- The Honor Play 4 Pro, available in China, has an infrared sensor for measuring temperature located on the back of the device.
- A video demo of the phone shows the device measuring the temperature of people, animals, and objects when the phone is held near the subject.
- The phone is launching as temperature sensors have become more common as a means to screen for COVID-19.
- However, there have been doubts about the accuracy of contactless thermometers and fever screenings in general as a means of containing the coronavirus.
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You can already use your smartphone for everything from listening to music to paying for lunch and turning off the lights, and now Chinese tech giant Huawei is adding one more capability to that list: taking your temperature.
Huawei’s recently unveiled Honor Play 4 Pro, which is only available in China, claims to be capable of measuring the temperatures of people, animals, and objects through an infrared (IR) sensor located on the back of the phone, as Ars Technica first reported.
A demo of the phone published on the Chinese social networking site Weibo shows the device displaying a temperature reading after it had been held near a person’s head or wrist. The video also showed the feature working on a kitten and an ice cream pop.
The phone should be capable of detecting temperatures between -20°C (-4°F) to 100°C (212°F), according to Ars Technica.
It’s not the first time tech companies have tried to bring temperature sensing capabilities to smartphones. Samsung’s Galaxy S4 from 2013, for example, includes a temperature and humidity sensor. Weather app developer Robocat also launched a smartphone accessory in 2014 called Thermodo for measuring temperature. But both of those solutions were aimed at detecting the air temperature of a user’s surroundings, not skin or body temperature.
Contactless thermometers that use IR sensors like the one in the Honor Play 4 Pro have become a common tool for monitoring temperature amid the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in China.
However, experts have expressed skepticism about the accuracy of such contactless thermometers, which assess temperature based on heat coming from a person’s skin unlike internal thermometers, according to The New York Times. That’s primarily because there are too many factors that can interfere, such as the distance at which the thermometer is being held from the subject.
Countries around the world have implemented temperature checks in public in an attempt to contain the coronavirus pandemic. South Korea, for example, has implemented temperature checks at polling stations, while Italy has used drones equipped with heat sensors for temperature monitoring. Still, it’s unclear how effective temperature screenings are for containing the outbreak, since not all of those infected are symptomatic or develop a fever.
The smartphone can be purchased in China with or without the temperature sensor, and otherwise includes support for 5G and runs on Huawei’s Kirin 990 processor.