iPads go black in portrait mode with polarized sunglasses

iPads go black in portrait mode with polarized sunglasses

Summary: The iPad isn't compatible with polarized sunglasses in portrait view. The good news is that it doesn't matter unless your a movie star -- or Corey Hart.


Maui Jim Back Rock sunglasses - Jason O'Grady

I recently noticed that my iPad 3 goes completely black when viewed in portrait mode when wearing polarized sunglasses. (I have an affinity for Maui Jim sunglasses because of their legendary polarization).

DisplayMate's Ray Soneira tells me that this phenomenon is a result of the "extinction" that is set by the manufacturer -- and that it's been the case with all iPads. Surprisingly, Apple addresses it in the iPhone (see the video below) and most of the other tablet OEMs have overcome this (admittedly trivial) shortcoming.

Using polarized sunglasses all iPads go black in Portrait mode. Other displays go black in Landscape mode. Much better is for the manufacturer to set the extinction at 45 degrees so the display looks good in both Portrait and Landscape modes. The Motorola Xoom behaves this way. Best of all, with compensating films this effect can go away almost entirely.

The iPhone 4 and Samsung Galaxy Tab have no extinction at any angle (just a small color shift). The effect should only apply to LCDs because they use polarized light internally. So OLEDs also should not show any such extinction effect.

The Nokia Lumia 900 behaves this way, which is very nice, but the Samsung Galaxy S has a surprising 45 degree extinction. Of course all of this should only matter outdoors, although movie stars and other people also wear sunglasses indoors, so be careful...

I agree with DisplayMate's Ray Soneira (author of the excellent iPad Display technology Shoot-Out) Apple should have set the iPad's extinction to 45 degrees or used compensating films to eliminate it entirely.

Summer is coming, after all...

Here's a demo video of it in action:

Update: Some additional technical details from Soneira - IPS LCDs can only be set for either Landscape or Portrait Extinction. All other LCD technologies can have any extinction angle desired, of which 45 degrees is the best. The best solution of all is a compensating film (technically a Quarter Wave Plate) that turns the Linearly Polarized light from the LCD into Circularly Polarized light. That is what the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 has.

Topics: Hardware, iPad, Mobility, Smartphones

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  • Didn't know this

    Good to know if I can ever find a decent way to view it outside.
    • Agree; this news is like "You can not see black cat in an unlit room"

      Totally pointless until tablet screens will be able to have contrast and brightness under sun strong enough for user to have sunglasses on.
      • Actually.

        I'm sitting by the pool reading my ipad(3rd gen) by the pool while wearing my hobies. The combination of polarized glasses and the new screen make it very readable. However it was hilarious to read this then turn it to potrait. Poof everything is gone. Lol
      • Transformer Prime IPS+ screen

        With the IPS+ setting turned on you can easily read the Transformer Prime outside. The Prime's screen is rated at 600nits. The new iPad is round 350 or so.
  • Should be you're, not your...

    [quote]"The good news is that it doesn???t matter unless [u]your[/u] a movie star ??? or Corey Hart."[/quote]

    Should be you're, not your. :)
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    • Sniff, sniff, sniff...........what's that smell?

      Ahah! SPAM!!!!
  • It is hyperbole

    I have polarized glasses and it is not completely black, just very dark but if you tilt your head slightly you can then see the screen perfectly again.
    • So you're now viewing it wrong too...

      in addition to holding it wrong so you don't experience the heating or viewing problems? Priceless. LOL!
      • What is priceless

        is the fact that your pathetic hatred for Apple is so strong that you find this even worth posting about. Guess living in Grandma's basement this is a none issue for you since you won't need sunglasses right?
  • Other polarized displays.

    This happens with other devices as well - like the displays on gas pumps, store debit/credit card readers, anything with a LCD display. Annoying but not a deal breaker.
    • Agree

      Here is one suggestion for a ZDNet test: Try watching anything on an HDTV (LCD or plasma) or even a monitor with polarized glasses and then let us know the results.
      • You're awfully forgiving

        ...considering they could have done the 45-degree trick or used compensating films like many other devices (Xoom, Focus, to name two), it's nice of you not to complain. As for your suggestion, I'm curious how often you watch HDTVs outside, where sunglasses are more likely to be on your face.
      • Forgiving?

        @ scH4MMER

        I read this more like an humorous article. Read it again, movie stars are supposed to be wearing polarized sunglasses even indoors. Whether movie stars watch HDTVs or prefer projectors, I don't know.. might be the case. Otherwise, you know, they would force those poor HDTV manufacturers to correct the thing ASAP -- that is, invent new technology that is of course, perfect -- it doesn't have to be any cheap, because everyone knows movie stars have polarized sunglasses (that they wear indoors) AND lots of money.

        I only wonder, if Soniera told Jason that any ISP LCD is going to have this issue, why this is news. I am also surprised to learn that Jason just now discovered this .. phenomenon and.. thanks to "poor" Apple design, of course. :)

        Come to think, there could be no progress or knowledge if it was not Apple to make such gross omissions..

        PS: Ever considered that putting a film, any film over the LCD seriously degrades it's resolution? And.. putting a film on the Retina Display will make it effectively useless.

        @ scH4MMER, seriously, they can't do the "45-degree trick" because this display uses IPS and .. see above on the 'magical' film. Theory is one thing, practice is another.
      • Are you watching your HDTV outside?

        Because that's the point. This is a mobile device meant to be used outside too. Why don't you compare it to other tablets and let us know the results.
      • @scH4MMER

        Not being forgiving, it's just a non issue. Think about it, we have had the iPad for two years and this is the first we are hearing about it. Apparently it has not been an issue. By the way, I do frequent many place both commercial and private that have HDTVs outside.
    • How many things need to be wrong...

      with this device before it's a deal breaker? Just one more problematic issue to add to the ever growing list.

      If you had the same number of issues with any other tablet, most rational people would be returning it and getting their money back, but not Apple apologists apparently. Pathetic.
      • Poor little mrxxxman

        I feel so bad for you. Do you lay awake at night crying because none of what you think are deal breakers with the iPad have any affect on sales? Does it keep you up at night that the vast majority of tablet buyer prefer something that you hate? Does it comfort you to pretend that all Apple product owners are fanboys or apologists so they can't help themselves? As irritating as it is to constantly see your Apple bashing drivel I do truly pity you. I hope that someday you can grow to be a level headed individual that can go out into the world and actually enjoy life but until then save us all from your drivel and just go away.
  • n/m

  • Happens on iPad 1 too

    Happens on my iPad 1st generation too. Surprisingly, the screen goes blank at times, while not at others, with the same polarized spectacles - in sunlight. I will have to experiment - will report my findings :-)