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Apple has taken swift action in response to concerns raised by France’s radiation watchdog, the Agence Nationale des Frequences (ANFR), regarding radio frequency (RF) emissions from the iPhone 12. The tech giant has developed an update aimed at reducing the strength of the cellular modem’s radio signals.
This move comes after the ANFR found the iPhone 12 exceeded legal RF exposure limits during the recent retesting of mobile phone models. In this article, we delve into the details of this development and its potential implications.
Apple has met the stringent two-week deadline set by the ANFR for submitting the proposed fix. This action specifically impacts the core iPhone 12 model, though it remains unclear if other manufacturers will be affected by the subsequent testing.
Apple has furnished the ANFR with comprehensive documentation from multiple global regulatory agencies, asserting compliance with RF exposure limits worldwide. The company maintains that both its initial testing and the subsequent retesting should have simulated worst-case scenarios, mimicking low-signal areas. Consequently, the forthcoming update may lead to reduced cellular reception in such conditions, although the extent of this impact remains uncertain.
While the iPhone 12 is still available through carriers and in the second-hand market, pending the French government’s confirmation of the update’s efficacy, direct sales from Apple remain prohibited. Furthermore, should the update receive approval, it could preempt a potential total recall of the device in France.
Jean-Noel Barrot, France’s junior minister for the Digital Economy, has emphasized the expectation for Apple to respond within two weeks. Failure to do so could result in a sweeping recall of all iPhone 12 units in circulation, underscoring the principle of equal treatment across all industry players.
The assessment timeline for the submitted fix is currently uncertain, with no specific details provided by the ANFR or Reuters. It is crucial to note that RF radiation, distinct from ionizing radiation, primarily generates heat rather than directly breaking cellular bonds. The Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) is a universal measure of the rate at which the body absorbs RF energy, although its regulation and measurement remain contentious.
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The ANFR’s testing revealed an absorption rate of 5.74 watts per kilogram on contact, surpassing the EU’s legal limit of 4 watts per kilogram over one gram of ersatz tissue, without cooling. However, the test conducted at a distance of 5 centimeters from the broadcasting element aligned with the international regulation of 2 watts per kilogram, consistent with Apple’s own testing.
Apple adheres to internationally recognized industry standards in its SAR testing process. The company’s rigorous evaluation involves setting iPhone radios to maximum transmission levels, with real-time SAR assessment over specified intervals, as dictated by applicable regulations. Testing positions mimic actual usage scenarios, including against the head with no separation and when worn or carried near the body with a 5mm separation.