Apple’s latest iPhone 15 series officially landed in the hands of its first consumers on Sept. 22. Early impressions of the devices are being shaped not only by their new features but also by the lingering radiation controversy surrounding the iPhone 12.


Consumers explore the latest Apple innovations at the Causeway Bay Apple Store on the first day of the new product offline launch. Credited to: Janice Gong

According to the Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA), all smartphones on the market, including those from Apple, meet Radiation Safety Standards. However, the recent controversy, in which the iPhone 12 is suspected of emitting excessive radiation, has surfaced just as the iPhone 15 enters the market.

On the day before the iPhone’s new product launch on Sept. 13, the National Frequency Agency in France (the Agence Nationale des Fréquences, or ANFR) issued a statement calling for a temporary withdrawal of the iPhone 12 from the market due to non-compliance with EU regulations. The statement highlighted that the iPhone 12 had exceeded the established limit for the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) when tested at touch-contact (0 mm).

SAR is a measure of the rate at which the human body absorbs radio frequency energy from the tested device and an indicator of potential harm from electromagnetic waves. According to ANFR’s measurements, the limb SAR for the iPhone 12 stood at 5.74 W/kg, surpassing the maximum limit of 4 W/kg set for limb SAR.

Daily Mail reported that several countries have subsequently expressed concern, including Belgium and Germany. In addition, according to a report by Korea JoongAng Daily on Sept. 18, South Korean regulatory authorities also plan to investigate whether the iPhone 12 complies with electromagnetic radiation standards, and have requested that Apple provide relevant reports.

Olivia Wong, a 22-year-old university student considering the purchase of the new iPhone 15 series, expressed her concerns about potential health risks related to radiation when trying the phone on the first day of Apple’s offline launch.

“I was all set to buy it,” she admitted, “but some negative coverage about the iPhone 12 has given me pause.”

What if this new model has the same issue? The thought of my phone potentially harming my health is honestly a bit scary.”

——Olivia Wong, university student, 22 years old

“I’m torn now. I’m considering maybe buying a Samsung phone instead, but the camera lens of the iPhone is very appealing to me after I tried it, especially the Pro Max,” she said. “They [Apple] have shown a significant upgrade in camera quality on the launch. I was thinking I could use it to take clearer photos of my favourite idols. Anyway, I’m going to see what Apple’s response is to this issue,” she added.

Apple stated in a declaration that the iPhone 12, launched in 2020, has received certifications from multiple international institutions and complies with international radiation standards. The company is currently challenging the results of ANFR’s investigation, according to Reuters. Despite this, Apple has committed to updating the software of the iPhone 12 in France on Sept. 15, 2023, to address the controversy surrounding its radiation levels.

When asked about whether the new iPhone 15 has similar radiation issues, customer service representatives from Apple’s technical Support did not provide a clear response.

Alex Woo, a 26-year-old IT professional, was among the first batch of customers eligible for offline pickup of the new iPhone 15 series. He believed that the potential radiation risks were far overshadowed by the advantages the new iPhone brought to his life.

“The Type-C port is a game-changer as it simplifies everything. I can just carry one cable and I’m good to go. The use of titanium makes the phone so much lighter. I can’t believe a Pro model feels almost as light as a non-Pro one.”

——Alex Woo, IT professional, 26 years old

He said, “I believe that since the iPhone 15 series has been approved for sale in Hong Kong, it shouldn’t cause significant harm to the human body.”


Alex Woo trying out the features of the iPhone 15 series while waiting to receive his new iPhone at the Apple Store. Credited to: Janice Gong

While consumers like Woo have faith in the product’s safety due to its regulatory approval and are enamoured by its advanced features, Dr. Cheng Lee Ming, an Associate Professor in the Department of Electronic Engineering at the City University of Hong Kong, provide a more cautionary perspective.

Dr. Cheng suggested that mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets release radiation when sending and receiving signals via radio frequencies. The amount of radiation can be halved by maintaining one-foot distance from the source of the radio frequency, thereby reducing radiation absorption.

Despite the negative implications brought about by the iPhone 12, it seems unlikely to diminish the appeal of the iPhone 15 series among consumers. An analyst at TF International Securities, Ming-Chi Kuo, posted his insights based on the initial sales survey results of the iPhone 15. He anticipated that Apple’s iPhone revenue and profits for Q4 2023 could easily achieve year-on-year growth due to a better product mix and higher shipment volumes.

Featured Image: Apple

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