Surprisingly, people actually do have ways to use their phone as a metal detector. As you might suspect, there’s an app involved. I wanted to find out if a metal detector app for your phone actually worked, so I did some digging. Here’s what I found on what’s available for Android and iOS phones, and how they worked.
You can use your phone as a metal detector with the use of an app, available for both Android and iOS smartphones. The app’s degree of capability varies, and you won’t have robust metal detector features like in a full-size model. However, the apps are free and do provide some surprising results.
There are a ton of apps whose focus is on the Android platform, and I did find one entry for iOS, so let’s take a look.
Does a metal detector app really work?
Smartphone metal detecting apps work like this
Unlike a full-size metal detector, a smartphone metal detector app works with the magnetic field around your phone. Once it determines a baseline measurement from the sensitivity setting you choose, it can tell when something metal changes that field. This is possible because for quite some time smartphones have included a magnetometer inside them. That’s the technology that powers your smartphone’s compass, and it detects and measures the strength of magnetic fields. This allows your smartphone to sense the presence of certain metals.
The types of metal it might detect are certainly not in the full range of metals you’d expect from a full-size metal detector. The phone will only sense magnetic metals such as iron, cobalt, nickel, and steel.
The app changes its display to let you know when it’s detected metal nearby. The display itself depends on the app, and may or may not produce a sound when it alerts.
During an evaluation done by cnet, it “picked up items like paper clips, a Leatherman multitool, and a metal screw. However, it failed to recognize a platinum wedding band, a gold-clad ring, and a dime — all the valuable stuff.”
How does the app work?
I downloaded the iPhone version of the Metal Detector app (link below) and gave it a try. You basically start it, figure out what sensitivity setting to use, and move the phone around until you get a noticeable hit.
It’s an easy experiment to set the sensitivity, though one time I found that with it set mid-range, the app alerted strongly when it was in mid-air. It wasn’t my belt or anything that I could see nearby, so I had no idea what caused it. I lowered the sensitivity, and the beeping stopped.
In this video, you can see how it reacted to these three targets (penny, nickel, and nail clippers), which I scanned from left to right:
The clippers were some sort of steel and got a good return.
The app was amusing, and I could see using it in a pinch for objects made of a magnetic metal. Other than that, it’s not worth much. It’s a free app, though, so it’s worth every penny. I mean, it did clearly detect metal, and it was fun to use.
A metal detector phone app will detect metal, but finding treasure is just not likely. If you drop a screw or nail in the grass it could be a quick find for you. It could also save your bare feet from metal shavings or a tack, etc.
One common thing that people mentioned in app reviews: metal property stakes will certainly set off the app.
App Store review headlines include comments such as:
- Surprisingly it works
- I am so surprised it works, but it does
- Found my property line iron pin
- IT WORKS .. Only for magnetic materials
- Total McGyver
- Found rebar in 8” concrete wall
- … and a lesser share of comments like Does not work, Beeps all the time, and Worthless
What the heck, it’s fun to download and try.
Metal detector app for the smartphone
Android: Metal Detector
(face it, besides that one, there are a ton of Android apps. You might just want to go over to the Google Play Store and check out some of the reviews)