Your iPhone’s Seven Senses

Humans have five senses. Your iPhone has seven:

  • Touchscreen
  • Camera
  • Microphone
  • GPS (augmented by cell tower and WiFi location)
  • Accelerometer
  • Gyroscope
  • Magnetometer

(The magnetometer is normally used as a compass. But think for a moment — your iPhone can actually sense magnetic fields. That’s something only a few animals can do.)

Now here’s the sad part:

Most of the time we communicate with our iPhones via only one of those senses — touch. Virtually all of our interaction with our iPhones is via touching a screen the size of a business card. We talk with our iPhone like Anne Sullivan talked to Helen Keller.

But the iPhone isn’t blind or deaf. It can see and hear quite well, and it has a better sense of location and direction than most people.

But it’s very rare that apps take advantage of these senses. One of the few that does (other than navigation and photography apps) is the Apple Store app.

Note, I’m not talking about the App Store app, I’m talking about the app you use to purchase Macs and iPhones from Apple. The app that’s normally a friendly front end for the Apple Store website.

But when you run the app while you’re in (or near) an actual physical Apple retail store (like this one in Palo Alto), the Apple Store app gives you a bunch of new options. For example, it knows you’re in an Apple Store, so if you have a Genius Bar appointment there, it automatically checks you in for your appointment, and shows you a picture of the Genius who will be meeting you.

But the coolest thing you can do with the Apple Store app while at an actual Apple Store is self-checkout. You don’t need to find somebody in a blue shirt to help you with your purchase. Instead, you can just grab an item off the shelf, point your iPhone’s camera at its barcode, and enter your iTunes password. Your item is charged to the credit card associated with your iTunes account, and you’re free to walk out the door with it. It’s freaky weird the first time you do it, but also way cool.

And all this is done using just a two of the iPhone’s senses — GPS and camera.

Imagine what you could do with all seven!

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