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Why Magnets Won’t Damage Your Smartphone Electronics and Data

We’ve all heard that you can wipe a computer with magnets — but in this era of advancing tech and more efficient storage, electronics like your phone are safer than ever from interfering fields. Read on to learn more about why everyday consumer magnets are harmless to your cell phone.

Most Hard Drives Aren’t Magnetic Anymore

Once upon a time, hard disk drives (HDD) worked like the vinyls and floppy disks before them; they involved a circular disk, which had to be spun by a “drive” to be read. Whereas vinyl records were sculpted, hard disks are read and written on by an arm with a magnetic tip, which precisely magnetizes ferrous particles so that they point up or down to encode data. This is why it’s important to keep powerful magnets away from computers, and why most people are concerned about magnets near their phones.

Nowadays, data storage in phones use solid-state drives (SSDs) or flash memory. There are no moving parts; in fact, the word “drive” is just a leftover from hard disks since nothing is “driven” in flash memory storage. This method doesn’t use magnetism to write data, but rather uses electrical signals to change the open/close position of floating-gate transistors. Because these transistors are electrical, magnets don’t affect them like they affect hard disks.

 

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Pictured: An assorted example of cards using flash memory to store data. Thanks, Wikimedia Commons!

Since this form is more stable and also much smaller than old hard drives, it’s also the storage method in your phone’s SD card, SIM card, and USB thumb drives. Rest assured: Your SIM card and SD card are both totally safe from magnets.

What About My Phone’s Other Components?

Now that you’ve learned why your data is safe, will everyday magnets affect your phone’s other electronics?

  • Screen: Smartphone screens are either LCDs (liquid crystal-based) or AMOLEDs (LED-based). LCD means Liquid Crystal Display, in which liquid crystals are moved by an electric current to cover or uncover lit pixels behind them. AMOLEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) are small LEDs that generate light when an electric current is applied. Since both of these mechanisms are fully controlled by electricity, just like SSDs, they’re unaffected by magnets.
  • Electric Compass: Virtually all smartphones have a small three-axis magnetometer, which is a sensor that uses the Hall Effect to tell you cardinal directions. These sensors are susceptible to very strong magnetic fields, like laboratory-sized horseshoe magnets — but a small magnet typically won’t affect them. To play it safe, know that most magnetometers are situated near the top of the phone (particularly in iPhones), so positioning magnetic accessories or clasps near the bottom of the phone helps to avoid any possible interference.
  • GPS: If you use a GPS tool on your phone, you’ll be happy to learn that it works independently from the electric compass. All Global Positioning Systems determine their location, as well as the speed at which they’re moving, by keeping constant track of the time and comparing it against signals from a network of satellites. The GPS measures how long it takes to receive the signals, in order to triangulate its position, direction, and speed. This is why GPS receivers are known for being accurate to within a few meters, and also means their function is uninterrupted by magnetic fields between your receiver and GPS satellites.
  • Battery: Most phone batteries are unaffected by household magnets. The presence of a very strong magnetic field can cause the battery to work slightly harder to supply the right voltage and thus wearing the battery out faster. However, even a strong horseshoe magnet would not be enough to drain your phone’s battery. For maximum safety, the best-designed magnetic accessories for phones include some kind of metal shield to protect the phone’s components (for instance, the metal shield inside the iMagnet mount’s super slim mounting plate).

Iphone 6-installation

  • Cell Phone Signal: Cell phones operate on radio waves very similar to those used by walkie-talkies; the main difference is cell phone calls use two frequencies instead of one so you can hear and speak at the same time, and of course that they’re relayed through towers to reach farther. These kinds of radio waves are unaffected by minor magnetic fields.
  • Speakers: Speakers are an example of a module in your phone that uses a small magnet without harming surrounding electronics. Speakers have a small magnet that maintains a field, which is stable and permanently active. It would take an exceptionally strong and close electromagnet to have any perceptible effect.
  • NFC and Apple Pay: NFC, or Near-Field Communication, is a technology that allows phones or other devices in close proximity to quickly transmit small amounts of data using a special short wavelength that’s harder to eavesdrop on. Google Wallet and Apple Pay use NFC to let consumers quickly communicate their bank account information, to pay for goods and services or transfer money to friends. This technology uses radio frequency waves just like calls, so magnets don’t affect it one bit!
  • Other Functions: Accelerometers and three-axis gyro tilt sensors are typically based on the user’s movement, and are not affected by magnets. The new iPhone 6 barometer, proximity sensor (darkens your screen when you’re in a phone call), keypad, camera, and fingerprint touch ID functions are all dependent on electrical signals, as is the core CPU, so all are safe from everyday magnets. Additionally, many phones have metal plates to protect sensitive components from electromagnetic interference, such as the shields in iPhones to cover antennas, motherboards, and other circuitry. If you’re still not convinced, check out this YouTuber testing phones with a strong magnet!

The Bottom Line: Magnetic Accessories Are Fine

Technology manufacturers understand that your phone is important, and that you don’t want anything interfering with its function. The best phones and accessories are designed with the needs of the user in mind, including making sure the phone is never damaged. The iMagnet car phone mount uses a slim mounting plate in the phone’s back panel to prevent any extra magnetic field from interacting with your phone’s electronics. Don’t hesitate to check out the iMagnet’s Amazon reviews and see for yourself how well the iMagnet mount treats satisfied users and their phones! We hope we’ve answered your questions about safely using magnets near your phone, and feel free to contact us if you have any more.

BTBN Screen

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