Apple Warns Customers Against Using the iPhone 12 Near a Pacemaker
If you have a pacemaker, Apple wants you to know the iPhone 12 might not mix well with your current hardware. The company has updated a support document to discuss the risks of pacemaker usage near an iPhone 12 after researchers found that the device could put a pacemaker into a suspended state.
Medical devices such as implanted pacemakers and defibrillators might contain sensors that respond to magnets and radios when in close contact. To avoid any potential interactions with these devices, keep your iPhone and MagSafe accessories a safe distance away from your device (more than 6 inches / 15 cm apart or more than 12 inches / 30 cm apart if wirelessly charging). But consult with your physician and your device manufacturer for specific guidelines.
According to the original study, which Apple doesn’t mention but which likely influenced the company’s decision to update its guidance, bringing an iPhone 12 close to an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator caused an immediate suspension of the ICD device. This suspension continued until the iPhone 12 was removed from the vicinity. The authors note that the scenario “was reproduced multiple times with different positions of the phone over the pocket.”
The iPhone 12 is not the first device to have this problem; the write-up notes that a fitness tracker with a magnet array generated interference in implanted devices up to 0.9 inches (2.4cm) away. The iPhone 12 is potentially hazardous at a much greater distance of 1 foot (~30.5cm).
Apple notes that it doesn’t expect the issue to be worse with the iPhone 12 than it was with the iPhone X or iPhone 11. To the best of our knowledge, no one has ever run tests on the degree to which various mobile phones do or do not impinge on pacemakers. This problem is not unique to Apple and should be considered a de facto consideration of anyone who owns a device with wireless charging enabled.
What this also means, in aggregate, is that people with pacemakers or other forms of medical devices that are susceptible to magnetic interference need to be careful about the types of devices they carry and where they carry them. Carrying an iPhone or Android device in a pocket is fine, but you may not want to rest your phone on your chest while watching it or using it in bed. The implication of the report is that the pacemaker returned to normal function after the iPhone 12 was removed, but it’s not clear if this would be true for every type of potentially affected device. There’s no risk to using your phone near your head or holding it normally while sitting or standing.