A widely circulating theory on the official OnePlus forums, Reddit’s /r/OnePlus, and our very own forums is now confirmed: OnePlus mounted the display panel upside-down on the OnePlus 5. While we have yet to directly link the display panel orientation as the cause of the odd jelly scrolling behavior some users have been encountering, the two appear to be undeniably correlated. In this article, we will attempt to summarize the jelly scrolling behavior and how it relates to the OnePlus 5’s display panel orientation so our readers can make an informed decision on their purchase.
It has not been long since users received their brand new OnePlus 5 smartphones, but already many users were beginning to notice a peculiar screen effect when scrolling their screens. Dubbed by the community as the “jelly”-like scrolling effect, this effect causes the text on display to bunch up together and then stretch out when the user is swiping in the opposite direction. It’s a bit difficult to explain through text, but a widely-circulating video from The Verge’s Dan Seifert clearly demonstrates this behavior.
Note: the video shared by Mr. Seifert was originally hosted on his personal Google Photos account. However, it appears that link is no longer accessible, so I am linking a mirror hosted by a community member.
In response to user’s concerns over the matter, OnePlus issued what many see to be a rather bizarre statement in light of the findings:
The OnePlus 5 uses the same level of high-quality components as all OnePlus devices, including the AMOLED display. We’ve received feedback from a small number of users saying that at times they notice a subtle visual effect when scrolling. This is natural and there’s no variance in screens between devices.
Hence, the company claims that this issue is not the result of a manufacturing defect, Quality Assurance mishap, or software bug. Instead, the company implies this is an issue only seen by a small number of users (according to their feedback), but that it’s “natural” and not a result of different users having different screens.
Indeed, this scrolling behavior does not seem to be noticed by every owner of the OnePlus 5, but for those that do pick up on it – the effect can be quite jarring. To some, it is a deal-breaker. 9to5Google’s Stephen Hall and AndroidPolice’s Ryne Hager are just two out of many users I have seen express the desire to return their phone over the issue.
While some may say these are “overreactions” to what they feel are minor issues, ultimately the only opinion that matters in this case is your own. Does this scrolling effect bother you enough to turn you away from the phone? That’s a question you’ll have to grapple with yourself. OnePlus has already stated that users should not expect an OTA update or RMA to resolve the issue – which means users only have 15 days to decide what to do in response to this.
Community members looking into the issue came up with two theories to explain what may be causing the behavior: VSYNC toggling or the display panel’s orientation. The former is a software issue while the latter is hardware related. While the VSYNC toggling theory was quickly dismissed, the OnePlus community seemed to be fixated on the potential that the OnePlus 5’s display panel was oriented upside-down. This claim was made because users began to notice that if the screen is inverted on many other smartphones, those other smartphones may also experience this same jelly-like scrolling effect. The manufacturer didn’t seem to matter – so long as the phone’s screen is inverted, some users could reproduce the issue on their other smartphones.
Though this explanation is fairly convincing, it lacked one crucial element: proof. No physical proof was given that the OnePlus 5’s display panel was mounted upside-down. During our initial reporting on this matter, we initially dismissed this claim partly for that reason. After the article was published, however, XDA Recognized Developer SultanXDA was able to do some more digging into the kernel source code and found incontrovertible proof that OnePlus did indeed orient the display panel upside-down:
This code is for the display controller and it clearly defines that the panel is oriented 180 degrees. Thus, the display controller is instructed to compensate by 180 degrees. According to SultanXDA, this is his first time seeing this code in an actual device. The documentation for this line actually exists in the display controller of other devices, but most other devices do not have the line present. We verified this by examining the display controller source code on the OnePlus One, OnePlus X, OnePlus 2, OnePlus 3/3T, Google Nexus 5X, Google Nexus 6P, and a few other smartphones to satisfy our curiosity.
Since the line is not present in the source code of these other devices, this means that the value is “null” by default, which means that the display controller’s default behavior is no flip compensation.
Another kernel developer, XDA Recognized Contributor eng.stk states that he also found evidence to confirm this is the case, as the display matrix on the OnePlus 5 is inverted when compared to the OnePlus 3T, which is addressed in the code he found. You are able to merge the OnePlus 5’s panel code and boot the OnePlus 3T with the code, which results in the OnePlus 3T’s display becoming inverted.
And we can even correlate this physically through hardware teardowns as well.
Basically, the evidence is now undeniable: the OnePlus 5’s display panel is definitely mounted upside-down. What was once claimed based on circumstantial evidence is now proven. But what are the exact implications of this fact?
And now we return to the statement issued to us yesterday by OnePlus. The claim that the scrolling effect is “natural” and that there’s no “variance between devices” seems absurd on the surface, but now seems far more plausible in light of these new findings.
The correlation between the display panel orientation and the jelly scrolling behavior is very high. As mentioned previously, users are able to reproduce this effect on other smartphones by flipping their screens upside down before scrolling. Thus, if this effect can be reproduced on other smartphones by inverting the screen from its natural orientation, then it makes sense for this effect to occur on the OnePlus 5’s “natural”, upside-down orientation.
Hence, when OnePlus issued their carefully crafted PR statement – they were being truthful. It is “natural” for this to occur – a natural consequence of the display panel being oriented upside down. There is no variance between screens that causes the issue because every OnePlus 5’s display panel is mounted upside down. It could happen on any given OnePlus 5 smartphone. For now, it doesn’t appear that there’s any way to tell if your OnePlus 5 will be affected by this issue except trying to replicate it yourself.
While we don’t have an exact reasoning behind why flipping the display panel causes the effect, the best educated guess we can make is that it is related to what area of the screen is updated first and the latency involved in which screen contents are updated first.
Obviously, OnePlus deliberately chose to invert the screen panel while manufacturing the OnePlus 5 (remember – it’s not a “defect”!). This is not something that occurs by accident. Although we are not privvy to their exact reasoning, we can offer some speculation.
If you’ll take a look back at any of the thorough teardowns of the smartphone, you may notice that the display controller IC is located at the bottom. In order to compensate for the module’s placement, OnePlus flipped the display panel so the display cable would easily reach the motherboard and none of these components would interfere with other elements at the top of the device. But why would they need to do this all in the first place?
Take a look at what is placed at the top of the smartphone – the dual camera and some antennas. Like with any decision involving where to place components in a smartphone, it likely came down to space considerations. With limited space, the company had to decide where to place each component so everything would fit. Since the dual lens camera, which is new to the OnePlus line-up, takes up more space than a single lens camera it is possible the company moved the motherboard – and hence flipped the display panel – in order to accommodate the new camera module.
Of course as I mentioned before, the reasoning I have given for why the OnePlus 5’s display panel is inverted is just speculation on my part. OnePlus made the decision to place each component where they are for a reason. It just so happens that this decision may be behind the peculiar jelly scrolling effect some users are seeing on their phones. Perhaps the company made a gamble that not enough people would be bothered by it or notice it to raise a stink. Perhaps this is the reason why other manufacturers don’t orient their display panels upside down. It’s even possible OnePlus wasn’t fully aware of the consequences.
Whatever the cause, we hope that this article has given you a better understanding of the issue beyond OnePlus’s vague PR statement ,so you can make a decision for yourself what you want to do with your smartphone. I don’t personally believe this issue detracts from the other merits of the smartphone such as how well it performs and how developer friendly it is poised to be, but if the jelly scrolling issue is a deal-breaker for you then unfortunately you’ll either have to deal with it (if you notice it) or use the 15 day return window while it lasts.
P.S. Don’t believe everything you read from online support.
The original title of this article referred to the display panel being “upside down.” That wording has been changed to “inverted” to more accurately convey the situation.