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

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]