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All the Sensors That Make the iPhone the Most Innovative Smartphone Experience

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Writer, Smart Home

For years technology has been a big part of Gardy's life. He's an Android guy with a secret love for Apple products. When not at work, you can usually catch him drawing with a pencil. He is a writer at Gotechtor covering streaming media, TVs, and everything smart-home related. 

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Have you ever wondered how your iPhone manages all of the things it is capable of handling?

How does your iPhone detect everything from motion, ambient lighting, temperature, humidity, proximity, phone positioning, etc?

All of this is made possible through the help of sensors. In this article, you’ll learn about all the sensors on your iPhone and what they do.

Sensors Used in an iPhone

While the exact set of sensors may vary slightly between iPhone models and even depend on the installed operating system version, here’s a breakdown of the most common sensors found across these devices:

Accelerometer

As its name suggests, the accelerometer measures acceleration. With this sensor, your phone can detect your steps on pedometer apps and recognize whether you are moving or not.

Its utilization of its features relies on axis-based motion sensing, which is how your phone recognizes whether it is facing upwards or downwards and whether it’s in landscape or portrait mode. 

If you have ever turned your phone on its side and the screen rotator feature flipped the image right-side up, you have seen the accelerometer in action.

When the tiny sensors that make up the accelerometer are stressed due to motion, they interpret the stress level as how fast they are moving. The accelerometer lets your GPS app tell you how fast you move.

Gyroscope

The gyroscope picks up motion-sensing where the accelerometer leaves off. Gyroscopes are not new.

They have been long used in planes to detect altitude (as opposed to lateral motion), but they are now so common in phones that we likely don’t think much about their presence.

When playing games, tilting your phone can alter your view or actions. This is thanks to the gyroscope, a sensor that detects subtle shifts and rotations of your phone, translating them into changes within the game.

Magnetometer

While the gyroscope mainly operates on the phone’s physical orientation and the accelerometer measures motion, the magnetometer measures the direction and global positioning based on sensing of magnetic fields.

The magnetometer, for instance, works in tandem with the GPS sensor to turn the map in a particular direction when you are using the Apple Maps or Google Maps apps. 

In essence, this sensor is the main reason your phone can pinpoint your location relative to other places, allowing for detailed directions to be provided in navigational apps.

And yes, if you wonder if this sensor can detect metals’ magnetic properties, it most certainly can. It has long been used in metal detectors and is also used in metal detector apps.

Global Positioning System (GPS)

While the magnetometer assists in magnetic location, the GPS sensor is the main driver for your phone, recognizing your global position.

The GPS pings space satellites without using the phone’s data. If you have ever noticed that your phone is aware of where you are positioned even when you have no signal, that is why.

However, GPS connectivity drains your phone’s battery, as the GPS sensor perpetually seeks to connect to satellites. This is why turning the GPS off is one of the primary battery-saving tips for your iPhone. 

Check this out: 20 Tricks and Tips to Get the Most Out of Google Maps

Proximity Sensor

The proximity sensor determines how far objects are from the phone. For instance, a caller holding a phone up to their ear may experience the screen going dark when it touches their face.

When an object is too close to the screen, and it’s turned on, unintended actions can occur if the user accidentally touches the touchscreen.

The proximity sensor detects when a user’s face is close to the screen and automatically turns off the screen to prevent this.

Ambient Light Sensor

If you have ever noticed that your iPhone’s brightness auto-adjusts based on the lighting in your environment, you have witnessed the ambient light sensor at work.

This sensor detects light around you and then communicates that information back to iOS, which turns the brightness up or down depending on the lighting situation.

Microphone

The microphone is a sensor meant specifically for detecting sound and its volume. As sound waves trigger the microphone sensor, the phone responds accordingly.

In the most traditional sense, it registers the sound to communicate for phone calls.

Additionally, it’s used for voice-activated tasks like Siri, converting spoken text, and recognizing incoming sounds for identification purposes, as seen in music identifier apps like Shazam.

Touchscreen Sensors

There is a constant flow of electrical currents through the iPhone screen.

Touching the screen alters the flow, and the alteration triggers the touchscreen sensors to respond by performing various actions related to the touchpoints applied to the screen.

These current changes dictate the actions on the particular part of the screen at the moment, triggering whatever the requested command is to the device based on what was touched.

Fingerprint Sensor (Touch ID)

iPhones with a home button, beginning with the iPhone 5S, include a fingerprint sensor.

This sensor securely allows you to access your device using your biometric data, and it can also authorize purchases and unlock apps.

Face ID and LiDAR Scanner

Apple introduced Face ID and the LiDAR scanner on the iPhone X and iPhone 12 Pro models, respectively.

Face ID enhances smartphone security through cutting-edge facial recognition, ensuring secure phone unlocking.

In contrast, the LiDAR scanner employs light detection and ranging technology to generate precise 3D maps of your environment, enhancing the immersive experience of augmented reality.

Pedometer

The pedometer, working alongside the accelerometer, is primarily used by fitness apps to tally steps.

If you aim to walk 15,000 steps daily, your iPhone will detect your movements and track your steps as long as it’s with you.

Modern pedometer sensors are smart enough to recognize when you are in motion yet not actually walking.

If you jumped, rode a bike, sat in a moving vehicle, or even ran in place, the pedometer would recognize that you are not actually walking and would not count the steps.

While the accelerometer will also detect steps, the pedometer is a more refined sensor, as its primary task is step counting.

Barcode/QR Code Sensors

If you have been to a restaurant that is actively trying to be “green,” you have probably been asked to scan a QR code with your phone to retrieve the establishment’s menu.

This is possible because the barcode and QR code sensor detects the light reflected by the scanned code, generating an analog signal representing each bar in a barcode with a different voltage.

These signals are combined into a digital signal and then converted into the unique manifestation of that barcode’s information.

Certain stores have customized apps that let you scan barcodes on products to price check them and show detailed information, an important aspect in which this sensor is also a vital component.

Barometer

Apple has included a barometer on iPhones since the iPhone 6S, a sensor that detects air pressure. Barometers are an important component of weather-related apps and those that inform the user of their current altitude.

A barometer can detect distance from sea level and work with the GPS to determine the air pressure in your current location and atmospheric pressure.

Thermometer

The thermometer sensor exists in nearly every iPhone model. It serves two important and particular purposes.

The first is to monitor the device’s temperature. When the device overheats, the temperature sensor sends a signal to the phone, prompting it to shut down to prevent damage from excessive heat.

Secondly, the temperature sensor reads the ambient temperature and can let you know the current temperature, rendering it in Fahrenheit or Celcius, depending on your preferred temperature measurement settings.

If you want to take your own temperature, you might need to download one of the best thermometer apps we recommend. Please check it out.

Air Humidity Sensor

A less common sensor included in modern iPhones is the air humidity sensor, which measures ambient air quality.

When it calculates the humidity levels in the air, it relays the information to the user, letting them know the current air quality.

Wrap Up

We hope you’ve learned about all the sensors embedded in your iPhone. Without those sensors, your phone couldn’t perform all these functions.

This list will continue to grow as iPhones become more advanced. If you have any questions or concerns, please use the comments section below.

Writer, Smart Home

For years technology has been a big part of Gardy's life. He's an Android guy with a secret love for Apple products. When not at work, you can usually catch him drawing with a pencil. He is a writer at Gotechtor covering streaming media, TVs, and everything smart-home related. 

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