In the old days, a mobile phone was used to make phone calls and to send an occasional text message. My first phone was a large Radio Shack analog phone for my car. It had a good range and had to be mounted in the back of my jeep Cherokee, and the antenna was attached to the jeep’s roof. It set me back around $1,200.00. That was back in 1987 – I would be out in the desert and I used to get excited to call home from the middle of nowhere.
Then came the Motorola flip phone, similar to the communicator used on the starship Enterprise. Cellular networks were now digital, but the range was less then on my analog phone. I held off for a while, but in the end I got the flip phone. In January of 2007, everything changed again with the introduction of the iPhone by Apple. The iPhone was now more than just a phone with a camera and text capabilities, it was a mini computer. Around the same time Google introduced the Android phone, and both phones became know as smartphones. I got one right away.
Most of the newer smartphones these days come equipped with some very capable hardware that you may not even know about. Apps allow developers to use these features to perform wonderfully addictive tasks.
Here’s some of the hardware built into most of today’s phones that make those apps work:
- Accelerometer – Measures proper acceleration felt by people or objects.
- GPS - Location sensors detect the location of the smartphone.
- Gyroscope – Detects the current orientation of the device, or changes in its orientation.
- Magnetometer – Measures the strength of earth’s magnetic field.
- Luxmeter – A simple light meter for measuring illuminances (lux, fc) by using the light sensor of the device.
- Microphone – Used to record sounds or voices or to communicate with the device.
- Proximity Sensor – A sensor able to detect the presence of nearby objects without any physical contact.
Apps add new capabilities that rely on your phone’s hardware to make it even smarter. Here are five little known apps I’ve added to my phone.
Metal Detector and Ghost Detector for Android
Exploring the desert, you may come across many strange things as well as deserted ghost towns. The inhabitants are long gone, or are they? Using the ghost detector app, which employs the phone’s magnetometer, you can check for unusual distress in the magnetic field. The app can also be used as a metal detector if you’re after more earthly objects. Use it to find lost treasure or check rocks that might be pieces of a meteor.
The Metal Detector app is from Google Play; it’s in the 3rd set of the Smart Tools collection (EMF detector, ghost detector). Metal Detector is made by Android Boy, who states, “The magnetic field level(EMF) in nature is about 49μT(micro tesla) or 490mG(milli gauss); 1μT = 10mG.” The developer says it measures the magnetic field value using the magnetic sensor that is built into your smartphone. Its accuracy depends on the accuracy of your phone’s sensor; if your phone’s sensors are “damaged, broken or non-existent,” the app won’t work. Should there be metal which is capable of being magnetized, the strength of the magnetic field will increase, which will be shown on the display as a series of changing numbers. You can select a sound for an alarm that alerts you to the fluctuation. There’s a nice little video here showing the app detecting a ruler, metal in a computer screen, and various other situations:
Try using this app to find electrical wires in walls (like a stud finder) and iron pipes in the ground. Just open the app on your device, and move it around. You will see that the magnetic field level is constantly fluctuating. That’s it!
If you’re a ghost hunter, you might try experimenting with it to detect spirits. Free.