The Magnet has been exceptionally helpful since the day it was discovered.
From it’s humble beginnings as a compass, used to show the right direction so that we didn’t get lost, through to the amazing and incredible inventions of today, MRI body scanners, next-generation electric cars, even maglev floating trains and of course the magnetic phone mount which securely holds your smartphone and charges it whilst driving, each one dependent on magnets to work.
However, some things are not completely clear with magnetism, especially when it comes to smartphones.
You may have read or seen postings about how magnetism can have an adverse effect on your smartphone, GPS errors, screens warping, files vanishing into the ether, and many other problems that are apparently attributed to magnetic interference.
Sounds quite scary right? But is this really the case?
There are a number of common misconceptions that you should really be aware of first.
1. Common sense should be applied when it comes to smartphones and magnets.
Just as the expert from first4magnets, Matt Newby explained, the main reason why you might be concerned about magnets ruining your digital devices stems from an understanding of older electronic devices, such as CRT monitors (Cathode ray tube) and televisions, which were susceptible to magnetic fields. If you were to place a strong magnet near one of these, the picture would become distorted, sometimes even funky.
However, he then goes on to explain that ‘most modern electronics, like our smartphones, are not going to be adversely affected by small magnets’.
Small magnets won’t affect or damage your smartphone
Today, you will find a wide variety of different magnets used in many different situations, each one specifically designed for the task required. For example, the refrigerator and microwave oven.
The typical type of magnets that are embedded in a smartphone mount are usually very small, discrete and not capable of interfering with your device’s signal or data.
To make you feel even more confident that magnets will not affect your smartphone, check out this video. The guy uses a super strong neodymium magnet near the iPhone whilst testing that it can still send SMS messages, take calls, use the compass and even attack it with loads of other magnets, and nothing really changes (at least not this time, it’s strong magnet anyways).
Most smartphones already have several magnets inside them.
You may already be aware that your smartphone has a number of magnets inside, for example, the speaker, the camera and the vibration module, none of which would work without magnets. Even the Apple Watch uses a magnetic induction wireless charging system to ensure that the watch is aligned to the charging dock.
This is also why questions like ‘Can a credit card be demagnetized by a phone?’ often get asked on the net. Incidentally, do you know the answer to this question? Well, fear not, they won’t do anything to your credit card; they are so small that they can’t even pick up a paperclip.
The components or apps in your smartphone will not be affected if you don’t use it near a strong magnetic field
Consider the ‘electronic compass’ and ‘speaker’ for example. You will find lots of forum threads about how the electronic compass in your smartphone can be affected by magnetic phone mounts, or to be specific, the magnets inside them, but is this really true?
In fact it is true, they can be affected, but nowhere near to the extent that you might think. You see only a really strong magnetic field can affect your phone, and you would have to continuously use your phone’s compass or make calls for a long time (months or even years) in the presence of a strong magnetic before they would become affected. So, really there is nothing to worry about!
At this point, you are probably thinking, will my magnetic smartphone mount really damage my smartphone? Let’s dig a little deeper.
2. Why won’t a magnetic phone mount damage your smartphone?
When it comes to magnetic interference, the functions that are most likely to be affected are the speaker, the screen, the GPS module, the inbuilt compass and the phone’s cell signal. However, as Matt explained,’ the vast majority of magnets that you come across day to day, even many of the super-strong ones on the market, will have no adverse effect on your smartphone’.
Let’s consider each one to understand a bit more.
1) Why is your phone speaker safe?
As I previously mentioned, the only time that the speaker would only be affected is if you were making a call otherwise it has no impact. Likewise, when you put your phone on the magnetic mount, the magnetic field is small and located near the center of the phone, whereas the speakers are located on the edges and therefore not affected by the magnetic field.
2) Why is your phone screen safe?
If you wanted to know if the magnet was affecting your phone or not, the easiest way might be checking the phone screen, place a magnet on the screen and see if the image is distorted or not?
In the ‘days of old’, when mobile phones were the size of cereal boxes and PC monitor cases were roughly the same size as a ‘Ford Escort’, they were very susceptible to magnetic interference.
You see, back then, CRT monitors would generate a picture by shooting an extremely focused beam of electrons at a phosphorous coated glass screen and bend the beam horizontally and vertically using magnetic fields. Consequently, any external magnet would interfere with these magnetic fields, resulting in an array of psychedelic colors being displayed on the screen, fun for a while but not very good for the screen.
Thankfully, today we have made significant progress with smartphone screens, IPS LCD screens, AMOLED and OLED screens, each one technically more advanced with no reliance on magnetic fields to function which means no more focused electrons beams, no more ‘Ford Escorts’, oh and no interference from magnets!
3) Why is the GPS safe?
GPS is an important satellite navigation system which works using satellite signals to provide geolocation and time information to a GPS receiver. This enables your phone (if it has a GPS) to determine its location whilst you are out and about, so that you don’t get lost.
Importantly, it’s a satellite-based system rather than something that relies on geomagnetic forces; so it cannot be affected by a magnetic field or in our case a magnetic phone mount. Although large obstacles like mountains and buildings can affect the relatively weak GPS signals and cause it to error.
4) Why is the cell phone signal safe?
Here’s a quick explanation of how your phone actually makes calls and it’s pretty amazing really.
So, you call up your friend who lives in a completely different city and immediately, your phone is converting the sound from your voice hitting the microphone into a digital signal which is then transmitted as radio waves across the cellular network and at the other end, the signal is converted back into sound by your friend’s phone and played out through the speaker all in the blink of an eye and without any noticeable lag. If you are familiar with walkie-talkies or CB radio you will have a good idea of what I mean.
In brief, your phone signal is transmitted through a massive network of cell towers and these kinds of radio waves are unaffected by minor magnetic fields.
5) Why is your phone’s electric compass safe?
The compass is actually a magnetic sensor based on something called the Hall Effect, a physical phenomenon related to the way that current flow is affected by magnetic fields, the location and movement of a magnetic field can influence the sensors and enables it to ‘see’ where north actually is.
Inevitably this also means that the electronic compass ‘will’ be affected by any nearby magnetic field, but the magnetic phone mount won’t damage it, why?
Check this article about the iPhone 4 Electronic Compass to understand part of the reason. Actually, ‘the AKM compass devices (including the AK8973 electronic compass that iPhone 4 uses) are all based on the Hall Effect principle, which is one of a number of methods for detecting magnetic fields. The compass works like a magnet detector, it moves more or less according to the external magnetic field.
The key point to understand here is that these sensors are only susceptible to very strong magnetic fields, like a laboratory-sized horseshoe magnet.
So, a small magnet does not have the power to damage the compass permanently due to the strength of the field, although it will just affect the compass while it is in the vicinity of the smartphone.
Well, I know you might still have concerns about it, I have another evidence to prove it.
Check the GIF below to see how the magnetic field changes as the wall thickness varies.
GIF credit to KJ Magnetics
As you can tell, once the metal steel which we usually use to shield a magnet gets below a critical thickness, the material is saturated. It can't hold any more lines of flux. At that point, the flux pops out the far side, and travels through the air. Opposite to it, the metal steels can redirect those lines of flux (magnetic fields) to the outside of the steel instead of the inside area when it's thick enough. (though once you reach a certain limit, adding steel thickness won't improve your shielding much.)
Will the flux pop out of the steel even it's thick enough?
Well, I suppose you learned physics at school that normally a magnetic field flows out from the north pole and then gets back into the south pole? It has no chances to slip out of the other directions anyways.
OK, so are you still feeling concerned about magnetic smartphone mounts?
Well, really it’s nothing to worry about, allow me to prove it with a real-world test.
3. A Real-life Test - Take PITAKA MagMount Qi for example
Let’s consider the cell phone signal, the electronic compass, the GPS to see if this magnetic phone mount has an adverse effect on a smartphone or not.
And the last, GPS.
As you can see, apart from the fact that the compass was slightly affected (which we already know is temporary), the smartphone performed perfectly. And this is just one of the thousands of tests after the mount was released, which hopefully, will make you feel a lot more confident about using a magnetic smartphone mount.
The MagMount Qi has been highly praised for its other useful functions too, it has the security and simplicity of magnetic mounting along with the ability to wirelessly fast charge your phone at the same time; automatically aligning itself, all of which I have covered in another article Here are 5 Reasons why you really need a Magnetic Car Mount for your Phone, it’s definitely worth taking a closer look.
The Bottom Line
Magnets come in all shapes and sizes, different powers, strengths and they have so many uses.
We rely on magnets so much that some things would not work without them and the magnetic smartphone car mount is one such device, simple, yet reliant on magnets, but not all mounts are the same.
Most magnetic phone mounts on the market use small magnets that won’t really damage your phone’s circuits or functionality. The speakers, screen, GPS, cell signal are impervious to magnetic interference, and the compass will recover as soon as the interference is removed.
However, some mounts are better engineered than others, careful placement of the magnets can ensure that your smartphone is secure and the wireless charging is not affected.
The testing of the MagMount Qi proves that careful and clever engineering ensures that the phone is secure and that all functionality works as expected. Coupled with the PITAKA MagCase and you have the perfect combination, the best-looking case and car mount, the strongest protection and secure connection between the smartphone and the mount and no ugly stick on metal plates anywhere to be seen.
I might have said it already but you really should check it out!