Do Metal Detectors Detect Cell Phones?

Metal detecting is incredibly useful, but many people do it as a hobby. It can help you find valuable and lost objects, such as jewelry. But what about cell phones – can metal detectors find them?

Metal detectors can detect cell phones because they have detectable metals in their components, including aluminum and iron. A metal detector will find a lost cell phone as long as it’s within its detection range. 

In this article, I’ll explain how metal detectors can detect cell phones. I’ll also offer guidance and tips for locating a missing phone with a metal detector. Let’s get started! 

How Do Metal Detectors Detect Cell Phones?

Metal detectors detect cell phones the same way they detect all other metals. Most smartphone manufacturers make their cell phones with various metals, including iron, aluminum, copper, lead, zinc, and nickel. All of these metals are detectable with a metal detector, so as long as the cell phone is within the detector’s reach, you should be able to locate it. 

Metal detectors have a coil, usually wrapped around the head at the end of the detector’s handle. This allows power to travel inside it, forming a surrounding magnetic field. Once this magnetic field is established, when you move your metal detector around the ground, you also move the field. This magnetic field will interact with the atoms inside the metal if it comes close enough and changes how the electrons move.  

The metal detector senses this change in movement and induces electrical activity around the metal, and communicates this change to the receiver coil. This coil signals that something has been found, which the user can hear through headphones. 

The signal’s tone typically changes depending on the type of metal, and it’ll take some practice for you to distinguish between different metal types and between trash and treasure.

Therefore, metal detectors detect cell phones by influencing how the atoms move within the iron, aluminum, copper, lead, zinc, and nickel the phone is made of. Then, the detector communicates this change in the magnetic field to the receiver coil, which then communicates to you, the user. If you think the coil isn’t working, check out my article on how to tell if you have a bad metal detector coil: How to Tell If Your Metal Detector Coil is Bad (4 Signs)

To increase your likelihood of detecting a cell phone, I recommend using the discrimination setting on your detector if it has one. The discrimination setting allows you to select which metals you’d like to find, so you can choose only the ones your phone is made of. 

I also suggest changing the sensitivity to a low setting. A cell phone is a relatively large object. You can avoid getting a signal for every small piece of metal in the ground by adjusting the sensitivity so it only interacts with larger metal objects. 

Furthermore, if you just dropped your phone, it’s probably on the ground’s surface or pretty close. Higher sensitivity settings are best for searching for items buried deep underground. 

Tips for Finding a Cell Phone With a Metal Detector

Now that you know a metal detector can detect a cell phone, you may need help knowing where to begin your search. Here are some recommendations: 

  • Grid your search. When looking for a lost object, especially one of value like a cell phone, time is of the essence, and you don’t want to waste it by going in circles. Therefore, I recommend walking in straight lines and an orderly fashion, slightly overlapping your path. This way, you can ensure all the ground gets covered, and you’re not just looking in the same place repeatedly. 
  • Don’t panic. If you’re looking for your missing phone, you’ll probably be stressed and anxious about finding it. These feelings can cause you to not pay close enough attention to the metal detector or to move too quickly, so try to maintain deep and purposeful breathing throughout the search. Being calm will do you more good than panicking. 
  • Carry extra batteries. As I mentioned above, time is of the essence in a search like this. You don’t want to waste time and energy by having to get batteries when you run out. Save yourself time and frustration by keeping extra batteries on you in case the originals die or stop working.  
  • Check all the signals. Cell phones are made with many different kinds of metal, and all the mixed signals from the metals may cause your metal detector to give off confusing or new signals. Because of this, you should check every signal you get from your metal detector, just in case the detector did pick up on the phone but could not give a clear signal back. 
  • Keep your search coil parallel to the ground. You need to ensure that your search coil can send the electromagnetic waves into the ground to see if your cell phone is buried there, and the coil can do this more effectively when it is parallel with the ground instead of angled upward or downward. If your search coil is at an angle, the electromagnetic waves go up into the air instead of underground, which isn’t helpful. 
  • Swing the metal detector at a reasonable pace. Sometimes, when people are looking for a valuable object like a cell phone, they start swinging the detector more quickly in the hopes of locating the object sooner. However, swinging a detector too fast is not conducive. Swing the detector at a comfortable and slower pace for the best chances of success. 
  • Get permission first if you need to search on private land. If you’ve lost your cell phone, your main priority will be getting it back. However, you still need to get permission before you start searching on private land. You should also familiarize yourself with the laws about public lands because detecting is illegal in some cases, including in National Parks and on Native American burial grounds.  
  • Detect with a buddy. It’s better to have someone with you when you’re metal detecting so they can help you dig and search. Having a buddy is especially important if you’re searching in a potentially dangerous area, such as on the side of the road. 

By following this advice and using a high-quality metal detector, you can locate a missing cell phone and save yourself the frustration and expense of purchasing a replacement phone.


Metal detectors are useful in a lot of ways. One useful task metal detectors can complete is locating a missing cell phone. Because cell phones are made with various metals, metal detectors can pick up on them and locate them as long as you have them in the right setting and working order. 

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to tips on finding and collecting precious items. Inspired by reading countless adventurer reports from the oldtimers, Alex is passionate about discovering hidden treasures and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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