By Elizabeth Pineau and Tassilo Hummel
PARIS (RockedBuzz via Reuters) -Apple pledged on Friday to update iPhone 12 software in France to resolve a dispute over radiation levels, but concerns in other European countries signal it may have to take similar action elsewhere.
France this week suspended iPhone 12 sales after tests found violations of radiation exposure limits.
Apple disputed the findings, saying the iPhone 12 had been certified by several international bodies as meeting global standards, but said Friday it would release a software update to adapt to testing methods used in France.
Researchers have conducted a large number of studies over the past two decades to evaluate the health risks of cell phones. According to the World Health Organization, they have not been proven to cause any adverse health effects.
But the radiation scare in France, based on test results that differ from those carried out in other countries, has sparked concerns across Europe.
The Belgian State Secretary for Digitalization said he had asked Apple to update the iPhone 12 software in all EU countries, although he said that, based on the Belgian regulator’s own preliminary examination, the phone does not present any danger to users.
Germany has said it is in contact with French authorities to find a solution at the European Union level, while Italy is ready to ask Apple to update the software on iPhone 12s in the country, according to a government source in Rome.
However, any requests to Apple or separate decisions from Italian authorities will come only after the end of the French investigation, a second Italian government source said.
The Dutch Digital Infrastructure Authority also said it was conducting its own investigation, expected in two weeks, and was in contact with Apple and German and French authorities. The agency said it has received calls from concerned consumers.
The French government welcomed Apple’s software update, saying it will be tested quickly and should allow sales of the relatively older iPhone 12 model, launched in 2020, to resume.
“We will release a software update for users in France to adapt to 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 linked to a specific testing protocol used by French regulators and is not a safety issue,” he said.
Apple regularly provides software updates for its phones and computers, mostly to address a security issue. They may focus on a particular model or region, and sometimes Apple releases such updates multiple times in a month.
France’s Agence Nationale des Frequences (ANFR) said Tuesday that the iPhone 12’s specific absorption rate (SAR) — a measure of the rate of radiofrequency energy absorbed by the body from a piece of equipment — is higher than allowed by the law, which led to the suspension of the sale. .
A change to French regulations in 2020 allowed SAR to be tested for limbs – holding a phone in your hand – as well as for the head and body, used elsewhere. In the French SAR tests on the limbs, which the iPhone 12 did not pass, a distance of 0 mm is measured compared to a distance of 5 mm for the body tests.
Belgium’s digitalisation minister, Mathieu Michel, said in a statement on Friday that while the phone’s review by the country’s IBPT regulator is still ongoing, the first results are “reassuring” and there is no need a phone recall in Belgium.
Despite this, he said he had contacted Apple asking it to “review its software updates identically across Europe”.
Denmark has also moved to reassure owners of the phone, saying that its Safety Authority will not take action following France’s findings and that it is not concerned about radiation levels resulting from the use of the iPhone 12.
“Based on the available information, the Danish Health Authority’s assessment is that you can continue to use your iPhone 12 without concern,” reads an emailed statement.
Industry experts have said there are no safety risks as regulatory limits, based on the risk of burns or heatstroke from phone radiation, have been set well below the levels where scientists have found evidence of damage.
“Ultimately I suspect this whole incident will soon be forgotten,” said Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight, noting that the iPhone 12 is an old model.
Apple launched the iPhone 15 on Tuesday, and the iPhone 12 is not available for purchase directly from Apple. It can, however, be purchased from third parties who have inventory or trade in old phones.
A bigger problem would have been a potential recall, which France had threatened if Apple refused to make a software update.
Apple’s revenues in Europe last year were about $95 billion, making the region the second largest after the Americas. Some estimates say that last year Europe sold more than 50 million iPhones.
The US company does not break down sales by country or model.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau and Tassilo Hummel in Paris, Elvira Pollina in Milan, Hakan Ersen in Berlin and Toby Sterling in Amsterdam; Additional reporting by Dominique Vidalon and Supantha Mukherjee Writing by Ingrid Melander and Silvia Aloisi Editing by Mark Potter and David Evans)