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A Breakdown to Your Smartphone RF Exposure & How to Work With It

We did some digging and found Apple’s legal disclosure on the RF exposure information for their iPhone 8, Apple Watch series 3, laptop, and iPad. They explain their measurements in millimeters, but we’ll break it down for you into inches. On another note: for Apple products, they essentially have similar diction, but other's provide more info than others. 

iPhone 8

The SAR limit is 1.6 watts per kilogram in countries that set the limit averaged over 1 gram of tissue and 2.0 watts per kilogram in countries that set the limit averaged over 10 grams of tissue. During testing, iPhone radios are set to their highest transmission levels and placed in positions that stimulate uses against the head, with no separation, and when worn or carried against the torso of the body, with 5mm separation. (Side note: That’s almost a quarter of an inch)

To reduce exposure to RF energy, use a hands-free option, such as the built-in speakerphone, the supplied headphones, or other similar accessories. Cases with metal parts may change the RF performance of the device, including its compliance with RF exposure guidelines, in a manner that has not been tested or certified.”

Even though it’s not very much, they still recommend having a distance between you and your device. But, there’s a problem with their statements. SAR stands for Specific Absorption Rate. This seems eligible for RF guidelines, however, it’s an outdated government guideline. SAR is essentially heat and doesn’t pose a threat. Radiofrequency is a different ball game. Apple says the same exact statement for each of their phones.

On a good note; in Samsung’s Common Phone Health and Safety Warning Guide (see below), the FDA requires cell phone manufacturers to “design cell phones that in a way minimizes RF exposure.” For example, the iPhone 3, 4, and 5 ask for 10mm; and the more recent models have been asking for 5mm. Okay, that’s progress!

But, still be mindful of course.

Apple Watch Series 3

“SAR limits depend on whether Apple Watch is used against the head or on the wrist. In some countries, the SAR limit is 1.6 watts per kilogram averaged over 1 gram of tissue for use against the head and 4.0 watts per kilogram averaged over 10 grams of tissue for use on the wrist. In other countries, the SAR limit is 2.0 watts per kilogram averaged over 10 grams of tissue for use against the head and 4.0 watts per kilogram averaged over 10 grams of tissue for use on the wrist.”

“During testing, Apple Watch radios are set to their highest transmission levels and placed in positions that simulate use against the head, with 10mm separation, and on the wrist, with no separation. When placing Apple Watch near your face, keep at least 10 mm of separation to ensure exposure levels remain at or below the as-tested levels.” (Side note: this is more than a quarter of an inch).

The Problem With These Guidelines

Apple asks for almost a quarter of an inch distance from the iPhone, but more than half an inch for the Apple Watch when holding it up to your head. Huh? Do you sense some “side-stepping” in these words, or is it just us?

13” MacBook Pro (Late 2016 Model)

“MacBook Pro has been tested and meets applicable limits for radio frequency (RF) exposure...

“Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) refers to the rate at which the body absorbs RF energy. The SAR limit is 1.6 watts per kilogram in countries that set the limit averaged over 1 gram of tissue and 2.0 watts per kilogram in countries that set the limit averaged over 10 grams of tissue. During testing, MacBook Pro radios are set to their highest transmission levels and placed in positions that simulate use against the body. (Notice they don’t state a distance requirement… hmm).

Cases with metal parts may change the RF performance of the device, including its compliance with RF exposure guidelines, in a manner that has not been tested or certified.”

The highest SAR values are as follows:

Here’s one limit for a set of countries…

  • 1.6 W/kg (over 1 g) SAR Limit
  • Body: 1.14

This is another limit for others…

  • 2.0 W/kg (over 10 g) SAR Limit
  • Body: 0.412

As mentioned before, they don’t provide any information on how far away you should keep your distance. These numbers give measurements (very vague, in fact) about country's regulations. And, again with the SAR, psh.

Samsung COMMON PHONE Health and Safety Warranty Guide

There wasn’t exactly a statement about how far away from your cell phone should be, or if there should be any distance at all. It more so catered to a, “if you’re worried about,” jargon on radiation safety. They have a section called, “Cell Phone Industry Actions,” which state that the FDA requires cell phone manufacturers to take these precautions into consideration:

  • “Support needed research on biological effects of RF on the type of signal emitted by cell phones;
  • Design cell phones in a way that minimizes any RF exposure to the user; and
  • Cooperate in providing users of cell phones with the current information on cell phone use and human health concern.”

Additionally, they have a section, “Steps to reduce exposure to radiofrequency energy”:

“If there is a risk from being exposed to radio frequency energy (RF) from cell phones - and at this point, we do not know that there is - it is probably very small. But, if you are concerned about avoiding even potential risks, you can take a few simple steps to minimize your RF exposure...

  • Reduce the amount of time spent using your cell phone; •
  • Use speaker mode or a headset to place more distance between your head and the cell phone.”

The Problem With These Guidelines

Samsung explains that the issue pertaining radiation isn’t a big one. For instance, if an unhappy customer sues them for some health reason concerning RF exposure, they can say, “Well, if you didn’t follow our steps to reducing exposure, that’s not our problem.” First of all, that seems a little unfair. Second, another case of the “side-steps”?

Okay, so can you still use a cell phone?

Duh--we’re not stopping you. We hope these facts bring you comfort and a  peace-of-mind because now you know! Plus, we got great solutions--it’s just how we roll:

  • Crossbody that phone: The number one and most guaranteed protection from radiation is distance. We offer two stylish crossbody phone cases that fall below the hip, so it’s not by your precious organs.
  • Like we say, earn some safety and style points with a stylus: Texting is better than holding the phone up to your head (yikes), but, a stylus will give you that extra safety boost. And, you can use them on your phone or tablet. Give it a go.
  • Airplane Mode: We constantly preach Airplane Mode--why? Because 1. Your phone emits little to no radiation and 2. All the notifications and distractions are put aside. So, concentrate on your work or your workout! There are many reasons to switch your phone to Airplane mode.
  • No Device-Dinners: Your friends, family, and date are way more enjoyable to be around when they’re not on their phone--right? Put it away. Dig into the food, appreciate the eye-contact, and soak up the quality time you’ll be having. There’s nothing better!
  • A Digital Detox: An hour, two hours, a day, a few days… the possibilities are endless! Of course, we have family, friends, and work obligations, but give yourself that freedom every now and then to take a break and unplug. The health benefits are worth it.

Here at Tech Wellness, we’re not asking you to stop everything and throw your devices out the window. We gotta use our devices, too! In order to work hard to provide top-notch solutions and ways to allow a balance in your life, we research fervently, we stay up to date, and we try to find only the best resources--whether that be products or people.


So, give these simple tips a go, because now you know.

Stay safe and Be Well,

XO Tech Wellness Tribe

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