Instructables

Can magnets in a cell phone pouch damage the phone?

I had a Samsung flip-phone which I kept in a leather belt pouch with a magnetic flap closure. For the first 18 months, the phone was fine. Then it started rejecting calls when I removed it from the pouch to answer it, not every time, but once in awhile. I assumed that I was accidentally touching the Reject button.
This kept happening more and more frequently, even after I started being very careful not to touch any of the controls. Finally, it started rejecting the calls when I lifted the flap of the pouch, without touching the phone at all. That's when I got a new phone.
Throughout all of this, it worked just fine for outgoing calls, and sometimes even for incoming calls if the phone was not in the pouch when the call came in.
As I said, I have a new phone now, and I still have the pouch but I'm kind of afraid to put the phone in it. Has anyone heard of phones being messed up in this way by magnetic-closure pouches before? All I find on Google is complaints about signal interference on the iPhone.

Some phones (like Blackberries) have magnetic sensors that, when enabled, affect how calls are answered.  A Blackberry, for instance, can be set to automatically answer a call when removed from a holster, or end a call and go to sleep when holstered.  If the magnet is in a strange spot relative to the sensor (which can happen with cheaper cases where the magnet wanders through wear and tear) it can double-trip the sensor, causing the phone to answer and hang up with one motion.

I've never heard of Samsung flip phones using magnetic sensors, but then I've been out of the cell game for a few years.  I will tell you, however, that magnets will not harm a cell phone (as they do not contain magnetically sensitive media) nor will they affect reception (as some myths state).
RavingMadStudios (author)  MahavishnuMan4 years ago
I'd be very surprised if the Samsung has any features like that. It came free with my contract renewal and had only very basic functions, most of which I never used. I use a phone to make phone calls and not much else. I suppose I could check the operator's manual for unexpected functionality, but then I'd have to go find it, and besides, it's a cheap phone. What are the odds?

I'm totally prepared to accept that the magnet was not the cause of the phone weirdness, it was just the only thing I could think of that seemed like it might have been a cause, given the symptoms. I suppose it could just as easily have been caused by the case being too snug, or the phone getting dropped one too many times, or just the phone being almost two years old and about to enter the terminal phase of its planned obsolescence.

Thanks for the input!
I'd be surprised too, but it's the only other thing I could think of besides perhaps one of the magnets gouging into the case enough to wear against the motherboard.  I've often been surprised on how one can circuit-bend a device merely by squeezing it at just the right spot.

Planned obsolescence sounds like a viable cause as well.  Isn't it funny how a cell phone has an average lifespan of about two years while the standard contract with a cellular company is two years?  It's no coincidence, I'm afraid.  I often suspect phones I've seen on the market that had issues weren't so much malfunctioning or under-engineered as they were exhibiting deliberately-engineered malfunctions earlier than intended.
RavingMadStudios (author)  MahavishnuMan4 years ago
True dat. What better way to get you into the store than to have your phone go all fakakte? "Hey Mr. Raving, since you're here anyway, I noticed that your contract is up for renewal..."
I'm going to chalk it up to "undetermined", and move on. But I think I'll give the belt pouch a pass, just in case. I'd rather have it rattle around in my pocket than worry whether the pouch was squeezing the wrong spot or magnetizing something that didn't want to be magnetized, or whatever. I'll consider it a long-term experiment. In two years when my new (almost identical) phone goes kaput, I can compare the symptoms.
My advice from years of selling phones: get a case by Body Glove.  They're fitted neoprene rubber cases that seem absolutely indestructible, and they really prolong the life of every phone I've seen them on.  My Motorola Q is over 3 years old and has endured my clumsiness and occasional temper tantrum, having been dropped and twice thrown against even concrete, and the only issue I have is that the battery is worn down.
RavingMadStudios (author)  MahavishnuMan4 years ago
Thanks, I'll check those out. My favorite case of all time was one that the phone just lived in forever, and clipped onto a quick-release swivel on my belt. Haven't seen one of those in a while, though.
rivera.ivan4 years ago
In old Palm models (like V family) and Treo phones, screen could suffer damages with the hostler magnet. Don't seems to be a problem with Blackberry. As MahavishnuMan, seems blackberry phones could survive near magnets.
lemonie4 years ago
It might affect the phone while in use, but I wouldn't expect permanent damage.
Moving magnetic fields around devices relying on electromagnetic signals may well affect the way they work.

L
RavingMadStudios (author)  lemonie4 years ago
I'm kind of wishing that I had waited a little longer to swap out the phone, just so I could have done some experimentation to verify or disprove the magnet theory.
Unfortunately, it was making me so crazy that I'm afraid I would have chucked it through a window before gathering much data.