You Won’t Believe How Much Crazy Science & Microscopic Tech Is Crammed Into Your iPhone’s Accelerometer [Video]

You Won’t Believe How Much Crazy Science & Microscopic Tech Is Crammed Into Your iPhone’s Accelerometer [Video]

Your iPhone's accelerometer only costs sixty-five cents, but it's packed with cool tech.

Have you ever wondered how your iPhone knows up from down, or when you’re shaking it? It’s all because of the tiny accelerometer chip inside the device, but how does it work? It’s not like the iPhone’s got a metal ball bearing rolling between two points in there, so what gives?

As it turns out, there’s actually a lot of crazy cool tech in there.

Surprisingly, the way an accelerometer works is actually not that different from the ball bearing example above, as Bill Hammack the the Engineer Guy explains. It’s just a lot smaller scale.

Essentially, in every accelerometer, you have these extremely, springs made out of silicon, which oscillate back and forth between contact points. When they move according to the force of gravity, those contact points can measure the charge, and figure out which way the iPhone is pointing and how it’s moving.

These springs are tiny. So tiny that they’re about the size of a pencil tip. So how do you build a spring that small? That’s an even more fascinating story, involving tiny wafers of silicon covered in an interlacing series of masks which are impervious to a corrosive bath of potassium hydroxide.

That’s a lot of crazy super science packed into an iPhone chip that is estimated to only cost Apple sixty five cents.

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  • seaaalex

    And John has no clue what any of this is … that’s why its “Crazy Science”.

  • Steffen Jobbs

    Most high-end smartphones have this chip so it’s hardly exclusive to the iPhone.  Most consumers don’t care how it happens, they just take it for granted that it does.

  • Fourthletter58

    It’s not exactly an iPhone exclusive is it ? Every smartphone has one and Apple had nothing to do with their design.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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