Android / Smartphone as Metal Detector?

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Forum topic by idunno posted 05-05-2011 08:14 PM 4520 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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11 posts in 2643 days

05-05-2011 08:14 PM

Topic tags/keywords: droid android smartphone metal detector

My Droid phone has a built-in magnetometer, and there are a number of “metal detector” apps available in the Android Market…

Has anyone tried this method in lieu of a dedicated metal detector, for checking reclaimed wood? Would you trust the results from a smartphone?

Tried searching the site—without luck—but perhaps I wasn’t thorough enough. Thanks for your input!

9 replies so far

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3203 days

#1 posted 05-05-2011 08:36 PM


I never knew, but … found out a few things by Googling … like …. this article

I’d definitely recommend testing, testing, and re-testing it, before counting on it.

All you’d have to do to test it is … shoot a (known ferric) brad into a board, clip it off at the surface, and clamp another board on top of the first board (that has the brad in it, clipped off at the surface).

You could vary the thickness of the 2nd board, but … that’s how I’d test it.

Preferably, you’d test it against a known working actual metal detector, if you have one. This would give you a way to find out if it works, how well it works, and whether it has enough sensitivity to do … what YOU need it TO do: find metal in lumber that YOU’RE likely to check.

But my gut says … it’s software, in hardware, and … that means … it could easily fail, and—of course—only at the worst possible time.

And how would you know if it DID fail, unless you kept your test board(s), and checked it EVERY time you were going to use it ??

Good post, and good luck !

-- -- Neil

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11 posts in 2643 days

#2 posted 05-05-2011 08:54 PM

A controlled test! NB, you make way too much sense—thanks. I’ll give it a shot… but your points about sensor sensitivity and software reliability are well taken. I’ll have to see how the testing goes; I was hoping to avoid the purchase of a metal detector, but perhaps it’s unavoidable.

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2722 days

#3 posted 05-05-2011 09:04 PM

I’ve had to buy a mill’s bandsaw blade after using a less-than-accurate metal detector to scan a board. I wouldn’t trust my phone but I could just be an eternal pessimist.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3677 days

#4 posted 05-05-2011 10:07 PM

I wouldn’t trust it to save my blades. It might be fun for finding studs
or casual treasure hunting, but for dealing with reclaimed lumber I
would use a detector designed for use with reclaimed lumber.

Such an ap might be useful if you’re driving around picking up discarded
lumber and making assessments as to what to take and what to leave…

View EEngineer's profile (online now)


1110 posts in 3642 days

#5 posted 05-06-2011 04:45 PM

Is there an app to pick the winning power ball number?

There are thousands of those! And they all work about the same… poorly.

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

View CovenantCreations's profile


127 posts in 2932 days

#6 posted 05-06-2011 05:04 PM

Ok I have that App on my phone. I would NOT trust it to check for metal in wood. It does work, but not super accurate. It’s worth about what you pay for it….nothing, jk it’s kinda fun to play around with, but not for actual work.

View Lumber2Sawdust's profile


139 posts in 2894 days

#7 posted 05-06-2011 06:02 PM

I have a smartphone and I love the idea of having a “free” metal detector as a result. I’ve been putting off buying a metal detector myself. Unless you are really sure of its accuracy, I think the cost of a dedicated metal detector is going to be cheaper than having to replace/resharpen a set of jointer or planer blades if you hit some metal that the phone app didn’t find.

That said, I may play around with the app to see how it works.

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 3224 days

#8 posted 05-10-2011 01:31 AM

This phone metal detector may be better than you guys think….

EDIT: Sorry i misread the article. Its just a smartphone app used in conjunction WITH a metal detector, not one in the phone.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View idunno's profile


11 posts in 2643 days

#9 posted 05-15-2011 06:24 AM

I finally got a chance to conduct some controlled tests, and have concluded that this feature is indeed a novelty. It is quite inconsistent, at times failing to detect exposed nail heads on the surface, and other times detecting nails concealed by another piece of wood. So, it looks like I’m going to be in the market for a proper metal detector.

One strange thing: it detected some strong magnetic fields at random spots in my basement… It was triggered at certain spots in mid air, away from any devices which might create a magnetic field. Moving it out of those spots in any direction would lose the detection. Is my basement haunted or something? Guess it’s more likely that this device is utterly useless and unreliable as a metal detector.

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