Gyroscope and Accelerometers Used in Smartphones

By Matt McGew

Image of someone using a smartphone.
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New generations of smartphones include intuitive features that may require the use of a built-in gyroscope or an accelerometer. A gyroscope allows you to change the orientation of the device by rotating its display. An accelerometer, on the other hand, tracks acceleration or senses device vibration. An on-board gyroscope and accelerometer work in combination with a smartphone's operating system or specific software applications to perform these and other functions.


A gyroscope allows a smartphone to measure and maintain orientation. Gyroscopic sensors can monitor and control device positions, orientation, direction, angular motion and rotation. When applied to a smartphone, a gyroscopic sensor commonly performs gesture recognition functions. Additionally, gyroscopes in smartphones help to determine the position and orientation of the phone.


An accelerometer is a sensing element that measures acceleration as well as tilt, tilt angle, incline, rotation, vibration and collision. To offer functionality with a smartphone, the accelerometer software must translate the sensor output. Smartphones use several types of accelerometers, the sensing element and software representing the primary differences between the accelerometers. When applied to a smartphone, an accelerometer can automatically change the device's screen orientation vertically or horizontally.

Microelectromechanical Systems

Microelectromechanical systems provide the technology that makes many of a smartphone’s features possible. This technology applies mechanical functions to small structures using dimensions in the micrometer scale. The gyroscopes and accelerometers inside of a smartphone use MEMS technology. The application of MEMS technology on smartphones also enables access for individuals with disabilities.

Security Threat

Introduction of new smartphone technologies can increase the risk of security threats. For example, researchers at Georgia Tech University uncovered a method by which smartphones users accessed information entered on a computer through the smartphone’s accelerometer and gyroscope by recording and deciphering keystrokes made on the computer.