iOS 9’s battery saving Facedown Detection feature: Everything you need to know

BY Gautam Prabhu

Published 20 Sep 2015

iPhone 6 Plus case - Griffin Survivor Core case

In case you went through iOS 9’s release notes, you may have noticed it includes a new feature called Facedown detection. The feature along with other refinements helps in improving battery life by an additional hour as it turns off the display when not in use.

So one of the top iOS 9 tips and tricks is to put your iPhone facedown to ensure that the display doesn’t light up when you receive a Notification, which in turn helps in improving battery life.

One of the most frequently asked question is whether the feature works on the glass surface and if it doesn’t why doesn’t it work on all iOS devices. So let me try to answer these questions.

Does iOS 9’s Facedown Detection feature work on a glass surface?

The facedown detection feature works on a glass surface. In fact, as you can see in the video below it works even when the iPhone is suspended facedown, so it doesn’t need to be face down on a surface for the feature to work.

Apple makes use of both the ambient light and proximity sensors to determine the device is facedown. I had initially thought that Apple makes use of the ambient light sensor to detect if it is facedown on a surface, but that wouldn’t have worked on the glass surface or if the iPhone is suspended in the air which YouTube user TechIntimidation has tested in the video.

Facedown Detection feature is not supported on all iPhones

The facedown detection feature is available only on the iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. If you’ve an iPhone 5, iPhone 5c or iPhone 4S then the facedown detection feature won’t work. These older devices also include ambient light and proximity sensors, but it looks like their sensors don’t have the capability to detect the device is facedown. It also seems to be an iPhone only feature, so it doesn’t support iPads and iPod touches. iPads probably because it battery life is not that big a concern, and iPod touches because of the same reason as the iPhone 5.

Check our post to find out why the feature doesn’t support some iOS 9 compatible devices.

Here’s why Facedown Detection feature in iOS 9 doesn’t support iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPads and iPod touches

Can I disable this feature?

Update: You can’t disable the feature, but there is a workaround. But if you disable Fitness tracking in Settings, it disables the facedown detection feature. So you’ve a device which should support the feature, but if it’s not working, then make sure Fitness Tracking is enabled by going to Privacy > Motion & Fitness in the Settings app.

I hope that it answers all your questions about iOS 9’s battery saving facedown detection feature. If you still have any questions let me know in the comments below.

Thanks Mazen for stocking my curosity!

Check out the iOS 9 page for our comprehensive coverage of all the new and hidden iOS 9 features.