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iPhone screen won't rotate? Here's how you can try to fix it

By default, assume the problem is with software, not hardware.
By
December 26, 2023

A critical function we don’t often think about with modern smartphones is the ability to flip to landscape mode and back. While vertical viewing is fine for things like the web and TikTok, it’s just plain cinematic heresy to watch movies and TV shows in anything but landscape. If your iPhone is refusing to rotate in either direction, here’s how you can fix it.

How to fix an iPhone screen that won’t rotate

iPhone 15 Pro with game open in hand
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

There are a couple of easy and potentially obvious solutions here, but others are less intuitive, and in rare cases there could actually be a hardware defect. Run through these troubleshooting steps in order — chances are there’s a software fix, and only once those are exhausted should you consider taking your iPhone into an Apple Store or third-party repair shop.

  1. Toggle off Orientation Lock in Control Center. Orientation Lock is meant to prevent unintended rotation if, say, you’re laying in bed, but it’s easy to leave on by accident. On most iPhones (meaning those with Face ID), swipe down over your iPhone’s battery indicator to open Control Center, then tap the padlock icon to toggle Orientation Lock. You’ll see a message telling you whether the feature is turning on or off. If you’re using an iPhone with a home button, you can access Control Center by swiping up from the bottom edge of your screen.
  2. Check that the app you’re using allows screen rotation. Some apps force you into portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) viewing out of necessity. Many games, for example, would be simply unplayable in portrait mode, since there wouldn’t be enough room for touch gestures, never mind things like spotting enemies. Other app developers force a particular mode out of preference, usually video-based apps. You can test whether the problem is app-related by switching to something you know works in the other aspect ratio.
  3. Try disabling Display Zoom. An iOS option called Display Zoom will enlarge the text and icons on your iPhone, something mostly useful on Plus- or Max-sized models. But it can also prevent screen rotation, and if so, you may have to decide whether or not to sacrifice readability. To disable Display Zoom, go to Settings > Display and Brightness > Display Zoom and choose Default.
  4. Check for iOS updates. If nothing’s helped so far, there’s a low but non-zero chance that an iOS bug is preventing rotation. Assuming new software is available, you can update your iPhone by going to Settings > General > Software Update. Since many people have a tendency to forget about iOS updates, this might be a good time to toggle on all of the options under Automatic Updates. Don’t worry — automatic installs will only happen when an iPhone is locked, charging, and connected to Wi-Fi, not while you’re in the middle of a phone call or watching YouTube.
  5. Check for app updates. Does it seem like rotation issues are limited to a particular app that normally allows both portrait and landscape views? You can update your iPhone apps by opening the App Store, selecting your profile icon in the top-right, then tapping Update All if new versions are available. If you want automatic updates in the future, go to Settings > App Store and flip on App Updates under Automatic Downloads. You may want to disable automatic downloads under Cellular Data if you don’t have an unlimited data plan.
  6. Restart your iPhone. When you suspect a bug but no iOS or app updates are out, there’s still the possibility that the glitch is only temporary, in which case you might be able to fix it with a restart. Rebooting an iPhone forces it to load caches and processes from scratch.
  7. Talk to Apple Support. While you could try a factory reset, that’s more likely to be inconvenient than helpful. Contact Apple Support. If they don’t have any immediate fixes to suggest, they should at least be able to direct you to a repair shop where your iPhone can be diagnosed and possibly fixed. Brace yourself — if there’s a fault with your iPhone’s accelerometer, the fix could be expensive if it’s out of warranty.