iPhone 5 could get improved light sensor, say reports

Apple may switch ambient light sensor suppliers in time for the iPhone 5 launch due to poor performance of the current hardware.

Andy Merrett
Andy Merrett has been using mobile phones since the days when they only made voice calls. Since then he has worked his way through a huge number of Nokia, Motorola and Sony Ericsson models. Andy is a freelance writer and is not an employee of CNET.
Andy Merrett
2 min read

Apple's not happy with the performance of the light sensor in the iPhone 4, Apple Insider reports. It's not clear exactly what the problem is, though a quick trawl through some discussion boards sheds a little light on the matter.

"When I step in from dark environment to bright environment light sensor works just perfect... But when I step back from light environment to dark environment nothing really happens. My screen stays very bright forever," bemoans one iPhone 4 owner.

A reply suggests this is "normal behaviour" though the sensor "is not working as it should". Unsurprisingly, stuffing an unofficial case over the light sensor also stops it from functioning properly.

Apple could be ready to switch to Capella, the Taiwanese vendor currently making light sensors for HTC's handsets, according to DigiTimes. The hardware may be partly to blame for poor performance, but it's possible that the controlling software is also responsible. This lies squarely in Apple's court, and if so could be good news for existing users. It's not the first time an OS upgrade alone has been used to fix a particular issue with the iPhone.

One of the simplest yet most useful hardware features on mobile devices, the ambient light sensor reduces the display brightness when you enter a darker environment, and vice versa. The iPhone has been fitted with one since it first launched, as has the iPad and most MacBooks.

Any hardware changes would be unlikely to make it into new builds of the current iPhone, but instead would be seen in the much anticipated iPhone 5. It would be a welcome, if unexciting, inclusion. It's highly annoying when the screen misbehaves.