Ideas and Links

Feel free to add publications or ideas about how to use mobile devices to take real data.

The Physics Teacher has a monthly iPhysicsLabs column that is worth checking out for ideas.

Rebecca Vieyra's Google group, has lots of links, ideas and comments.


  • Collisions. P. Vogt and J. Kuhn,"Analyzing collision processes with the smartphone acceleration sensor," The Physics Teacher 52, 118 (2014). Two cell phones are each attached to a car on an air track and collided. The internal accelerometers are used to examine elastic and inelastic collisions. Article Link; iOS or Android.
  • Oscillations. J. Kuhn, P. Vogt, and A. Muller, "Analyzing elevator oscillation with the smartphone acceleration sensor," The Physics Teacher 52, 55-56 (Jan. 2014). The elasticity of an elevator cable is examined by measuring the bounce acceleration of a stationary elevator car.
  • Radial Acceleration. P. Vogt and J. Kuhn, "Analyzing radial acceleration with a smart phone acceleration sensor," The Physics Teacher 51, 182-183 (March 2013). The radial acceleration of a cell phone at various radii on a rotating arm is examined. Likewise for a merry-go-round.
  • Spring Pendulum. J. Kuhn and P. Vogt, "Analyzing spring pendulum phenomena with a smart phone acceleration sensor," The Physics Teacher 50, 504- 505 (Nov. 2012). Periodic acceleration for a cell phone on a spring and for two coupled cell phones on springs is examined.
  • Pendulum. P. Vogt and J. Kuhn, "Analyzing simple pendulum phenomena with a smart phone acceleration sensor," The Physics Teacher 50, 439-440 (Oct. 2012).
  • Free Fall. P. Vogt and J. Kuhn, "Analyzing free fall with a smart phone acceleration sensor," The Physics Teacher 50, 182-183 (March 2012). How the internal phone accelerometer works is explained and acceleration data for dropping a phone is examined.
  • Determination of g. P. Vogt, J. Kuhn, and S. Muller, "Experiments Using Cell Phones in Physics Classroom Education: The Computer-Aided g Determination", The Physics Teacher 49, 383 (Sept. 2011). A falling cell phone sends out an audible signal which is recorded by a microphone attached to a computer. Free source software is used to create a graph of the shift in the Doppler shift as the phone accelerates.

Using Sound

  • Timing. The sound of an event can be recorded and act as a very accurate stopwatch. As an example if a mass is suspended by a thin string, recording the sound of the string being cut and the object hitting the ground provides a very accurate time of fall measurement. See MyTech: Measurements using Everyday Technologies for an example. AudioTime app For measuring the times of events in a sound recording. Android.
  • Coefficient of Restitution. Using the Android app AudioTime, the time between a sequence of bounces of a ball on a hard surface is found. From this time measurement the Coefficient of Restitution can be calculated PDF description. Android.
  • The Doppler shift can be used to determine the motion of a moving sound source.

Using External Circuits

  • Thermistor Circuit. K. Forinash and R. Wisman, 'Smartphones- Experiments with an External Thermistor Circuit', The Physics Teacher, Vol. 50 No. 9 (2012) p566. A simple external circuit connected to the headset port and be used to connect a cell phone to various sensors such as pressure, temperature and strain gauges. Article PDF; iOSor Android.
  • Photogates. It is possible to use an external circuit connected to a cell phone as a photogate.
  • Oscilloscope. K. Forinash and R. Wisman, 'Smartphones as portable oscilloscopes for physics labs', The Physics Teacher, Vol. 50 No. 4 (2012) p242. An external probe can turn the iPhone into an (limited capacity) oscilloscope. Article PDF; iOS.
  • Oscilloscope. A few how-to YouTube videos: one, two, three , four.
  • Voltmeter. Youtube. Web description.


  • has a video analysis iPhone app that allows you to capture video and analyze the motion to find position, velocity and acceleration. iOS.
  • SpeedClock will measure speed from captured video and analyze the motion to find speed. iOS.


  • Spectrogram. The American Physical Society published an app that uses the camera of an iPhone and a simple diffraction grating to find the spectrum of a light source. SpectraSnapp, Apple App Store; iPhone.
  • Build a telescope that uses a cell phone to take the pictures. Requires using a 3D printer to build some parts.
  • Turn your smartphone into a 3D hologram projector.

Crowd Sourced Data Collection

  • The iSPEX project. This is a project in the Netherlands to crowd source measurements of atmospheric aerosols using personal smartphones and a small, inexpensive add-on device. Seems to be dormant at the moment.
  • The Crayfis project. This cell phone app (not fully released yet) uses your cell phone camera to monitor for cosmic rays while the device is plugged in and in sleep mode.
  • NOAA's CrowdMag project measures magnetic fields in different locations using cell phones.
  • Crowd sourced earthquake detection and warning system: MyShakeapp. Article, 2016.

Write your own apps

  • There is a site at MIT that provides tools for building your own Android app. You do not need to know a lot about programing (but some knowledge helps). At the same time you are building the app you can see it working on a local device (tablet or phone) on the same wifi network as your computer: