Saturday, 20 June 2009

Apple's iPhone 3GS - Compass

My last post looked at the camera specification of Apple's latest iPhone offering. This time I want to focus on the magnetometer which Apple has included this time. The Mac and iPod maker is always very careful about choosing what features to include in its products, and is one of the most disciplined of innovators when it comes to limiting "feature-creep". Because of this, I think it is worth looking a bit beyond the compass application which Apple now includes on the new iPhone displaying heading along with latitude and longitude from the onboard GPS.

One extra value of the magnetometer is already being felt through the user experience of the maps application. The map can now automatically orientate itself for you so that it is facing the way you are facing. After all, one of the first things many people do when looking at a paper based map is to turn it to match the direction they are facing. Beyond this however I think Apple has other ideas for combining this new sensor with others on the phone such as the accelerometer. It is gaming applications where the impact of this could be felt most. The use of the magnetometer will allow even more accurate action gaming movements to be sensed. This is an example of how the use and combination of very many sensors within mobile devices will be used in future to enhance the user experience.

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