Highlights: We analysed two smartphones (HTC Desire and Samsung Galaxy Note) to determine the errors in the height measurements; The calibration included with the Android applications is insufficient; After appropriate calibration, the smartphone errors are similar to other forest hypsometers (Blume Leiss and Vertex).
Various applications currently available for Android allow the estimation of tree heights by using the 3D accelerometer on smartphones. Some make the estimation using the image on the screen, while in others, by pointing with the edges of the terminal. The present study establishes the measurement errors obtained with HTC Desire and Samsung Galaxy Note compared to those from Blume Leiss and Vertex IV. Six series of 12 measurements each were made with each hypsometer (for heights of 6 m, 8 m, 10 m and 12 m). A Kruskall Wallis test is applied to the relative errors to determine whether there are significant differences between the devices. The results indicate that the errors of the uncalibrated smartphones significantly exceed those of traditional forestry apparatus. However, calibration is a very easy procedure that can be done by means of a linear regression line between real angles (obtained with a Digital Angle Finder or with a series of measurements taken independently of the experiment), and the angles of the accelerometer. With this adjustment, the smartphones achieve adequate quality levels although the bias was not totally eliminated. The relative errors when pointing with the edges of the terminal show no significant differences compared to Blume Leiss. Applications that use the screen image give better results (no significant differences were detected with Vertex). There is currently no application that offers calibration of the linear regression slope, which is an essential requirement for ensuring the accuracy of height measurements obtained with smartphones.