Mobile Phone Sensors: Guide to Understand Them

There are so many mobile phone sensors out there and with the advancement of technology, there will be a lot more entering the market. Having some basic understanding of them will help you understand how they function. These sensors help automate the way we use our mobile phones. Some of these sensors may be very important to the phone’s daily use while others may not be as important.

Sensor Terms and their Use:

A look at some of the most common sensor terms and some of the not-so-common ones and their usage.

Accelerometer and gyroscope:

The Accelerometer is used to provide you with directional movement of your mobile phone. It is used in measuring the linear movement of the device. Unfortunately, you won’t get the tilting or lateral orientation with this sensor which is where the gyroscope comes into play. The Gyroscope will track any twist or rotation of the phone.


The Barometer is used in measuring atmospheric pressure. In high-end phones, the barometer helps determine the phones’ height above sea level thus providing you with more accurate GPS information with instant altitude data.

Digital Compass:

The digital compass is used in finding the North direction and is used in maps or navigation apps. It makes use of a sensor known as a magnetometer to provide you with simple orientation with respect to the magnetic field of the the earth.

Proximity sensor:

The proximity sensor is used in determining the distance of the phone from your body. This way, any unwanted commands are done away with in case it senses the proximity to the ears. The screen will be locked down to avoid any unwanted commands during the call in addition to helping save some battery power.

Fingerprint sensors:

Fingerprint sensors come in a number of recent smartphones. These sensors help with the phone’s security and can be used as a substitute to passwords.

GPS sensor:

The GPS (Global Positioning Sensor) is used for navigation purposes.

Ambient light sensor:

This sensor is used to help conserve the phone’s battery life by automatically setting the screen brightness in accordance to surrounding light.

Temperature and humidity sensors:

These sensors are used in determining the state of the environment around you in terms of temperature and humidity.

Heart Rate monitor:

As the name suggests, this sensor helps monitor your heart rate through the pulse of the blood vessels on your finger.


The pedometer is used in calculating the steps you have taken and is predominately used in a number of health-related apps in the phone.


The thermometer is used in measuring the temperature within the phone. In the event of over-heating, the phone will automatically turn itself off.
Sensors are becoming more advanced, portable and cheaper. This means that with time, given the different sensors in your phone, it will be like walking with your own personal assistant. Your phone will be able to sense a number of things from your emotions to the temperature in your surroundings and either report directly to you or to a remote device. With the advancement in technology in each passing day, the sky will be the limit in terms of what sensors will be able to do on your phone.

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4 Responses

  1. Jasmine2015 says:

    I never really thought about how many sensors are in my phone. I have noticed that whenever I talk on the phone, the screen goes black. Though if I was to pull the phone away from my ear, then the green call screen pops up. I also like how I have the ability to control whether or not my screen tilts in one direction or another because sometimes it gets annoying when the screen moves ever time I move.

  2. Vari says:

    It’s pretty important to recognize where the sensors are on your mobile phone. Does anyone else remember a few years back when Apple’s newest iPhone had its sensor placed in such a way so that, if you held your phone in a certain way, then you would be unable to get a phone signal?

  3. PhoneHome says:

    This is a really useful guide . I had no idea a phone had so many sensors, and I’ve often wondered how it could determine one’s heart rate. I use GPS a lot and I wish my phone had a barometric sensor. Although I can make a pretty fair guess at the pressure, living where the height of the rising tide can mean flooding means keeping a close eye on the barometer to be sure!

  4. ikarosalpha says:

    Regarding the ambient light sensor, I’m still conflicted about whether this is an energy saving feature. When I let my phone’s brightness change automatically, it seems to consume a bit more than otherwise.
    I do really like the rise of fingerprint scanners, though. I’m only afraid about the consequent possibility to get locked out of your phone.

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