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What Does Accelerometer Mean?

An accelerometer is a device that detects its own acceleration and is used in mobile phones to determine the phone’s orientation. Once the orientation is determined, the phone’s software can react accordingly, such as by changing its display from portrait to landscape.


Techopedia Explains Accelerometer

An accelerometer is able to detect acceleration through a micro-electromechanical system (MEMS), which changes electrical properties such as voltage. These changes are translated into signals, which are sent to the appropriate software for processing.

There are different types of accelerometers used in phoneses:

  1. Piezoelectric Accelerometer: This device relies on the natural structures of piezoelectric crystals, which react to forces exerted on the phone by generating an electrical charge, which subsequently creates a voltage.
  2. Micro-electromechanical System (MEMS): These are tiny mechanical structures that change when forces are applied to them, subsequently changing an electrical property.
  3. Capacitive Accelerometer: This device is a kind of MEMS. A net force applied to the mechanical system results in a change in the system’s capacitance.

A typical mobile device has an accelerometer that can detect acceleration on two or three axes, allowing it to sense motion and orientation. A three-dimensional accelerometer can calculate pitch and roll and can be used in flight or driving simulation applications.

Accelerometers consume a lot of energy, so they should be turned off when they are not being used to avoid draining a device’s battery.


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Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor
Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.