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Having issues with your phone's compass? Read this

Is your mapping app not able to tell you which way is north? This may be why.

One of CNET's editors, Sharon Profis, recently discovered why Apple Maps, Google Maps and the compass app on her iPhone X ($900 at Boost Mobile) had never worked properly.

You see, when she got the shiny new phone she immediately put a protective case on it (and you should too). It's one of those cases that also includes a magnet on the back, making it easier to place the case on a stand, in a car or on a desk.

So, months later, when she removed the case she discovered the compass on her iPhone X suddenly worked. The culprit? That well-intentioned magnet.

When asked about cases interfering with a phone's compass, both Apple and Google cautioned users from using third-party accessories that don't follow their guidelines.

Google doesn't make its guidelines publicly available, but did provide the following statement to CNET when asked about any potential issues a magnet inside a case can cause:

"We suggest that Pixel owners look for the Made for Google logo when purchasing accessories for their device. Made for Google products sport the logo certifying that they have been tested to meet Google's criteria for compatibility and performance to ensure our customers have great options to choose from and a great experience with Pixel."

Apple, on the other hand, does post its guidelines for potential accessory manufacturers who want to develop products for Apple devices. Section 2.2 on page 17 specifically addresses magnetic interference:


Apple's accessory guidelines as they relate to magnetic interference and protective cases. 

Apple/Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

So not only can a management in a case interfere with the compass, which is a hassle on its own, but it can also have an impact on the iPhone's optical image stabilization (OIS) performance. Presumably, any other device with OIS could suffer from the same issue with a misplaced magnet.

To be clear, this is in no way Apple's fault, nor would it be Google's or Samsung's if this issue was experienced on a different device.