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 the (unintended) result of 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 accordingly. 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.

If you hold the devices sideways (aka, in landscape mode), the screen flips to fit that orientation. The same is true when you hold the phone upright. 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)

Screenshots showing how to lock the screen orientation on an iPhone

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. Here's how:

  1. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen (or swipe down from the top right on iPhone X) 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. For all versions, just 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 the Control Center (or swipe up, on iPhone X) to be returned to your previously used app or home screen.
Screenshots showing how to remove the screen orientation lock on an iPhone

To turn screen rotation lock off:

  1. Open Control Center by Swiping up from the bottom of the screen (or swiping down from the top right on iPhone X).
  2. Tap the screen rotation lock button a second time, so that the white or red highlight disappears.
  3. Close Control Center by clicking the home button or swiping down the Control Center (or swiping up, on iPhone X).

Disabling Screen Rotation (iOS 4-6)

The steps for locking screen rotation in iOS 4-6 are slightly different:

  1. 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 enabled 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—displayed to the left of the battery icon. If you don't see that icon, rotation lock is off.

This icon is hidden from the home screen on iPhone X. On that model, it's only shown on the Control Center screen. 

Another Option For Enabling Rotation Lock?

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

In early beta versions of iOS 9, Apple added a feature that allowed the user to decide whether the ringer switch on the side of the iPhone should 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. While it didn't come back in iOS 10 or 11, It also wouldn't be too surprising to see it return in a later version.