Schiller: 5th Gen iPod touch Too Thin for Ambient Light Sensor

| News

Apple’s new fifth-generation iPod touch adds many amazing new features but omits a feature so common to Apple devices that many users had taken it for granted: the ambient light sensor. An email response to a customer, reportedly sent by Apple’s SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller, explains that Apple simply ran out of room to include one in the ultra-thin device.

iPod touch Light Sensor Schiller EmailScreenshot of customer email to Phil Schiller (via iDownloadBlog)

Customer: Phil, I have noticed that there is no auto-brightness setting on my new 5th generation iPod touch. Care to explain, Sir?

Mr. Schiller: Thank you for purchasing a new iPod touch. It is a remarkable device! The 5th generation iPod touch does not have a built-in automatic light sensor (it’s just too thin!)

The ambient light sensor, available on most Apple products with displays dating back to the iMac G5, detects the surrounding light levels and automatically adjusts the display’s brightness to compensate. In darker areas, the screen brightness is lowered; in brighter areas, it is raised.

While users of Apple devices can always manually adjust their display brightness, the feature was especially useful on portable devices as it helped save battery life by automatically dimming the display as necessary.

The iPhone 5, slightly thicker than the new iPod touch (7.6 mm versus 6.1 mm), can apparently still accommodate the ambient light sensor, as it is included in the device.

Ambient Light Sensor iPhone vs iPod TouchThe Ambient Light Sensor "Auto-Brightness" feature is present on the iPhone 5 (left) but
absent on the fifth generation iPod touch (right). Image via iDownloadBlog.

It’s not clear if the inclusion of an ambient light sensor is not possible at all with current technologies, or if including it in the iPod touch would have required significantly added cost and engineering that Apple was not willing to spend in order to protect its high profit margins on the device.

Users who rely on their ambient light sensor will therefore be disappointed by the feature’s absence from the fifth generation iPod touch, although the bevy of new and improved features found on the device may help mitigate the loss.

[via iDownloadBlog]


Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

This is the excuse I will now use for why I do not have an ambient light sensor (I’m just too thin!)

Mike Hunt

This excuse just won’t cut it for me. I have owned an ipod touch 4th gen,that I won at a Breckenridge Colorado Homes For Sale competition,  and that is one thin device, and it still had an ambient light senson. Why wouldn’t they include one in the 5th gen ipod touch? It’s sad to see apple release less-than-great products, like apple maps.

John Lindel

THe iPod is only 88 grams and it nearly the thinnest iPod on the market now. The iPod touch 4th generation was actually a poorly designed iPod and has numerously lower ratings the new and improved version of the iPod touch. Plus be just grateful you even have an iPod touch that you got for FREE. What if you met the people who help assemble the product in china? Bet you would feel a tad bit more gratful with what you have in your life in general.


When I think that 50 years ago all the letters are handwritten with pen and ink ... the recipient response costs many days. Now we have the technology, technical writing, e-mail and everything in an instant. So great…

Log in to comment (TMO, Twitter or Facebook) or Register for a TMO account