While we were doing research on low radiation and energy efficient cell phones, I came across a cool trick for determining the level of radiation a cell phone emits which prompted this post. However, before we begin, let’s establish a few facts:
- All cell phones emit levels of radiation which varies by model
- Radiation from cell phones is not proven to cause cancer or any disease
If you’re looking for a primer on the health impact of cell phones, a good starting place for research is the CDC’s webpage on cell phone radiation FAQ. The FDA also maintains information on cell phones and health which you may find useful.
We’ll leave the health impact to the scientists. Instead, this post offers readers a simple test to see how much radiation their individual phone model emits.
SAR – How to Determine Cell Phone Radiation
The SAR is a measure of the amount of radio frequency energy absorbed by your body when you use the handset. Phones vary widely for SARs, but it’s actually very simple to find out the SAR for the phone you’re quite likely reading this article on right now.
To find the SAR for your iPhone:
- Open up your dial pad as though you’re about to make a call
- Type in *#07# and click call
- This will redirect you to a part of the settings on your phone
- Click on RF Exposure
- Scroll down to the link to a webpage with information for your device
You can also access this information on other phones using the same code. Some just pop up the SAR right away while others might take you to the settings on your phone. You can also find this on your iPhone through Settings, General, Legal and Regulator, RF Exposure, where you’ll find that link to the same webpage.
I was pretty shocked to see that my iPhone 7S has an RF exposure of 1.19, nearly ten times higher than the lowest emitters! And iPhones also have the caveat of testing at a distance of 5 mm from your head.
Samsung phones are usually low radiation
Although there’s great variation among cellphones, one thing is consistent: Samsung phones tend to have exceptionally low SARs. This is probably because in 2006 Samsung released a range of phones with a new style of antenna. Prior to 2003, the FCC in the US had a rule mandating omnidirectional antennas, i.e. those that transmitted in all directions. After 2003, Samsung (and other companies) were free to do things differently, which is why Samsung’s newer antenna radiates most of the RF away from the handset user.
That said, a 2019 investigation by the Chicago Tribune found that both the iPhone 7 and several Samsung models far exceeded the FCC’s regulations for SAR, prompting retesting by the FCC itself as well as by Samsung. In short, it’s no simple matter trying to figure out which phones have the lowest radiation.
One way to find at least some reassurance is to check the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection (Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz, BfS) which maintains a comprehensive database of smartphones and the amount of radiation they emit when held to the ear during a call. You might also want to check for the German certification for environmental friendliness ‘Der Blaue Engel’ (Blue Angel), which only certifies phones with a SAR below 0.60 watts per kilogram (far lower than the FCC’s 1.6 W/kg).
How to Minimize Radiation from Cellphones
Again, the CDC has a great webpage on this topic. The CDC clearly states, that while more research is needed, there is no scientific evidence conclusively linking cell phone radiation to diseases such as cancer.
However, if you’re concerned about radiation exposure, there are a few ways to reduce your exposure to radiation from your phone.
- Texting instead of calling
- Using your phone’s speaker function
- Wearing a phone headset or earpiece
- Using a landline!
- Using Pong’s cellphone cases that refocus RF energy away from your head without reducing signal strength
- Making sure your next phone is has a low specific absorption rate (SAR) rating
While the scientific evidence is unclear, some of us may want to limit exposure to radiation from all sources. Using a cell phone with a lower SAR score is one strategy for less radiation exposure in our everyday lives. If this is a topic you’re interested in and want to dig further, also be sure to have a look at our review of the safest microwaves.