How to Stop Your iPhone Screen From Rotating

Image of an iPhone with a horizontal screen

Every iPhone user has had this annoying experience: You're holding your iPhone at just the wrong angle and the screen flips its orientation, making you lose your place in what you were doing. This can particularly be a problem if you're using your iPhone while lying down.

Why the iPhone Screen Rotates

Unwanted screen rotation can be annoying, but it's actually caused by a useful feature. One of the coolest aspects of the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad is that they're smart enough to know how you're holding them and rotate the screen to match. They do this using the accelerometer and gyroscope sensors built into the devices. These are the same sensors that let you control games by moving the device and helping in giving you accurate directions in the Maps app.

If you hold the devices sideways (in what's called landscape mode), the screen flips to match that orientation. The same is true when you hold the phone upright (also called portrait mode). This can be useful for viewing a website in a way that makes it easier to read or for viewing a full-screen video.

How to Prevent the iPhone Screen From Rotating (iOS 7 and Up)

But what if you don't want the screen to rotate when you change the device's positioning? Then you need to use the screen rotation lock feature built into the iOS. Because this is a feature of the OS, this tip applies to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch). Here's what to do:

  1. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen (or swipe down from the top right on iPhone X and later) to reveal the Control Center.

  2. The location of the screen rotation lock depends on what version of the iOS you're running. In iOS 11 and up, it's on the left, just under the first group of buttons. In iOS 7-10, it's on the top right. Whatever version you have, look for the icon that shows a lock with a curved arrow around it.

  3. Tap the rotation lock icon to lock the screen to its current position. You'll know screen rotation lock is enabled when the icon is highlighted in white (iOS 7-9) or red (iOS 10-11).

  4. When you're done, click the Home button or swipe down Control Center (or swipe up, on iPhone X and later) to be returned to the app you were in or to the home screen.

Not all apps support screen rotation. Some apps only work in portrait or landscape mode. You'll find that this is particularly true of some games and video apps. For those apps, your screen rotation settings don't matter. The app will only only display in the orientation it supports.

How to Turn Off iPhone Screen Rotation

If your iPhone won't rotate when you want it to, you need to turn screen rotation lock off by following these steps:

  1. Open Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of the screen (or swiping down from the top right on iPhone X and newer).

  2. Tap the screen rotation lock button a second time, so that the white or red highlight disappears. You'll also see a message at the top of the screen about the rotation lock status.

    Three iOS screens showing rotation lock button in Control Center in ON and OFF states
  3. Close Control Center by clicking the home button or swiping down the Control Center (or swiping up, on iPhone X and later).

Is your iPhone screen not rotating even though rotation lock is turned off? Learn how to fix it in My iPhone Screen Won't Rotate. How Do I Fix It?

How to Disable iPhone Screen Rotation (iOS 4-6)

You can lock iPhone screen rotation on earlier versions of the iOS. But on iOS 4-6, the steps are slightly different:

  1. Quickly double-click the Home button to bring up the multitasking bar at the bottom of the screen.

  2. Swipe left to the right until you can't swipe anymore. This reveals music playback controls and the screen rotation lock icon at the far left.

  3. Tap the screen rotation lock icon to enable the feature (a lock appears in the icon to indicate that it's on). Disable the lock by tapping the icon a second time.

How to Know If Rotation Lock Is Enabled

In iOS 7 and up, you can see that screen rotation lock is turned on by opening Control Center (or by trying to rotate your device), but there's a quicker way: the icon bar at the top of the iPhone screen. To check if rotation lock is enabled, look at the top your screen, next to the battery icon. If rotation lock is on, you'll see the rotation lock icon — the lock with the curved arrow — to the left of the battery icon. If you don't see that icon, rotation lock is off.

The rotation lock icon is hidden from the home screen on the iPhone X, XS, and XR. On those models, it's only shown when Control Center is open. It's in the top right corner there.

Another Option For Enabling Rotation Lock?

The steps listed above are currently the only way to lock or unlock the screen orientation — but there was once another option.

In early beta versions of iOS 9, Apple added a feature that allowed the user to choose whether the ringer switch on the side of the iPhone would mute the ringer or lock the screen orientation. This feature has been available on the iPad for years, but this was the first time it appeared on the iPhone.

When iOS 9 was officially released, the feature had been removed. The addition and removal of features during beta development and testing aren't unusual for Apple, but this was disappointing to some people. While the feature didn't come back in iOS 10, 11, or 12, it wouldn't be too surprising to see it return in a later version.