What does *Arduino compatible* actually mean?

I’ve seen it often in your shop and elsewhere. A device is called Arduino compatible in the description.
But what does it really mean?
In the beginning there was only the 5V Arduino family, but lately there are 3.3V only or 3,3V with some 5V tolerant GPIO pins boards available.
Pretty easy to confuse these things and grill a controller with a 5V sensor-signal or get frustrated, because the compatible sensor doesn’t work with 3,3V.

Isn’t it time to change that description to something more accurate?

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Normally “Arduino Compatible” these days refers to compatibility with the Arduino IDE / software and how it’s programmed. The pinout, voltage and shield compatibility have fallen a bit to the wayside in terms of descriptors, though manufacturers still tend to mention “shield compatible”.

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I agree with that, but my concerns where related to all sorts of sensors or other external devices. They often only work reliable with 5V and I feel, this isn’t mentioned clearly in descriptions.

Check out your own shop: in robotics/sensors, there are 1300+ items.
How do I find the 5V or 3.3V compatible ones?
I’d add three subcategories: 5V; 3.3V; universal to make it easier for the customer.

Ideally sensors would have attributes and be searchable as such, not only for the voltage, but for the method of communication (serial, I2C, analog, digital etc.) among others.

Since this is not in place at this time, and you’re finding 5V when you’d like 3.3V, you might consider a logic level adapter? For example: