iPhone 5s Compass Way Off Base, Users Say

Direct from Cult of Mac HQ - something's dodgy here.

Direct from Cult of Mac HQ – something’s dodgy here.

You might not want to use your iPhone 5s to find your way out of the woods just yet.

A number of users are reporting that their iPhone 5s compass and level are showing incorrect values when placed on flat surfaces. It might be a hardware issue, leaving Apple with a costly hardware recall or replacement issue. The problem could also point to a software snafu that needs speedy patching.

The problem was first spotted on by “tharepairguy” on a forum thread over at Mac Rumors. He set his iPhone 5s and his iPhone 4 to magnetic north. The iPhone 4 reads 179 south, while the iPhone 5s reads 165 south. His car compass confirms the iPhone 4 reading.

He then checked the level app on each phone. The iPhone 4 showed a surface to be level, as did two other Johnson analog levels. The iPhone 5s? -4 degrees.

Unscientific tests in the Cult of Mac newsroom show the accuracy is off the charts. And not in a good way, as you can see from the photo above. We’ve got a Casio watch compass then an iPhone 5s and an iPhone 4 lined up together, and something is definitely not accurate.

Back at the forums are four pages of posts with a large number of users reporting similar differences in readings between their older phones and their newer iPhone 5s devices. A few folks chime in saying this is no big deal, but for the majority of posters, it’s a big enough deal.

If the gyroscope is off, the consequences could be as minimal as having racing games not work properly: a couple of posters say their cars drift to the right when the iPhone 5s is set on a flat table. On the other hand, an incorrect compass reading could, in fact, put someone’s life in danger if they use their iPhone 5s to navigate with.

The original poster says he got a call from Apple support telling him to recalibrate the sensor by plugging the iPhone 5s into a wall charger, turn on Do Not Disturb and to not touch the device for over 90 minutes. Other forum members report trying this (one for over three hours) with no positive results.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Related
  • prabjotusa

    my iphone 4S with iOS 7 is also having leveling issues, I think it may be a software bug, I always get -4 for a flat surface, and can never get it to 0

  • rkahl

    4 pages of 3 same people bumping this non-issue to the front page of Mac Rumors. Classic cult of OCD, their phones aren’t off… only their meds. If you have to use another level to test your iphone then you’re not seeing a problem. I’m laughing at every post, especially the chicken over the head. Can’t wait to see how Apple dismisses this. Cuckcoo Cuckcoo. They should really ask Apple what their QA/QC tolerance is.

  • rkahl

    Magnet next to magnet = Super Accurate! LOL

  • bigpearl

    mines is off too

  • TechShizzle

    Cult of Mac “Newsroom”!

    That’s rich!

  • rkahl

    Great front page research practices! Where do I send my resume?

  • biggles

    Can depend on whether the Apple “compass” is referenced to true north or magnetic north. And magnetic north varies from place to place and changes from year to year. A compass should ALWAYS be used with a local map that displays the local variation and annual deviation. Aircraft compasses are calibrated every two years, but can have a variation of +/- 4 degrees on any given heading. A deviation card tells the pilot how much to allow for the variation from the true heading. This deviation is calculated into the course to fly.

  • sangsara

    I noticed this problem with the level meter/gyroscope after getting my phone on the weekend. Extremely apparent if you play a driving game (my car also drifts right). Have made 2 trips to Apple service centers and spent over an hour talking to AppleCare support. Tried out 2 replacement iPhones at the service centers, BOTH had the same problem. Have done restores and resets. Waiting to hear back from Apple, but it sounds like a tough thing to fix with a software patch unless they release a utility that allows manual calibration of the gyroscope. Drives me crazy when the horizon line in my camera apps say I’m not holding it straight.

  • rkahl

    LOL, up to 6 pages now with 5 of the same people posting over and over (bumping their page, so others will be drawn into their OCD circle). Apple you must do a mass recall for this disastrous problem! How am I supposed to survey my property with my iphone?!

  • rkahl

    Now you have a guy who claims that Tim replied to his email, he said Tim is dodging questions. He’s on his 2nd iphone replacement, but continues to put screen protectors on them? Lol… Increase the Depakote.

  • rkahl

    Another senses a massive recall. Hmmm, here’s a thought.. App developers will be directed to compensate the deviation in an app update (because it can’t be the game poorly designed). Apple will then do a software update keeping a user defined calibration upon exit.

  • rkahl

    Uh oh! The MacRumors post is on page 2 now. Is it dying down? Apple where are you? This is catastrophic for you not to respond to this horrendous miscalculation! We need answers now!

About the author

Rob LeFebvreAnchorage, Alaska-based freelance writer and editor Rob LeFebvre is Cult of Mac's Culture Editor. He has contributed to various tech, gaming and iOS sites, including 148Apps, VentureBeat, and Paste Magazine. Feel free to find Rob on Twitter @roblef

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