Make Your Phone Turn On Automatically Just When You Need It

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Your phone is resting on the table; you pick it up, and it flicks on. You didn’t press anything — it just knows. Or maybe it’s in your pocket or your purse — you pull it out, and the screen turns on. It feels magical, and it works well, thanks to a free little app called Gravity Screen. The screen knows when to turn off, too.

The Magic of Sensors

Your phone is a tightly packaged bundle of sensors. It has a proximity sensor so it knows to turn the screen off when you’re in a call; it has a gravity sensor, so it knows which way you’re holding it; there’s also a gyroscope and a compass and a slew of other sensors. Turns out these can be used to figure out when the phone is resting on the table, when it’s in your pocket, and when it’s in your hand. It’s simple, and it doesn’t require much battery power.

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Pocket Sensor

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First things first: This simple setting makes sure the phone turns off as soon as you stick it in your pocket. Once it realizes it’s at that angle, and the proximity sensor is covered, Gravity Screen surmises it’s probably in a pocket – and shuts off the screen. You can also have it disregard the proximity sensor and rely just on the gravity sensor if you want (not that I know why you would).

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Table Sensor

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Next up is the magical table sensor: Switch it on, and as soon as the phone realizes it’s lying statically on a flat, horizontal surface, the screen will turn off. You can decide whether you want it to turn off when it’s lying face up, or only when it’s face down.

Turning The Screen Back On

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Two ways to do this: The simplest one is using the proximity sensor. As soon as the phone detects stuff moving next to it, it switches on. In other words, even if it’s lying face-up on the table, turned off — you can just wave your hand over it and it will turn itself on.

The second way uses the motion sensor: Just pick up the phone and move it, and the screen switches on. This is neat, but it also means the phone needs to stay awake to monitor for motion, causing some battery drain. The app lets you set a timeout for this behavior, so that after a few minutes with no motion, the phone really does go to sleep. Once it’s sleeping, you’ll have to turn it on by pressing the power button, or by waving over the proximity sensor while saying “Lumos.” Okay, you don’t really have to say it… You still should though.

Keeping The Screen On

Once again, there are two ways you can keep the screen on: Let’s say the phone is lying face up on a table, and you’re watching something but the phone keeps turning off. No problem: Just hold your hand over the proximity sensor for a moment, and the screen will not turn off for one minute. Hold your hand over the sensor again to keep the screen on for five minutes.

Then there’s keeping the screen from turning off when you’re holding it in your hand (when reading a webpage, for example):

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The previously-reviewed Samsung Galaxy S4 does this using fancy optical recognition, to tell when you’re looking at the screen. Turns out there’s a simpler way: Just monitor the phone’s sensors. Nobody can hold a phone super-still, even when they’re just reading. By monitoring for minute movements, Gravity Screen knows to keep the screen on when you’re using the phone. Needless to say, you can (and should) adjust the sensitivity so it works well for you.

Some Testing Required

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All of these settings can be toggled and/or tweaked for your liking. Gravity Screen works out of the box, but you can probably make it work better for you with just a little trial and error.

One issue to watch for is alarms: Let’s say your phone is lying face down on your bedside table, and the alarm goes off in the morning. Because it is face down, Gravity Screen will immediately turn the screen off again — and this may turn your alarm off, too (depending on your alarm clock).

The solution is to find an alarm clock that doesn’t do this, or to leave your phone lying face up at night. Here’s a round-up of alternative alarm clocks in case you want to check some out. Be sure to test the alarm ahead of time.

Easy to Disable and Enable

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Finally, if Gravity Screen ever gets on your nerves, you can disable it with a single tap on its persistent notification – and enable it again, too.

It Works, and It’s Awesome

The free version of Gravity Screen rocks, and it changed the way I use my phone. It did require some adjustments (and I switched to a different alarm clock, AlarmPad), but when I got it to work, it worked very well. It doesn’t do as many things as Tasker, but sometimes focus is good, especially for a mobile app.

Give it a try, and let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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29 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Justin P

Whoa, that’s pretty great. Google should probably make this standard, eh?

Erez Z

Totally. That, and call blocking, and disabling PIN code lock when connected to a trusted wi-fi network.

Raheel

@Justin P

Dont Worry, Google is on the way , sure they will own it like they do

Reply

Chinmay S

Is there any app for iPhone?

Erez Z

Not as far as I know.

N S

Unjailbroken iOS doesn’t allow for dramatic system controls and modifications like Android can. iOS can’t even change the keyboard.

Reply

Pushkar Y

and what about it’s impacts on battery ?

Tze Yu C

It does, but not to the point where it becomes a deal breaker. I didn’t do a proper benchmark but when disabled my HTC One got a little under two extra hours before running out of juice.

Reply

jebell

Similar app for iPhone??

Reply

Nero T

I’ve used this app for over 6 months, and I must say it’s awesome.

Reply

Ben

I’m using the Nexus 4, and I’m really digging this app. All the settings are a bit overwhelming at first, but they’re necessary I suppose. I’ll have to use it for a couple of days to see if I want to keep it around permanently. Battery life is my biggest concern at the moment.

Reply

Naval G

Thanks for sharing. Great idea and working out well. It makes even better that iOS does not have this (for now). :)

Reply

Endracion

Biggest question is, using all those sensors, how does it impact battery life? Polling all those sensors non-stop can’t be that good on drain.
Any tests done on that?

Erez Z

The sensor that does the heavy lifting is the proximity sensor — and that’s really low-battery. basically no impact at all. If you set it to wake up by motion that will drain a bit more battery, which is why the app makes it easy to toggle off. :) Even if you just go with the proximity option, you’ll get a ton of use out of this app, at very minimal cost to battery life.

Reply

Ben S

This is really, really cool. I just installed it and I already love having my screen come on without pressing any buttons. I’ve always been a bit paranoid that I’m going to wear out the lock button on my phones (you do press it hundreds of time in a day, after all!) so this solves that, too. Fantastic find, Erez!

Erez Z

Glad I could help! :)

Reply

Arpit

It’s not working on my tablet huwei mediapad 7 lite.What to do?????????????????????????

Erez Z

You may want to ask this on MakeUseOf Answers – they might be able to help! Click the Answers link on the top bar of the site. :)

Reply

Dino

Excellent app! I’ve combined it with No Lock (free) to get rid of the locking screen. So now, everytime I pick up my phone I’m headed directly to the home screen.

Reply

cantab

Pls let us know the operating system meant for any sw. I wasted a lot of time before I realized it.

Erez Z

This post is clearly labeled Google Android…

Reply

Jimmy C

What is that backlight app you happen to be using?

Reply

wolfgangt

Try MacroDroid. Can do the same and much more !

Erez Z

Nice! That looks like a cool app, thanks for the recommendation.

Reply

Sandhiya

Similar app for iPhone?? and what about it’s impacts on battery ?

Erez Z

No such thing for iPhone I’m afraid – and this has basically no impact on battery.

Reply

charan ganadi

interesting piece of information, I had come to know about your web-page from my friend pramod, jaipur,i have read atleast eight posts of yours by now, and let me tell you, your blog gives the best and the most interesting information.
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Reply

Dario

basically no impact on battery? i tried it using only the proximity sensor and still its impact on the battery is too big (for me). the problem is that, when the screens turned off, the proximity sensor needs to stay activated all the time so it can notice changes. when gravity screen is disabled my phone nearly uses no energy at all when the screens turned off, but with the proximity sensor turned on all the time it is using several percents an hour…for me this is no solution

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