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Summary:

After widespread complaints about inaccurate motion sensors on the iPhone 5s, Gizmodo ran a number of simple tests to investigate. The results are pretty dramatic.

iPhone level
photo: Gizmodo

Although Apple went to great lengths to promote the M7 motion coprocessor in the new iPhone 5s, it appears the phone’s motion sensors are seriously off. After widespread complaints about inaccurate motion sensors, Gizmodo ran a number of tests to assess the phone’s inclinometer, gyroscope, compass and accelerometer, and each time the phone delivered inaccurate measurements while an iPhone 5 passed with flying colors.

To test the inclinometer, for instance, Gizmodo downloaded a level app to the iPhone 5s, then placed it flush against an actual level, which showed a 2 degree level of inaccuracy.

iPhone level table

And in testing the phone’s gyroscope on a level table, the iPhone 5 recorded it accurately while the iPhone 5s measured it as -3 degrees off level. This can have a serious effect on gaming, and a test running Real Racing 3 shows the car steering left when held against a level table.

There isn’t a level on hand in GigaOM’s New York office, otherwise I’d test it out now myself. But there’s no doubt that the motion sensors are inaccurate on at least some of the iPhone 5s models out there. Depending on how widespread this is, and whether this is a software or hardware problem, Apple could potentially address the affected phones with a software update or calibration tool and tweak the production of future iPhone 5s models.

Until then, best to break out the real level when it’s time to do your next home renovation project.

All images from Gizmodo.

  1. 3 degrees seems like a minor annoyance for most consumer applications, including games. Wasn’t planning to use my iPhone to land a Korean airliner at SFO anyway.

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  2. Um, what I am seeing in the picture above is a calibrated iPhone 5 being measured against a uncalibrated iPhone 5s. Rather disingenuous, given that you don’t detail what you’re showing.

    The green screen shows after one has tapped the screen to calibrate the app for normal variations in the hardware. The black screen is what is shown before the hardware is calibrated. You are not doing a fair comparison,

    You cannot use these sensors without calibrating them first, the API documentation is clear on that point.

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    1. And yes, I know it’s Gizmodo’s testing, not yours. You quote it, you take responsibility for it.

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    2. Mitch [abridged] Friday, October 4, 2013

      The green screen appears when the device is leveled at 0. You cannot use the compass of level without calibrating. I should know, Apple replaced two 5s for me for this exact problem and the phone I ended up going home with was still off.

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  3. Are the apps enabled for M7? That’s not entirely clear. You cannot just download any app it has to be leveraging the M7 through new API

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  4. Mitch [abridged] Friday, October 4, 2013

    Apple replaced my 5s because of this problem, however the next two replacement models they gave me both had the same problem. I ended up leaving with a 5s that still had the same problem.

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  5. You calibrate the level by tapping twice.
    A little more research, please. There’s no level-gate.

    Stefano

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  6. my iPhone 4 never has been exact, either and nobody complained. Now that we see syrian rebels to adjust their rocket-launchers with iPad, we see complains about it for the recently launched versions. Crazy world.

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  7. Guy in AT&T said apple is replying w solution this week

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