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Apple’s new iPod touch takes a step back: No light sensor

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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(s aapl) 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?

47 Responses to “Apple’s new iPod touch takes a step back: No light sensor”

  1. I guess it’s a nice feature but really not critical for the iPod. It’s not used in apps and not that accurate for screen dimming and you’re not using as a phone to kill the screen.

    I mean if you’re not buying the iPod because of the light sensor and don’t want the thinner body, larger screen, faster processeor, what else are you going to buy? You probably weren’t going to buy it anyway.

  2. estephan500

    it never really worked well. people in this thread saying that they decided not to buy the new Touch because of this light sensor thing … they make me kind of wonder what’s going on in these comment threads. kind of a generalized primal scream. It is interesting that they took it out… perhaps a slight bummer… but not really a basis for a hoarse scream of anguish, or for profound analytical conclusions.

    • 80 to 90% of the commenters on the Tech Internet are PC gamers. Many are raging Apple haters. The above article is pure flame-bait written to bring in the hater clicks. This is how the tech internet works.

  3. QwertyJuan

    Well considering auto brightness doesn’t work on iOS 6 anyhow what difference does it make. PS before you say I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ve tried 2 iPhone 5’s and 2 iPhone 4S’ and not one of them has an auto brightness that works. Thanks Apple.

  4. I turned the light sensor off since I’ve always had problems with it. When moving into another light range I manually use Quick Brightness made by Atominx Ltd. from the appstore. Allows you to setup two brightness levels and to switch between them by activating the app and having it close automatically afterwards. Not associated with them, just a happy user.

  5. Set back.. Taking away a feature like this may be simple to some of you, but what about when they take away the accelerometer, I don’t care bc I may not use what it can do, but obviously it would be a big step back.

    To some of you, they could remove the phone from an iPhone and you would argue it doesn’t matter, just use Skype.

    • Hey if you feel you can’t live without the feature then you won’t be buying it. But for most you have to imagine this is not the case since you can just leave it at full or near full brightness and never have to worry not being able to see your screen. And there is always manually adjusting the brightness.

  6. Yeah be better if they made it less tedious to manually adjust the brightness. Autobright doesn’t seem to work on my ipad2. I have to adjust it manually. Be nice if more quickly and easily adjust it.

  7. I like auto brightness on my devices…Apple’s auto brightness worked the best (on my iPad and wife’s iPhone compared to may Droid RAZR and Xoom (aweful actually). so removing this would denigrate the experience. For $299, i’d want it.

  8. 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.

  9. step backwards

    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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

    • No Vacation Required

      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.

  12. Craig Campbell

    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.

    • David H.

      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.

  13. Laughing_Boy48

    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.

  14. Ted Caisson

    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.

  15. captainwisdom

    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?