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What causes iOS 7’s nausea issue, and how to help prevent it

It seems that Apple’s new iOS 7 is so advanced that it’s actually causing “cybersickness” – nausea caused by the combination of a high resolution screen, the parallax effect on the Home screen, and the zooming in and out of apps. There hasn’t been an official response from Apple yet, but judging by comments from various iOS 7 users around the web, the nausea caused by iOS 7 can be rather serious.

Some victims say that using iOS 7 is like trying to read in a car, causing the same associated symptoms: Dizziness, headaches, and even that nasty feeling of needing to vomit. Medical doctors and psychologists say that cybersickness is becoming more prevalent as frame rates and display resolutions increase. iOS 7’s nausea issues can be partially mitigated by changing some settings, which we’ll discuss below, but with downgrading to iOS 6 now disabled Apple has left many customers high and dry.

Soon after iOS 7 was made available to download last week, there has been a slow but steady trickle of reports that Apple’s new mobile OS makes some users nauseous. At first we chalked this up as merely the noisy and hyperbolic angst of Apple detractors. The reports keep coming in on the official Apple Support site, though, and now with various medical doctors and psychologists saying that cybersickness is a real thing, we should start to take iOS 7 nausea seriously.

“I thought I was going crazy today after I updated my phone and I noticed I was feeling queasy every time I used it. Now I see I am not alone! I just used my phone for about 20 minutes and now I feel like I’m going to vomit. There has to be a way to turn this off,” wrote one iOS 7 user on the Apple Support site. “The zoom animations everywhere on the new iOS 7 are literally making me nauseous and giving me a headache. It’s exactly how I used to get car sick if I tried to read in the car,” wrote another.

According to medical doctors and psychologists who have studied cybersickness, the iPhone and iPad, with iOS 7, have three features that result in the feeling of nausea. The parallax effect, where the icons on your Home screen appear to move independently of the wallpaper, can cause some 2D/3D disorientation. The zoom effect when you open, close, or switch apps, can make your brain think that you’re moving – but your vestibular system disagrees. And to top it all off, the high resolution and high frame rate of the iPhone, iPad, and iOS 7 can trick your brain into thinking that the Retina display is a slice of real world, rather than a digital display, exacerbating the previous effects.

The cybersickness is reportedly even worse on the iPad, as the screen is larger and covers more of your field of view – but it probably depends on how close you hold your phone/tablet.

How to help prevent iOS 7 nausea

As it stands, the effects of iOS 7-induced nausea – iNausea, if you will – can only be partially mitigated by heading into your iDevice’s Settings > General > Accessibility, and then enabling Reduce Motion. This disables the Home screen parallax effect, but there’s currently no way to turn off the zoom effect when you open, close, or switch apps. However, I would not be surprised if Apple adds the ability to remove the zoom animation in a future version of iOS 7.

Looking at the bigger picture, cybersickness will probably only become more prevalent as display resolutions and frame rates increase. I think all of us can agree that, compared to just a few years ago, our visual senses are being utterly bombarded by ever-brighter, ever-bolder, ever-more-invasive graphics and interfaces. The good news, though, is that only a small number of us seem to suffer from cybersickness. That could change for the worse, of course. Maybe we’ll soon be taking pills for cybersickness, just like motion sickness.

For more on improving iOS 7, see our guide to boosting battery life, and our 6 handy tips for Apple's new OS.