Apple promises iPhone 12 update to resolve France's radiation concerns and avoid sales ban
Earlier this week, the National Frequency Agency of France or Agence Nationale des Fréquences (ANFR) banned sales of the iPhone 12 citing evidence that the phone has a higher Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) than the legal limit, meaning it is emitting higher levels of electromagnetic radiation than permissible.
However, Apple has now assured that it will quickly issue a software update that potentially addresses the French regulator's concerns. The company said,
We will issue a software update for users in France to accommodate the protocol used by French regulators. We look forward to iPhone 12 continuing to be available in France. This is related to a specific testing protocol used by French regulators and not a safety concern."
The French government said that it welcomes Apple's solution and will expedite testing to resume iPhone 12 sales in the country. The country has not reported concerns with other iPhone 12 models at the moment. It is worth noting that Apple has officially stopped selling the iPhone 12 series in September 2022, but the device can still be had from other retailers.
France uses its own testing protocol for radiofrequency (RF) emissions. The country's testing started incorporating SAR values for limbs in 2020 alongside the conventional head and body measurements, which most countries use. This limb testing was done at a distance of 0 mm unlike 5 mm used for the body, which is where the iPhone 12 failed.
For the uninitiated, SAR values indicate the quantum of RF energy absorbed by the body from the source device. These limits are prescribed by the International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). The ICNIRP places restrictions on SAR values for workers and the general public together with values for the whole body and specific regions.
For instance, in the case of public individuals, a maximum of 2 W/kg is permitted for the head and torso while up to 4 W/kg is permissible for the limbs, both averaged over 10 g of tissue mass. Countries define their own SAR values, which are often more stringent than ICNIRP recommendations, and phone OEMs must comply with this in order to sell their devices in these markets.
That being said, SAR values alone are inadequate in telling the effect of RF emissions from a phone on an individual. They are more of a barometer to confirm that the phone doesn't emit more RF than permissible, and these values are not really comparable across devices.
According to the US FCC, only the highest SAR value under the worst-case or highest power consumption conditions are noted on the box. Whereas practically, the SAR at any given point in time depends on a host of factors including how efficient the phone's radio is, location of the mobile signal, position and manner in which the user holds the phone, and use of hands-free accessories.