Apple promised on friday to update software on iPhone 12si France to settle a dispute over radiation levels, but concerns in other European countries signaled it may have to take similar steps elsewhere.
France this week suspended sales of iPhone 12 phones after tests it said found violations of radiation exposure limits.
Apple disputed the results, saying the iPhone 12 was certified by several international bodies as conforming to global standards, but said on Friday it would issue a software update to accommodate the testing methods used in France.
Researchers have conducted a large number of studies over the past two decades to assess the health risks of cell phones. According to the World Health Organization, no harmful health effects have been determined to be caused by them.
But the radiation warning in France, based on results of tests that differ from those carried out in other countries, has raised concerns across Europe.
Belgium’s secretary of state for digitization said he had asked Apple to upgrade the iPhone 12 software across EU countries, although he said that based on the Belgian regulator’s own preliminary review, the handset poses no danger to users.
Germany said it was in contact with French authorities to find an EU-wide solution, while Italy was set to ask Apple to upgrade the software on the iPhone 12s there, according to a government source in Rome.
However, any request to Apple or separate decisions by Italian authorities will only come after the conclusion of the French investigation, another Italian government source said.
The Dutch digital infrastructure authority said it was also conducting its own investigation, which is expected in two weeks, and was in contact with Apple as well as German and French authorities. The agency said it had received calls from concerned consumers.
The French government welcomed Apple’s software update, saying it would be quickly tested and should allow sales of the relatively old iPhone 12 model launched in 2020 to resume.
“We will issue a software update to users in France to accommodate the protocol used by French regulators. We look forward to iPhone 12 continuing to be available in France,” Apple said in a statement.
“This is related to a specific testing protocol used by French regulators and not a safety issue,” it said.
Apple routinely delivers software updates to its phones and computers, mostly to fix a security issue. They may be focused on a particular model or area, and sometimes Apple issues such updates several times in a month.
France’s Agence Nationale des Frequences (ANFR) said on Tuesday that the iPhone 12’s Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) – a measure of the rate of radio frequency energy absorbed by the body from a piece of equipment – was higher than legally allowed, leading to the suspension of sales . .
A change in French regulations in 2020 made it possible to test SAR for limbs – with a phone in hand – as well as for the head and body, used elsewhere. In the French limb SAR tests, which the iPhone 12 failed, it is measured at a distance of 0 mm compared to a distance of 5 mm for the body test.
Belgium’s digitization minister, Mathieu Michel, said in a statement on Friday that while a review of the phone by the country’s IBPT regulator was still ongoing, initial results were “reassuring” and there was no need for a recall of the telephone in Belgium.
Still, he said he had contacted Apple and asked it to “review its software updates in an identical way across Europe.”
Denmark also moved to reassure owners of the phone, saying its safety authority would not intervene following France’s findings and that it was not concerned about radiation levels from using the iPhone 12.
“Based on the available information, it is the Danish Health Authority’s assessment that you can continue to use your iPhone 12 without worry,” reads an e-mail message.
Industry experts said there were no safety risks as regulatory limits, based on the risk of burns or heatstroke from the phone’s radiation, were set well below levels where scientists have found evidence of harm.
“Ultimately, I suspect the whole incident will be quickly forgotten,” said Ben Wood, principal analyst at CCS Insight, noting that the iPhone 12 is an old model.
Apple launched iPhone 15 Tuesday, and the iPhone 12 cannot be purchased directly from Apple. However, it can be purchased from third parties who stock or trade in old phones.
A bigger problem would have been a potential recall that France had threatened if Apple had refused to make a software update.
Apple’s revenues totaled around $95 billion (nearly Rs. 7,89,600 crore) in Europe last year, making the region its second largest after the Americas. Some estimates say it sold more than 50 million iPhones last year in Europe.
The American company does not break down its sales by country or model.
© Thomson Reuters 2023