One of the best things about the modern world is that you can have the gadget in your pocket for months or even years and still be surprised by the great little things it can do. This week it was the iPhone’s turn to make me sit down and say, “Hey, you’re a nice little boy, aren’t you?”
I will not pretend to you now everything I no longer know about this feature. But the pre-installed Measure app on the iPhone proved invaluable to me this week, and as a result I’ll be using it forever. This is because it is not only a quick tool for measuring things, but also doubles as a very accurate level.
I have been in my new home for about six months now and it was time to finish the place. There are a few potted plants for the balcony, a few smart connected decorative lights on the wall and finally a few frames for prints and photos.
The previous owners had already left a few handy picture hooks in place, but they felt a little awkward – all my frames looked unstable against each other. And thanks to the Measure app on the iPhone, which has been slowly improving since its introduction in iOS 12, I was able to quickly determine that yes, I live in a crooked house. A few tuned hooks later and I’m the vision of perpendicular accuracy. Here’s how you can be.
How to use the iPhone Measure application level
You don’t need to download Measure – it’s pre-installed on every iPhone. But if you can’t find it, launch it from the Utilities folder on your iPhone.
When you open the app for the first time, it will use your iPhone’s camera in the default “measurement” mode (more on that later), which uses augmented reality (AR) technology to measure things without the need for tape. You can ignore this – instead tap the small Level icon on the right.
The app will then become a spirit level, using your device’s accelerometer and gyroscope sensors to determine if you’re on a perfectly flat and balanced surface.
You can use the function in two ways. If you want to measure a large flat surface, you can place the iPhone on its back and you will see two white circles. Overlapping them will ensure that the surface is flat – the screen will turn green when this is the case.
If you’re measuring 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 showing the exact angle at which you are deviating. Again, leveling the surface until it flattens, the iPhone screen will turn green.
Discard the roulette
As mentioned above, the default mode of the app is like roulette and if you haven’t used it before, it’s really convenient. The camera system and sensors of the modern iPhone are so advanced now that they can sense depth – a key requirement for augmented reality interfaces (AR). As such, the app is able to determine the distance of an object from the iPhone and use it with relative accuracy to give you a measurement of the length of something on the screen.
The application is quite good at determining the straight edges of objects (convenient for measuring shelves and the like). It then uses a pin system to allow you to draw a line between two points whose height you would like to know. If you approach an item you are measuring from a distance, the screen measuring tool will become a complete ruler that allows you to know the exact distance between the points of the item you are measuring.
Although I wouldn’t use it for architectural purposes, as you are still required to pinpoint the exact edges of the object you are measuring, this is a great way to get a very good estimate of the length of something in steps – convenient, say, when you walk around IKEA and are looking to get an idea of whether something more or less will fit into a void in your home.
And in one last trick, if you target him, he’ll instantly recognize him as a person and measure his height – handy to see if your Tinder meeting may have exaggerated a bit on their profile!