How to Solve iPhone-Induced Motion Sickness

Turn off the parallax effect for some relief

ios 7 motion sickess
Avoid iPhone motion sickness with this setting. image credit Lisa Noble Photography/Moment/Getty Images

Last Updated: May 18, 2015

When it released iOS 7, Apple introduced a radical redesign of the visual appearance of the operating system that powers the iPhone. Gone was skeuomorphism, the practice of making digital interfaces mirror physical ones (think of how lots of Apple products used to look like they had leather or metal in them), replaced by a "flat" look. That new look was maintained and refined in iOS 8.

Some people are thrilled by the iOS's look (others are much less happy with the change. Some are even searching for ways to downgrade). Some users, though, are having an unusual—and uncomfortable—experience due to the new iOS: motion sickness.

You wouldn't necessarily think that looking at your smartphone or tablet's screen could induce motion sickness, but thanks to some of the design changes, that's what's happening

The Causes: Motion and Parallax

One major change introduced in the early versions of iOS 7 is that it has much more motion and animation than previous versions of the iOS. This begins with simply unlocking your device. In the past, waking up your device brought you right to your home screen. In iOS 7, you still go to your home screen, but, by default, all of your app icons zoom onto the screen as if they're coming from somewhere else. This zooming effect is one reported cause of motion sickness.

The other cause is something much more subtle, but potentially more serious: parallax. To see the parallax effect, take an iPhone (or another device) running iOS 7 or 8 and look very closely at the app icons. Then tilt the iPhone back and forth and side to side without moving your head. You'll see that the background wallpaper and the app icons seem to move independently of each other as if they were on two different layers within the screen.

This sense of independent layers of motion is what's called a parallax effect. It is also a cause of motion sickness in some people. 

Resolving iOS 7 Motion Sickness

If you're affected by motion sickness when using your iOS device, I have mostly good news, depending on the version of the iOS you're running.

In early versions of iOS 7, Apple did not provide a way for users to turn off the icon zooming effect that appears when waking up devices. Later versions of iOS 7 and all versions of iOS 8, however, have those features disabled, so if they're causing a problem for you, just upgrade to iOS 8 and you should feel better.

If the parallax effect is the cause of your problems, you can solve that problem pretty easily: turn on the Reduce Motion setting. To do that:

  • Tap the Settings app
  • Tap General
  • Tap Accessibility
  • Tap Reduce Motion
  • Move the slider to On/green.

This turns off the parallax effect and prevents your apps and wallpaper from moving independently of each other. If you're experiencing motion sickness when using your iOS device, simply reducing motion may not resolve all of your symptoms, but hopefully, it can provide some relief.

Besides cutting down on motion sickness, another big benefit of reducing motion is that it prolongs battery life, something that's always important on new versions of the iOS.