When it comes to choosing a new smartphone how many of you check the technical specifications first? A sizeable majority, I guess.
Often, this can be fairly easy to understand stuff like the size of the screen or how much memory there is for you to store your music and photos. When you delve a little deeper though, some of this information starts to get a little more esoteric.
Sure, I’m glad that my Nokia Lumia 820 has an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and several other sensors lurking within but do I really understand how they work or what they do?
I suppose part of the magic is that we, by and large, don’t need to know about such things to get the most out of our smartphones.
However, a little knowledge can go a long way and an app in the Windows Phone Store called Sensor Emitter (free) provides a really useful starting point if you want to learn about some of the sensors in your Nokia Lumia.
To fully unlock the potential of a Nokia Lumia smartphone and if you’re a developer, then you’ll certainly need to have a grasp of the handset’s sensors.
Here’s a brief outline of some of the common sensors that are found in smartphones today:
- Accelerometer – Measures movement and orientation of your device. When you are looking at a photo and you turn your Lumia from portrait to landscape, and the image follows this movement to fill up the screen, this is the sensor at work.
- Compass – Most of us will be familiar with the compass from our schooldays. Obviously, it’s an essential tool for location services.
- Gyroscope – Measures the angular rotation of the device on three different axes. It is most useful when used in conjunction with other sensors, such as the accelerometer, to provide more accurate results.
- Proximity – You know how your Lumia seems to magically turn its screen off when you put it to your ear for phone calls, and then turn itself on again, when you bring it away from your ear to end the call, or use the touchscreen? That’s the proximity sensor at work.
- Ambient Light– This can monitor the light levels in your environment and adjust your screen accordingly. In a dark room, you won’t need your display to be so bright for you to see it. By adjusting the screen display brightness you can save battery life considerably.
The Sensor Emitter app
Sensor Emitter doesn’t just provide technical explanations of what each sensor does but also shows you live measurements.
The developer, Philip Daubmeier, suggests how each sensor can be used to maximise its potential. For example, different sensors are much more useful when they work together.
The app couldn’t be easier to use. There’s a main screen that shows you an overview of each sensor – then just tap on each one to get more detailed information.
If you’re feeling really confident then you can even connect your Lumia to a computer. Then from your PC you can use this app to monitor live sensor data and create computer applications that uses your smartphone’s sensors.
Sensor Emitter isn’t for everyone but if you’re at all interested in developing apps or are just curious about how sensors work in smartphones then it’s certainly worth investigating.