iPhone XS True Tone: how to get rid of the yellow hue

iPhone XS True Tone: how to get rid of the yellow hue
True Tone is a toggle-able feature, which Apple first introduced with the iPad Pro 9.7, back in 2016. Since then, it has rolled out for different iPhone models and even the latest MacBook Pros.

Basically, with True Tone on, your device will use its sensors to analyze the ambient light around you. Then, it will do minor adjustments to its display's color and whitepoint calibration, making for a more natural viewing experience.

And we have enjoyed True Tone a lot — both on the iPad Pros and the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, it looks great and we much prefer to keep it on. However, with the iPhone X, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max, True Tone gives the screen a very prominent, yellow-ish hue. It doesn't do nearly as good of a job as older models and, in fact, looks more like Night Shift (the feature that makes your display look warmer past-sundown). Still, on the iPhone XR, which is also a new generation iPhone model, True Tone looks as good as ever.

So, what gives?

Now, we are not Apple engineers or anything, but we can do some speculating and educated guessing. As you probably have heard, the new age iPhones — iPhone X, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max — are Apple's first handsets to have an OLED screen, as opposed to the LCD panels it used before. More specifically, Samsung-made OLED screens, and — even more specifically — Diamond PenTile matrix OLED panels. The iPhone XR, on the other hand, still uses LCD technology (Liquid Retina, Apple calls it).

Why is this important?

In classic LCD screens, a single pixel is made up of three sub-pixels — one red, one green, and one blue (RGB, eh?). Each pixel achieves its target color by combining the lights from its three sub-pixels.

The Diamond PenTile OLED panel doesn't have your classic RGB pixels. Instead, it's entirely covered by sub-pixels, spread across in a diagonal, diamond-shaped pattern. And, most importantly, their order goes red-green-blue-green (RGBG).

In other words:

There are a lot more green subpixels than typical

So, it's safe to say it might take Apple a while to nail the whitepoint as good as it did with the old LCD panels. Especially when it comes to a feature like True Tone that's supposed to dynamically calibrate colors on the fly. It actually took Samsung some time with its own phones, too, as its displays used to be too cold, then too greenish, and then started to hit the sweet spot around the Galaxy Note 5 era.

But let's get back to why we are here in the first place — can you make the True Tone setting on your iPhone X, iPhone XS, or iPhone XS Max actually look good?

Well yes, you can.

It does require a steady finger, an optional reference monitor, and the willingness to tinker. What we are going to do is we are going to activate a color filter from the phone's settings and tune it to our liking. Here goes:

First, make sure True Tone is on. You can do that either by going into Settings → Display, or simply by force-touching the brightness bar in the control center. Now that we've got that yellowy goodness on, let's see what we can do to fix it up.

Go into Settings → General → Accessibility → Display Accommodations → Color Filters

This menu is originally intended to add accessibility options for users that suffer from color blindness. However, check out the bottom-most option — the one called Color Tint. This allows you to apply a color filter over your display and adjust its intensity.

Naturally, we will keep the Intensity slider all the way down to 0. Then, we need to find the right Hue setting.

It helps to have a reference screen nearby — a computer monitor or another phone, which you trust for being a bit more accurate. If you are using one, open up a page with a white background on the reference monitor, and compare it to the whites on the iPhone you are currently tweaking while moving the Hue bar around.

The sweet spot for us is shown in the screenshots below — on both the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, it's near the right edge of the home bar. The yellow colors are subdued and give way to some blues with a hint of magenta.

Now, if you turn True Tone off, you will be greeted by an unpleasantly cold and blue-ish display. However, keep the feature on at all times and it'll balance itself out with your new color filter.



1. baldilocks

Posts: 1547; Member since: Dec 14, 2008

True Tone is garbage. It's the first thing I disable on these new iPhones.

4. midan

Posts: 3212; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

How long u used it? Did you use it like a day or turn it off right away because you saw how yellow the screen became?

5. baldilocks

Posts: 1547; Member since: Dec 14, 2008

I tried to live with it and love it, but it's not for me. I disabled that and auto brightness. Perfect.

2. libra89

Posts: 2335; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

I'll give this a try, thanks!

3. midan

Posts: 3212; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

it's very difficult to calibrate the screen because eyes adjust so fast. If i do what you did my screen looks blue and lifeless, but if i use your settings for one day and switch back tomorrow my settings propably look yellow. I remember when i first time put night shift on it made my screen so yellow, nowdays i don't notice hardly any difference because i've got used to it. Same when i tried True Tone first time, so yellow. After using it while it just makes the screen alive and when you turn it off you see what difference it makes, screen becomes lifeless and cold and it just doesn't fit to surroundings. It looks like it doesn't belong here. When everything else around you is affected by light and the screen isn't. When you have true tone on and you throw some papers around the phone or something white they just fit together.

6. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1485; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

You just buy into all the marketing BS Apple shoves in your face, don't you?

7. midan

Posts: 3212; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

Someone got salty :D What marketing BS? That's Exactly what it does. Make your screen look more natural and blend in better with the world.

8. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1485; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

Except it does nothing of the sort, it just makes things look weird and unnatural.

9. midan

Posts: 3212; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

First search from Google "After a few days with it on, it just looks dumb with trutone off. With trutone on it feels like it’s part of the room I’m in, with it off there is a weird ‘cardboard cutout’ feeling to it, like it’s been photoshopped into reality." Exactly what i said with different words. Yes it really does ;)

10. midan

Posts: 3212; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

This is propably what you mean "Looks horrifyingly yellow at first but that’s from a lifetime of staring at bluish computer displays. Whenever I use a True Tone device and then switch to a non-True Tone device it makes me appreciate the yellowish tint—especially since I work with a lot paper so picking up the iPhone X looks great versus the MacBook. "This It only looks yellow at first, but after a day or two, it looks amazing (to me), and I can’t imagine going back. It really does look true to life." It looks unnatural yellow because you have always watched something else. I can say it also that it looked ridiculous yellow that i didn't expect starting to use it. Strangely i stopped seeing the yellow and it's only light warm hue nowdays and it looks like paper on table. It still isn't for Everyone, but that's what it does

11. cmdacos

Posts: 4381; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

There's nothing more unnatural then a piss yellow screen.

12. deanylev

Posts: 234; Member since: Mar 11, 2014

Awesome article, it actually works really well!

13. Vancetastic

Posts: 1862; Member since: May 17, 2017

I tried this, and it made my eyes hurt!

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