Testing the most popular cell phones!!

Chicago Tribune tested popular cell phones for radiofrequency radiation.

Now the FCC is investigating!!

Over the past year, the Chicago Tribune hired RF Exposure Lab in San Marcos, Calif., to measure 11 different cell phone models for radiofrequency radiation.

RF Exposure Laboratory, an accredited testing lab recognized by the Federal Communications Commission, has conducted radiation tests for 15 years for wireless companies seeking FCC approval for new products.

Who conducted the experiments?

The Tribune hired Moulton. Jay Moulton, the lab’s owner and former engineering director for chip-making giant Qualcomm, conducted the Tribune’s tests.

The phones tested included four Apple iPhone models, three Samsung Galaxy models, three Moto phones from Motorola and a Vivo from BLU. Few of the popular phones were newly purchased by the Tribune in stores, online or through one of the newspaper’s cellular carriers.

How were the experiments done?

They conducted tests on 11 different models of cell phones. The tests took place in a 10-foot-by-10-foot room outfitted with copper screen windows to reduce electrical interference. In the middle of the room was a, ’phantom body’ an oval-shaped tub the size of a kitchen sink. Inside the tub was a body tissue mixture.

Moulton carefully positioned the first phone to be tested — an Apple iPhone 8 — under the phantom body so that it was 5 millimetres from the outside of the tub. This separation distance was the same gap selected by Apple in its tests and was in accordance with federal guidelines.

Using a base station simulator outside the room, Moulton placed a call to the iPhone 8 and adjusted the settings, so the device was operating in the same band, frequency and channel that yielded the highest radiofrequency radiation reading reported by Apple to the FCC during the regulatory approval process — data that is available on the agency website.

  [Image Source: Chicago Owner: Chicago Tribune]

The phone was now operating at full power, creating what was essentially a worst-case scenario in terms of radiofrequency radiation exposure. Typically, Moulton said, consumers do not experience exposure like this. But it could happen, he said, in limited situations, such as someone talking continuously in an area with a weak connection. A probe attached to a robotic arm moved up and down, and back and forth, in the fluid, taking 276 measurements of the radiation absorbed.

After a few minutes, the probe stopped, and the results appeared on a nearby computer screen: The radiofrequency radiation level for the iPhone 8 measured 2.64 W/kg — more than double the highest value Apple reported to the FCC and well over the 1.6 safety limit.

Moulton said he was surprised. “Maybe the phone’s power sensor isn’t working,” he said. “It’s supposed to be on.”

“Almost all smartphones, he said, have power sensors — also known as proximity sensors — designed to detect when the device is touching or extremely close to a person. When that occurs, the phone is supposed to reduce power, decreasing radiofrequency radiation. “Let’s see how this iPhone 7 does,” he said, picking up the next phone to be tested. He secured it 5 millimetres under the phantom body, placed a call to the phone and activated the probe.

Minutes later, the results were in: 2.81 W/kg, again over the limit. He tested another iPhone 7, getting a similar result: 2.50 W/kg. “Still high,” Moulton said.

Standard test: The phones were tested in accordance with FCC rules and guidelines. Exposure was measured at two distances from the simulated body: the distance the manufacturers chose for their own premarket testing 5, 10 or 15 millimetres and a closer “pocket test” at 2 millimetres.

Modified test: The Apple and Motorola phones were retested after those companies provided feedback based on the results. These tests added steps intended to activate sensors designed to reduce the phones’ power. Two newly acquired phones also underwent the modified tests.

The Tribune tested several iPhone 7s because of high results from a pilot test.

 The results

The Tribune tested 11 cell phone models by measuring how much radiofrequency radiation was absorbed by a simulated body positioned near the phone. The Federal Communications Commission has set an exposure limit of 1.6 watts per kilogram averaged over one gram of tissue.


[Image Source: Chicago Owner: Chicago Tribune]

What Apple said!?

Apple disputed the findings, saying they were not performed in a way that properly assesses iPhones.

Lab owner Jay Moulton said all the Tribune’s tests were done in accordance with detailed FCC rules and guidelines. “We’re not doing anything extraordinary or different here,” Moulton said. Any qualified lab “should be able to grab a phone off the shelf and test it to see if it meets requirements.” Apple, one of the world’s most iconic brands, would not say specifically what it thought was wrong with the Tribune’s tests or reveal how the company measures its phones for potential radiofrequency radiation exposure.

But still, based on Apple’s feedback, the Tribune retested the iPhones in the investigation as well as an additional iPhone 7, making a change aimed at activating sensors that would reduce power. Once again, the iPhone 7s produced results over the safety limit, while an iPhone 8 that previously measured over the standard came in under.

When informed of the new results, Apple officials declined to be interviewed and requested the Tribune put its questions in writing. The newspaper did, submitting three dozen, but Apple did not answer any of them.

Apple then issued a statement, repeating that the Tribune test results for the iPhone 7s “were inaccurate due to the test setup not being in accordance with procedures necessary to properly assess the iPhone models.”

“All iPhone models, including iPhone 7, are fully certified by the FCC and in every other country where iPhone is sold,” the statement said. “After careful review and subsequent validation of all iPhone models tested in the (Tribune) report, we confirmed we are in compliance and meet all applicable exposure guidelines and limits. “Apple did not explain what it meant by “careful review and subsequent validation.”


[Image Source: Chicago Owner: Chicago Tribune]

What Samsung said!?

The three Samsung phones tested by the Tribune — the Galaxy S8, Galaxy S9 and Galaxy J3 — were positioned at 10 or 15 millimetres from the body, the distances chosen by the company in accordance with FCC guidelines. In these tests, the devices measured under the safety limit.

But when the phones were tested at 2 millimetres from the simulated body — to represent a device being used while in a pocket — the exposures measured well over the standard.

Samsung, based in South Korea and one of the world’s top smartphone makers, said in a statement: “Samsung devices sold in the United States comply with FCC regulations. Our devices are tested according to the same test protocols that are used across the industry.”

FCC officials would not comment on individual results from phones tested by the Tribune. They said that although the Tribune testing was not as comprehensive as what would be required for an official compliance report, they would examine some of the phone models in the newspaper’s investigation.


What MOTOROLA said!?

Motorola officials did say one thing about the high exposure measurement for their Moto e5 Play, which came in nearly three times the safety limit in a 5-millimeter test at the Tribune lab: They speculated the test did not trigger the proximity sensors in that phone.

Motorola said that after receiving the Tribune’s test results, it had the models in question tested at its outside lab, which “found results were within the appropriate limits.” When the Tribune asked Motorola to explain how it tests its phones, the company declined. It also would not share its lab reports.


The ‘pocket test’

To help answer this question, the Tribune cut out pieces of dress shirts, T-shirts, jeans, track pants and underwear and sent them to Moulton. His measurements indicated that phones carried in pants or shirt pockets typically would be no more than 2 millimetres from the body.

Moulton then conducted the same radiation tests, using the same methods and equipment. The only difference was that the phones were placed 2 millimetres from the phantom body — closer than any of the manufacturers’ own tests and much closer than the maximum distance allowed by the FCC.

Maybe, he said, the phones’ proximity sensors would kick in at this closer distance, and the radiofrequency radiation levels would drop accordingly.

But most phones still showed high levels.

  • The four iPhone 7s tested at 2 millimetres produced results twice the safety standard.
  • The iPhone 8 measured three times
  • The Moto e5 Play from Motorola measured quadruple the standard.


1) Chicago Tribune / Chad Yoder NEWSPAPER

2) CHICAGO TRIBUNE–20190821-whddrljk6fbmxoqh25u5t7lkb4-story.html

3) Radiation Testing Methodology


5) APPLE Legal information,3/en/

About the Author:

Jaishree B
Technical Engineer

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