Stepping outside while using my new iPod touch had me thinking the device was broken: I couldn’t read the screen. Surely the auto-brightness was on, right? Turns out there is no auto-brightness function in the new iPod touch because there’s no ambient light sensor.

iPod touch 5th generation brightness

After raving about my new iPod touch last week, I’ve continued to happily use the device; until this weekend, that is. I actually thought my iPod touch was broken, in fact. Turns out that the device is just fine and functioning as it should. The problem is that I expected certain features from the old iPod touch to still be in this new model and there’s one — a key one, in my opinion — that’s actually a downgrade from the fourth-gen iPod touch. There’s no ambient light sensor in Apple’s new iPod touch.

I found this out the hard way. Typically, I keep my device brightness at low levels while indoors but still use auto-brightness, mainly to save on battery life. So when I went for the mail this past Saturday while reading an article on the new iPod, the screen quickly became unreadable when I stepped outside. I figured I either didn’t have the auto-brightness setting on or it wasn’t working — actually, that was my first thought: The sensor was broken. Unfortunately, since I couldn’t read the screen, it was impossible to even find the Settings icon.

After getting the mail and coming back inside, I went into the Settings and noticed this: No auto-brightness setting, just a manual slider.

iPod touch 5th generation brightness

I knew Apple wouldn’t have moved the setting in iOS 6; in fact, the setting is there on my iPad. So I quickly turned to Apple’s iPod touch product page and looked under the Sensors. There’s no mention of an ambient light sensor.

iPod touch sensors

Just to check my sanity, since I owned a fourth-generation iPod touch, I checked the official Apple specifications for my old device. Sure enough, the ambient light sensor is mentioned there and of course, it’s part of the iPhone and iPad line.

I’m disappointed in Apple’s decision to omit this sensor in the new iPod touch, to say the least. The company may have saved some space and a little bit of money by leaving the ambient light sensor out, but this can degrade the experience. Perhaps I’m just too picky and whining about nothing here, so I’d love to hear your thoughts: How important is that sensor and the automatic brightness for the way you use your mobile devices?

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  1. I think that is a step backward as well. And surprised that Apple would remove something so common among their other iOS devices.

  2. captainwisdom Monday, October 15, 2012

    This is what scares me about Apple post Jobs. What happened to the mantra that Apple strives first of all to create products that delight the user? How does a titanic battle with Samsung and Google help delight us? Or a new maps feature? Or a missing ambient light sensor?

  3. I’ve found the light sensor never worked well enough for me anything. In bright light I still had to boost it, in bed, I’d still have to set it dimmer. So, to me this actually makes sense.

  4. Laughing_Boy48 Monday, October 15, 2012

    The bean counters are running Apple. Costs must continue to be shaved. Unfortunately, consumers and shareholders are getting the short end of the bargain. Apple’s profit margins continue to fall and Wall Street doesn’t like it.

  5. Craig Campbell Monday, October 15, 2012

    The light sensor doesn’t bother me too much – I always turn auto brightness off on every device, I don’t trust it, nor have I ever found it to do a good job. One thing which really does irk me is the fact that there is no option to display the battery percentage on the status bar. It’s there on the iPhone, it’s there on the iPad, I simply cannot figure out why they would leave this out on the iPod Touch. There is a workaround I discovered by googling – the VoiceOver feature will speak the exact percentage if you touch the battery icon. I set up “triple click home button” to toggle VoiceOver on or off. So, to hear the battery percentage, I triple click home, touch the battery icon, then triple click home again. It’s a hack but it works. But really Apple, just put the option in there. As much as I love the iOS devices and ecosystem, it’s taking little things like this out of our control which, amongst other reasons, has caused me to move to Android on the phone side.

    1. There is a ‘hack’ (that does NOT require jailbreaking) to enable the battery percentage in the status bar. It was the first thing I did with my new iPod touch. If only the lack of an ambient light sensor problem was so easily dispatched.

  6. This has actually made me not get the new iPod touch now, was about to get it but think I’ll stick with the current one because this is such a basic and common feature – without it the experience is less seemless.

    1. No Vacation Required Zach Monday, October 15, 2012

      This seems like a complete non-issue to me, certainly not a harbinger of doom.

      @laughing_boy48 Wall Street seems to be VERY comfortable with Apple, even when you take into account the recent retreat in the stock price.

  7. I could not care less about losing the ambient light sensor, I never use them in any of my devices, so as far as I’m concerned, I’m glad they removed it because that just means I have a thinner and lighter device.

  8. step backwards Monday, October 15, 2012

    Yeah, I think this is a step backwards as well. It’s bad enough knowing that a better product that they could have made now is coming in the future and you have to buy an inferior product or wait. It’s another thing altogether to have products getting worse.

  9. The first thing I did on all my ios devices was to disable auto brightness

    1. Same here. Nothing but trouble.

  10. I’m not going to buy one now because of this. Little things like this matter and when companies remove them, customers get a bad taste in the mouth. I wonder, would Jobs have let this be cut? It sounds like the kind of thing he would insist be included.

    1. Agreed. Won’t be buying one now. God forbid Apple makes less than 51 percent profit on any of their products. Apple is going nowhere without Jobs. He was the magic ingredient the whole time.

    2. Give us a break, hater.

      1. Let me guess. When you’re spending your parents $ you don’t have to worry about it? Gooooood for you, Basement Dweller! Goooooood for you.

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