General Question

Les's avatar

Will my purse magnet damage my smartphone?

Asked by Les (9607points) August 19th, 2012

So, I’ve asked a few people this question and I’m coming to a consensus of “no”, but I figure I’d get a few more opinions.

I have a purse that has a (rather strong) magnetic closure. Every time I go in to pull out my phone, it has to pass in between these magnets. Is there anything, anything at all in the phone that can be damaged by magnets?

Thanks Fluther!

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8 Answers

poisonedantidote's avatar

Yes, lots of things in the smart phone could be damaged, or have its data erased by a magnetic field.

The screen could be broken, leaving pixels green or dead, info could be wiped, and much more damage could be done.

However, you need not worry. The magnetic field will not be strong enough to cause any damage in my opinion. Unless you are using a large rare earth magnet or something, you wont hurt it.

How close do you have to put the magnets before you can feel their pull? that will give you a rough idea of the size of the field. If the magnet snaps together hard when it is 1cm away from the other, all is well. If you can attract the other magnet 10cm away, then it will do damage.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Yes. The screen, for one, can discolor and blotch. Not as bad as the old style CRT screens did, but even an LCD or LED is subject to a magnetic field.

To say nothing of the SIM card that is inside of GSM phones that acts as the storage medium for phone information.

Oh, if you have a MicroSD or MiniSD card, that’s magnetic too.

yes, you can screw a lot of things up.

JLeslie's avatar

No idea, but it can ruin the strips on your credit cards. I never buy purses with magnets, even though all the sales people say it isn’t a problem. Why risk it. I am always stunned NY designers make purses without a flap or zipper at the top. Flipping NYC where on a crowded subway someone could reach in the bag and the owner would never know! Don’t let fashion ruin your day in a way that really sucks when you have to order new credit cards and worry about your smartphone, etc.

gailcalled's avatar

@Les : I have no idea but am glad to see you back. What adventures have you had during your absence here?

gasman's avatar

Electronic chips (including solid-state memory) are not affected by magnetic fields. Or so I thought. Here’s a nice, techy discussion: Should smartcards be affected by magnetic fields? Here are excerpts, from various contributors:
My first thought was that as these were all solid-state electronic, with EEPROM/Flash memory cells, there shouldn’t really be anything that would be disupted by magnetic fields. Especially not when unpowered.
It would have to be something stronger than your average fridge magnet. But yes placing any type of flash near strong fields can flip bits.

Generally with solid state memory, it isn’t necessarily the strength of the magnetic field that flips the bit, but the motion of the material through the magnetic field.
moving a flash drive through a strong magnetic field induces a current which can flip bits. (or fry circuits if the field is strong enough)
Some motion, as defined by Maxwell’s equations, is practically required. Either the flash drive is moved into and/or out of the magnetic field, or the magnetic field is turned on or off with the flash drive near it.
@Les Even if your purse uses high-strength rare earth magnets I don’t think they’ll ever get close enough to the chips inside the phone to cause “flipped bits.” Even withokut an outer case, a couple millimeters of clearance from the chip surface to the outside of the phone (where a magnet might actually make contact) will likely be sufficient. Field strength drops off quickly (1/R^2) with distance from a magnet.

If you can find an outer case made of soft steel or other ferromagnetic metal, it might afford some protection as a magnetic shield for the phone.

Les's avatar

Thanks all! Great answers all around. @gasman : your answer most resembles what I could remember from college physics. But, I agree with the others who suggest to play it safe and try to find a non magnetic purse. Like @JLeslie said, I have had the magnet wipe out transit cards and such, so who knows why they make purses with magnets in the first place.

Now I just have to find an attractive purse sans magnets. Not an easy task!

Thanks again!

RocketGuy's avatar

That’s the thing – good purse designers are not electrical engineers. They don’t worry about these things.

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