The Galaxy S4 surprised the world by adding Sensirion’s SHTC1 chip – a tiny, low power chip that can take accurate measurements of relative humidity and ambient air temperature. These readings are used in S-Health, we also collect data from the chip in WeatherSignal – a real-time weather crowdsourcing app (join the biggest mobile meteorological network: download the app).
Much has been made of two of the Galaxy S5’s new additions: fingerprint & heart-rate sensors. An Infra-red gesture sensor – which could possibly be hacked to provide surface temperature readings – and RGB ambient light sensor have also been added, these will likely have more of an impact as they passively monitor the environment while fingerprint/heart-rate requires effort from the user. But what of temperature and relative humidity?
Sources have been a bit confused, the official S5 site does not mention these sensors but GSM Arena, generally a reliable source for phone specs does list humidity and temperature sensors. So we decided to take a look at our own data.
Although the S5 is not officially released for another 2 days, we’ve seen numerous S5’s sending us data – almost 70 in fact, from 15 countries (Korea we expected to see as the S5 is already on sale there, the US, Israel, Brazil are also included). Among the data we collect is a one-off scan of device specs, this forms the basis of our Android Fragmentation reports, we also provide this data to device testing firms and OEMs.
Across all 69 Galaxy S5’s, covering 9 distinct precise models (e.g. SM-G900L, SMG900V) not a single one provides humidity or temperature APIs. Unless Samsung has included these sensors but made them invisible to developers – which would be perverse – these sensors are not present.
It’s highly unusual to see an OEM removing a sensor. We’d love to be proven wrong, if anyone knows different, get in touch.
UPDATE: A few people have pointed this out, I think Geetee on Hacker News was the first: “It’s most likely due to the water-proofing. The S4 rugged version has the same limitation.” Makes sense – air temperature and humidity sensors have to be exposed to the air, perhaps hard to square that with water-proofing.
UPDATE 2: After talking with Dominic Boeni of Sensirion, it seems that waterproofing is not the problem, indeed many Japanese phones with SHTC1 humidity/temperature sensors are waterproofed to IP68 standard – you can leave them an hour at a depth of 2m.