The Sensors in Your Android Device

This article gives an overview of the sensors supported by the Android operating system, what they are used for, and how you can find out whether your device has them.

Most Android devices have some built-in sensors to measure motion, orientation and environmental conditions such as temperature. However, not all Android devices will have all of the sensors which are available. Also, these sensors perform better on some device types than others.

Why might you need to know about this?

Lots of applications will rely on the accuracy of the sensors in your device to work. For example, many compass apps will use the magnetometer sensor. If you don’t have this sensor, or it isn’t working properly you won’t be able to get an accurate compass reading no matter how hard you try.

Android Sensors Overview

There are three general categories of sensors built into Android devices:

–        Motion sensors which measure acceleration and rotational forces. These include accelerometers and gravity sensors

–        Position sensors which measure the actual position of a device. This includes magnetometers

–        Environmental sensors which can measure various environmental factors such as air temperature and humidity. These include thermometers.

You can find a full list of Android sensors on the Google Developers website:

Sensors supported by Android

How can I find out what sensors my phone has/how well they are working?

Before you purchase an Android device, you should be able to find a list of the sensors included in the product description. The GSM Arena website is quite useful for finding this kind of info (look under Features).

Android device specification on GSM Arena

There are also a variety of apps out there that will check your device and report back on your sensor status.  Just search for “Sensor Check” on the Play Store.