New tech could let smartphones drop their prox sensors – but will they?

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Peer up close at the glass surrounding your smartphone’s display and you’ll notice a few extra components tucked in up there: those include your front-facing camera, maybe a front-facing flash if you’re lucky, and also a couple nondescript little dark circles. Plenty of us don’t give those a second thought, but those circles make up the proximity sensor on our phones, letting the handset detect when we’re holding it to our face, making a call (and preventing our cheeks from doing all sorts of touch-screen mischief in the process). While the prox sensor plays a useful role, phone makers are always interested in simplifying designs and reducing component count, and now one company thinks it has a way to retain prox sensor functionality while doing away with that extra hardware altogether.

The system cooked up by Elliptic Labs uses your phone’s existing earpiece and microphone to emit and detect high-frequency sound waves that are outside our normal range of hearing. When we raise a handset to our face, the presence of our head would block some of those waves and allow the Elliptic Labs software to effectively act as a prox sensor.

In theory, that sounds like a pretty graceful solution, but we’re not quite sold just yet. After, that kind of detection sounds like it requires some pretty constant audio analysis, possibly hurting power consumption. And while it would certainly allow manufacturers to ditch dedicated prox sensor hardware, we’re talking about a tiny, tiny component to begin with. Do the benefits outweight the costs? Well, we don’t know just yet, but Elliptic’s reportedly got a few OEMs looking into putting its system in some future phones, so we may get that answer soon.

Source: Elliptic Labs
Via: Phone Scoop

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About The Author
Stephen Schenck
Stephen has been writing about electronics since 2008, which only serves to frustrate him that he waited so long to combine his love of gadgets and his degree in writing. In his spare time, he collects console and arcade game hardware, is a motorcycle enthusiast, and enjoys trapping blue crabs. Stephen's first mobile device was a 624 MHz Dell Axim X30, which he's convinced is still a viable platform. Stephen longs for a market where phones are sold independently of service, and bandwidth is cheap and plentiful; he's not holding his breath. In the meantime, he devours smartphone news and tries to sort out the juicy bitsRead more about Stephen Schenck!