period of time so that the end user doesn’t notice them:
On screens prone to burn-in, solid color blocks in ambient mode should be avoided. If your icons or images contain solid blocks of color, you should also provide a copy-safe copy.
Pixel phones have not experienced the widespread burn-in associated with AOD since the functionality was introduced with the Pixel 2 and 2 XL in 2017. For comparison, the Apple Watch waited five generations (Series 5) to implement an always-on display.
Google’s full statement to us is below:
What you see is image retention. It is a non-permanent problem that affects OLED screens. It is not a precursor to combustion and should not be confused with combustion. The image retention feature will disappear, but the longer it is on the screen, the longer it will take for it to disappear. Google Pixel Watch uses a software algorithm to shift the brightness of lit pixels every minute to reduce the possibility of image retention. This extends the time before you see the image retention and reduces the time for the image to disappear. If users experience this, it will disappear over time, but users can also turn off the AOD and/or use bedtime mode to sleep so that the screen stays off all night.
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