Introduction

So, what, in your opinion, makes a smartphone smart? It is some of the coolest things that you can do with this device. Smartphones are one of the finest human discoveries which have made the work of humans extremely easy. Every smart phone has a lot of functionalities and sensors. From adjusting your device's brightness to counting your steps and detecting gestures, these sensors can make it all possible on your mobile.

In this blog, we will discuss everything you need to know about mobile sensors and some in-built sensors that are currently working on your smartphone to enhance its functionality.

But first, let us understand what a sensor is:

What is a Sensor?

Sensors are hardware components used to detect and respond to some input that is given to it. That input can be light, temperature, pressure, magnetic field, fingerprint, etc. These small devices detect environmental conditions, send raw data to the processor, and convert it into meaningful information that humans can interpret.

Let us now discuss some common types of sensors used in mobile devices.

Proximity Sensor

The proximity detector is present in almost all mobile devices and is situated at the top near the earpiece. It emits Infrared light to detect the presence of an object near the phone. Have you noticed your mobile light turning off when you bring the device close to your ear? This is because the invisible infrared light detects the object (i.e. the ear) and turns off the device's screen. This helps avoid mistouching during a call when you hold the phone against your ear.

Ambient Light Sensor

The ambient light sensor is a great component in smart phones. It is basically a kind of photodetector that senses the ambient light present in the room and then dims the screen of the device. It protects the battery’s life as well as reduces the strain on your eyes.

Magnetometer

The magnetometer provides amazing information for navigation and detects the Earth’s magnetic field’s direction. Basically, it measures the direction as well as the strength of the magnetic fields. For example, it can tell which way is north. A magnetometer is a sensor that doesn't usually work alone but instead works inside map apps like Google Maps or Apple Maps. It basically works out which way up the map should be. You can also use the magnetometer by using metal detector applications.

GPS

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. This Android and iOS sensor uses a satellite in space to determine which part of the planet you are on. It receives signals from multiple satellites and then calculates the precise location of your device. With this sensor, we can use services like navigation, location, distance, and speed measurement.

GPS does not use mobile data, so you can still view your location even if your phone has a poor signal. However, it consumes your phone's battery, so there would be a battery usage issue if GPS is used continuously.

Fingerprint Sensor

Nowadays, every phone on the market comes with either fingerprint or facial recognition sensors because they are everyone's primary choice for security. Newer or flagship phones have switched from buttons to on-screen fingerprint sensors.

When you register a new fingerprint in your device, the sensor maps it and saves it. So, the next time you put your finger on the sensor, it matches it with the saved fingerprint and unlocks the phone or performs any task that requires a fingerprint.

Accelerometer Sensor

As the name suggests, the accelerometer is an Android sensor that measures acceleration, or we can say it performs axis-based motion sensing in three dimensions: the x, y, and z-axis. It is used for enabling features like screen rotation, flip to silence, and measuring the speed and direction of the device.

For example, it can recognize any physical activity, such as running, walking, or driving, and is also used in many games to enable features like gesture recognition, tilting, and motion controls.

Gyroscope Sensor

A gyroscope sensor measures the orientation and angular velocity of the device. It is basically an advanced version of an accelerometer that adds more precision by adding 360-degree photospheres. It works with an accelerometer to provide very precise motion sensing.

Gyroscope sensors are commonly used in mobile games, especially shooting and racing games and flight simulators, which require more precision with small turns or gestures. This sensor can bring in this much-needed precision in these games as it uses MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) to give 360-degree shots or panorama shots. These shots give players and end users a more realistic user experience by allowing features like AR (Augmented Reality) and a precise navigation system.

Barometer Sensor

Barometer sensors are mainly used to measure air pressure. They can also measure a device's altitude above sea level, which can be used in aviation, mountaineering, and some games. They can also predict weather patterns. Because it can provide correct altitude measurements and atmospheric pressure, this sensor helps GPS determine accurate location (roughly with 10 meters of variation).

NFC Sensor

NFC (near-field Communication) sensors in mobile devices enable users to communicate with other devices with a tap. The sensor allows users to send encrypted data to one another by bringing the devices within 4cm (about 1.57 in) of each other. If your phone has the NFC sensor, then you can make payments by simply tapping your device with another NFC-enabled device. NFC Sensor is commonly used by services like Samsung Pay, Apple Pay, and Google Pay for contactless transactions. Tag reading and data transfer are also possible using NFC tags.

Temperature Sensor

Many Flagship smartphones have thermometers inside to check how hot the important parts, like the brain (CPU) and battery, are getting. If the temperature is too high, the user gets a warning to let the phone cool down, or the phone shuts down for cooling purposes to prevent harm to the phone or user due to overheating.

3D LiDAR Sensor

LiDAR sensors are exclusively iPhone sensors, though a form of them is starting to appear in some Android phones. LiDAR technology stands for Light Detection and Ranging. These sensors emit a laser to measure distance of surrounding objects more accurately. This sensor helps take sharper photos, especially in darker conditions. There are many applications that use LiDAR mapping to scan your room or show you how some furniture would look in your room, act like a virtual tape measure, or play a game that offers AR (Augmented Reality) support.

Facial Recognition Sensor

Facial recognition software has been around for a few years now, but do you know how it works? Its functioning is quite similar to the fingerprint sensors we have discussed above. It works by comparing your face to that stored in the device. However, the downside of facial and fingerprint sensors is any dirt or sweat on the user's finger or when wearing gloves.

Facial recognition analyzes multiple parts of your face, including the placement of your eyes and nose, and combines them to make a unique code used to recognize you. Face ID iPhone sensor is said to be more secure because it uses a dot projector that projects 30,000 infrared dots on your face. The infrared camera reads the pattern of dots that are reflected. After that, a detailed 3D model of your face is made and used whenever you need to verify your face.

However, facial software made by other companies can be easily hacked because they make 2D maps of users' faces or use an Iris scanner, which usually doesn't work well in poor lighting conditions.

Summing Up

Your mobile devices are no longer just communication devices; they have become your all-purpose personal assistants. With the advancement of technology, these sensors are getting smarter, smaller, and more power efficient. While there are many more sensors in your smartphone, not all of them are used as widely as the ones mentioned above.

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