Apple will issue software update for iPhone 12 over radiation worries

iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini, next to each other.
Enlarge / The iPhone 12, a phone that Apple no longer actively sells, is under investigation in France for potentially violating one of two electromagnetic radiation standards.

Samuel Axon

For many people, the iPhone 12 effectively disappeared from the market on Tuesday, when Apple introduced iPhone 15 models and stopped selling the 12, first released in October 2020. In Europe, however, the iPhone 12 remains a notable device, as a number of countries are following France’s lead in looking into the device’s electromagnetic profile. With a software update coming, it may go back on sale soon.

What kicked off the unexpected concern about a nearly 3-year-old phone was France’s National Frequency Agency (ANFR). On the same day as Apple’s fall product announcements, the ANFR informed Apple that the iPhone 12 exceeds European Union regulations for Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), the rate at which a human body would absorb radiation from a device. A translated version of the ANFR report has the agency calling on Apple to withdraw the iPhone 12, “quickly remedy this malfunction,” and if not, “recall copies already sold.”

There are two measures of SAR for a device operating in the same frequency range as an iPhone, per EU standards. The “head and trunk” value, taken to protect against “acute exposure effects on central nervous tissues” when a phone is against the head or in a pants pocket, must not exceed 2 Watts of power per kilogram of body tissue, averaged over six minutes. When the phone is held in the hand or in clothing or accessories, for a “limbs” value, it’s 4 W/kg.

EU regulations for electromagnetic radiation absorption from devices.

EU regulations for electromagnetic radiation absorption from devices.

Official Journal of the European Communities

France’s ANFR measured the iPhone 12 exceeding the “limbs” limit at 5.74 W/kg. The ANFR stated that it would ensure the iPhone 12 was no longer available for sale in France and would oversee “corrective updates” it expects from Apple. Jean-Noel Barot, a digital and telecommunications minister in France, told newspaper Le Parisien that software updates could fix the issue, according to Reuters.