One of the best things about the modern world is that you can have a gadget in your pocket for months or even years and still be surprised at the cool little things it can do. This week it was the iPhone’s turn to make me sit up and say “hey, you’re a nice little guy, aren’t you?”
Now I won’t pretend everything don’t already know about this feature. But the pre-installed iPhone Measure app proved invaluable to me this week, so I’ll be using it forever. That’s because it’s not only a quick tool for measuring things, but also because it doubles as a very accurate spirit level.
I’ve been in my (almost) new home for about six months now, and it’s time to put the finishing touches on the place. There are potted plants sorted for the balcony, smart connected decorative lights on the wall and, finally, frames for prints and photos.
The previous owners of the place had already left some handy picture hooks in place, but they felt a bit left out – all of my frames looked wobbly against each other. And, thanks to the iPhone’s Measure app, which has slowly improved since its introduction in iOS 12, I was able to quickly determine that, yes, I was living in a crooked house. A few tweaked hooks later, and I have the vision for perpendicular precision. Here’s how you can be too.
How to Use iPhone Measure App Spirit Level
You don’t need to download Measure – it comes pre-installed on every iPhone. But if you can’t find it, launch it from your iPhone’s Utilities folder.
When you first open the app, it’ll use your iPhone’s camera in its default “measurement” mode (more on that later), which uses augmented reality (AR) technology to measure things. without the need for tape. You can skip this – tap the little “Level” icon on the right instead.
The app will then turn into a spirit level, using your device’s accelerometer and gyroscope sensors to determine whether or not you’re on a perfectly flat and balanced surface.
You can use the feature in two ways. If you’re looking to measure a large flat area, you can lay the iPhone on its back and you’ll see two white circles. Overlapping them will ensure the surface is level – the screen will turn green when this is the case.
If you measure something less wide, turn the iPhone on its edge and place it on the surface. You will then be presented with a more traditional spirit level interface, with a white line displaying the exact angle you are at. Again, aligning the surface until it is level will see the iPhone screen turn green.
Ditch the tape measure
As mentioned above, the app’s default mode is a tape measure, and if you’ve never used it before, it’s really handy. A modern iPhone’s camera system and sensors are now so advanced that they are capable of depth sensing – a key requirement of augmented reality (AR) interfaces. As such, the app is able to determine an object’s distance from the iPhone and use that with relative accuracy to give you a measurement of the length of something on screen.
The app is pretty good at determining straight edges of objects (handy for measuring shelves and such). It then uses a pin system to let you draw a line between two points whose height you want to know. If you approach an item you are measuring from a distance, the on-screen measurement tool will become a complete ruler, letting you know the precise distance between the points of the item you are measuring.
Although I don’t use it for architectural purposes, as it still forces you to accurately determine the exact edges of the object you’re measuring, it’s a great way to get a really good estimate of the length of something at a glance – handy, for example, when walking through IKEA and trying to find out if something more or less corresponds to a void in your home.
And, as a final trick, if you point it at a person, it will instantly recognize them as a human and measure their height – handy for determining if your Tinder date might have overdone their profile a bit!