The French government ordered a halt to sales claiming that Apple’s popular iPhone 12 smartphone, released three years ago, emits radiation levels exceeding allowed standards. The issue is spreading to other European countries, including Germany and Belgium. South Korea’s government has also commenced safety checks on the iPhone 12, Apple’s first 5G smartphone.
The Ministry of Science and ICT announced on Sept. 17 that “all mobile phones currently distributed in the country, including the iPhone 12, meet international radiation safety standards and have received appropriate certification.” Nevertheless, they revealed plans to “secure all four models of the iPhone 12 and meticulously verify their compliance with technical standards.”
Previously, France’s National Frequency Agency (ANFR), responsible for supervising radio frequencies and electromagnetic fields, decided to halt the sale of the iPhone 12 on Sept. 12 after discovering it exceeded radiation limits. Random tests were conducted on 141 mobile phone models available in the market, and the iPhone 12 was singled out for emitting excessive radiation.
Radiation’s harmful effects on the human body are measured using the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) index. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies radiation as a “Group 2B carcinogen,” which means it possibly causes cancer.
ANFR disclosed that the SAR of the iPhone 12, when held in the hand or kept in the pocket registered 5.74 W/kg, exceeding the limit of 4 W/kg. The same standards apply in South Korea. However, ANFR added that other versions of the device, such as the iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max, comply with European market requirements.
Upon receiving a warning from ANFR that “prompt corrective measures” would result in a recall order for the model, Apple decided to update the iPhone 12 in the French market to meet EU standards. Nonetheless, the suspension of sales is threatening to spread across Europe as countries like Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Portugal demand explanations from Apple.
Apple has expressed its intent to address the issue through a software update while seemingly expressing some frustration. The company claims that “there’s no safety issue” and argues that the results arose from “a specific radiation testing method used by French authorities.”
Some speculate this scrutiny coincides with the anticipated launch of the iPhone 15, viewing it as a “targeted investigation” amid the EU’s increasing regulation on big tech companies like Google and Amazon. Europe, excluding North America, is Apple’s largest market. Last year, over 50 million iPhones were sold in Europe. With Europe’s high demand for mid-to-low-end smartphones, an escalation of the iPhone 12’s radiation controversy could inevitably impact sales.
Introduced in October 2020, the iPhone 12, Apple’s 5G smartphone, became an instant hit in South Korea with over 600,000 units sold in its first month. Although officially discontinued, unopened brand-new iPhone 12s are still available in some stores and the model also remains popular in the secondhand market.
The Ministry of Science and ICT emphasized that if re-verification reveals the SAR exceeds the standard limit, measures such as import and sales suspension can be taken according to Article 58-4 of the Radio Waves Act.
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