5 iPhone Apps that Use the Gyro/Accelerometer in an Interesting Way

and then some jarcher thoughts

Ever since the app store launched in 2008, developers have been able to use the iPhone’s accelerometer when building apps. Here are 5 apps I think did something interesting with the tech. I included hyperlinks in the titles, so feel free download them and try em’ out…


This was one of the first apps on my phone haha I’ll never forget sitting across the table from my dad at dinner one night casually sipping a beer through the headphone jack of my iPhone. Yeah that’s right, a beer… in my phone… But really, the app pours a virtual beer in a glass the size of your screen, and then you get to hold the iPhone up to your mouth to tilt it as the beer “flows” out. Pretty cool stuff. It’s great for showing off to friends and family, but really doesn’t do anything great besides its cool factor.

Sleep Time

I downloaded this one about a month ago cuz I wasn’t feeling fully rested every morning waking up. Right before I go to bed I open up the app, set my alarm for the next morning, and place my phone face down on the corner of my mattress. While I’m asleep the app tracks my movements in bed to analyze my sleep cycles. You know how you’re supposed to sleep in 90-minute cycles or something like that? Yeah, apparently I spend 15-minutes in “deep sleep” and another hour in “light sleep”. I compared my sleep cycles (they show your movements on a graph) to the perfect cycle, and mine’s the exact opposite of optimal. Still trying to figure out what’s making me move around all the time…

Paper - stories from Facebook

This one’s my favorite because it actually adds to the user’s experience. The app itself is just a fun way of laying out your Facebook feed and discovering new content, I’m pretty sure Facebook develops this app just to test out new design features. But the accelerometer feature comes in when you tap on a picture. The picture goes full screen, from top to bottom, but the image isn’t stretched out. Instead it cuts off the right/left sides, until you tilt your phone of course… Tilting your phone left and right feels super natural in your hand as the picture scrolls side to side to let you explore the full image. Definitely worth the download, it even lets you send Facebook messages without downloading the messenger app :)

Sky View

I took an astronomy class a while back to learn about stars, but too bad my constellation memory isn’t too great haha. This app does what it says it does, it lets you see the sky. Night or day you can hold your phone up to the sky and see where the sun, moon, planets, and stars are. It’s kind of like an augmented reality through the screen of your phone, connecting stars so you can point out Scorpius, Orion, the big/little dipper and what not. If you ever get curious with the sky when out at night, give this one a download. P.S. you should look at the sky more often, definitely puts things into perspective.

Send Me To Heaven

If you clicked the link on this one, my bad, Apple actually took it down from the app store because the app was “encouraging behavior that could result in damage to the user’s device” haha. The app was basically a tool to see how high you could throw your phone, and must’ve ended up causing hundreds, if not thousands of iPhone casualties. It used the phone’s gyroscope to tell how high you threw your phone. Lucky for Android users, it’s still on the Google Play store.

I’ve seen apps for leveling out a table using the accelerometer, gaming apps use it all the time, but I’ve yet to find anything in the social space to do it awesomely (is that a word?). Except for maybe Facebook’s paper… I’m sure Apple spent countless hours making sure the data from the Core Motion framework is on point, of course Jobs would’ve said it had to be perfect.

The latest apps using the gyro/accelerometer have been in the virtual/augmented reality space, and I’m stoked to see what developers come up with. But why hasn’t anyone done something mind blowing with this kind of technology? Sam Page from Facebook Paper’s team said it right:

“There is an inherent risk when including motion based controls in an app, often they serve no real purpose and at worst, they can hinder engagement rather than improving it.”

I’d love to think Jobs had all intentions for it to add to the user experience of an app, letting the most complicated features feel… less complicated. Sure you’ve got to think about how users would intuitively use a portrait laid out app, but your iPhone’s screen looks just the same upside down as it does right side up!

If you read this far, you’re an amazing person. Explore more. Think more. Bourbon more.

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