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smartphone sensor

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

A smartphone sensor is any one of a number of different types of sensing devices installed on a user's phone to gather data for various user purposes, often in conjunction with a mobile app.

Here are a few examples of smartphone sensors and their uses:

  • An accelerometer detects acceleration, tilt and vibration to determine movement and orientation.
  • A gyroscope identifies up/down, left/right and rotation around three axes for more complex orientation details.
  • A light sensor detects data about lighting levels in the environment to adapt the display accordingly. 
  • A proximity sensor detects when the the phone is held to the face to make or take a call, so the touch screen display can be disabled to avoid unintended input.
  • A fingerprint sensor can enable biometric verification for secure device and website authentication as well as mobile payment.
  • A magnetometer detects the direction of magnetic north and, in conjunction with GPS, determines the user's location. 
  • An infrared sensor can be used to identify user movements for gesture recognition.

In this video, Engineer Guy takes a smartphone apart and explains how the accelerometer works. He also shares the essential idea underlying the micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) production of these devices:

 

This was last updated in October 2014

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