This week, Apple published clarifications to its support documents to address consumer concern that, because of the presence of the MagSafe magnet system in new iPhones, the iPhone 12 and its 2020 peers are particularly unsafe to hold in close proximity to an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) or pacemaker.
The updated warning from Apple to customers repeats previous statements that keeping any iPhone within six inches of an ICD or pacemaker (or within 15 inches, while charging wirelessly) is unsafe. The warning also claims the iPhone 12 is not specifically more dangerous than other models.
Several weeks back, Heart Rhythm Journal published results of a test wherein it repeatedly found that moving an iPhone 12 with MagSafe close to a patient’s ICD interfered with the functioning of that lifesaving device. After that report, tech enthusiasts visited forums, Twitter, and Reddit to spread speculation that the iPhone 12 was particularly dangerous to people with pacemakers because of the introduction of MagSafe.
However, the journal didn’t mention that modern smartphones already contained magnets and emit signals that necessitate that users with ICDs or pacemakers keep them several inches away from those medical devices, even before the introduction of MagSafe to the iPhone line in 2020.
In other words, it is indeed unsafe to hold the iPhone 12 close to these medical devices—but it was also unsafe to do so with the iPhone 11, iPhone X, or any number of competing smartphones. In its support document update, Apple claims that the iPhone 12’s MagSafe feature does not change its warning, because the warning was already in place.
Here’s what it says:
iPhone contains magnets as well as components and radios that emit electromagnetic fields. All MagSafe accessories (each sold separately) also contain magnets—and MagSafe Charger and MagSafe Duo Charger contain radios. These magnets and electromagnetic fields might interfere with medical devices.
Though all iPhone 12 models contain more magnets than prior iPhone models, they’re not expected to pose a greater risk of magnetic interference to medical devices than prior iPhone models.
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.
For those unfamiliar: MagSafe is a feature in new iPhones that among other things allows the devices to attach magnetically to a small Qi wireless charging pad. This magnetic alignment allows for more optimal charging speeds than in previous iPhone models.
MagSafe was previously offered in Macs, too, albeit in a slightly different form. And recent reports suggest that it may soon return to the Mac.