Modern-day smartphones are much more than just communication devices. You can do a lot more with them, from measuring your steps to monitoring your heart beat to measuring stress levels and more. Other than this, these sensors are what ensure that if you change the way you are holding your phone the orientation of the video or the photo or the website you are seeing changes too. It is the sensors that help you get that immersive experience while watching videos. That Face ID and fingerprint scanners on your phone also have sensors in them. So, here’s looking into the 10 most-important sensors in your phone and what exactly they do.
As the name suggests, Proximity Sensors detect when an object is near to the phone. The most common use of this in a smartphone is to turn off the display when the smartphone is held near the ear during an ongoing call. This helps avoid unnecessary and accidental touch and also helps preserve battery.
Accelerometer helps smartphones decide the orientation of the device. The major objective of the sensor in smartphones is to detect whether the smartphone is being held in portrait or landscape mode and optimise the content on the screen accordingly. The best example of this is while watching a video on YouTube or viewing a photo in the gallery where it automatically rotates the video or image from portrait to landscape or vice versa depending on how you are holding the smartphone.
Gyroscope sensor works with the accelerometer sensor in smartphones. It provides an additional dimension of the movement for better motion detection like a rotation or twist. Gyroscope is the sensor responsible for the immersive 360-degree photos we see on our smartphones. Another major implementation is while playing motion sensitive games, mostly racing titles where players tilt the smartphone to steer left or right.
Digital compass provides smartphone orientation data in reference to the Earth’s magnetic field. This allows the smartphone to understand the real-world direction like which is North, South, East or West. It is based on the magnetometer. The best use case scenario is while using the Compass in your smartphone or while using the Maps.
GPS stands for Global Positioning System technology. It provides information about your current location or the location you are driving through based on the input from the satellites. They do not rely on smartphone’s data and that’s why you can use your map even when you don’t have an internet connection in your smartphone.
Barometers in smartphones have mostly two major tasks. First it provides a GPS chip in the smartphone to lock locations faster by providing altitude data and second it acts as an instrument to measure atmospheric pressure which can help with measuring the floor climbing information in the health app or temperature reading.
Biometrics in smartphones are mostly related to providing additional security using the unique biometric reading like fingerprint, IRIS, facial data and more. The most basic use case is for unlocking the smartphone or to authenticate a payment. These sensors can also be used to record other data like SpO2 reading, heart rate, etc.
NFC stands for Near-field communication which allows two devices with NFC to communicate over a distance of 10cm. This is used on smartphones for data transfer and by payment applications like Google Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay for contactless payments. It is also more secure than the regular RFID or Bluetooth.
Pedometer provides step data to any digital device. It is available in smartphones as well as smart wearable devices. This helps improve accuracy of step count in the Health apps.
Ambient light sensor
Ambient Light sensor is a photodetector that detects the intensity of light in the surrounding and adjusts screen brightness. The sensor is very popular in smartphones, laptops, TVs and automotive displays. In fact the auto-dimming mirrors in cars use the same sensor.