How to Understand and Find Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) of Your Mobile Device

Hi Pong Friends,

One of our most popular blog posts – How to Find the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) of a Cell Phone – dates way back to October of 2012. Everyday, interested people find that article in the hopes of learning about SAR.

With that, we felt that the article needed updating to ensure everybody has the latest information. So, we tasked our resident expert Dr. Rong Wang to revisit her popular post and freshen it up with the most update-to-date SAR-related facts and figures for the newest devices.  Take it away to Dr. Wang:

How to Understand and Find Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) of Your Mobile Device

By Rong Wang, Ph.D.

What is SAR?

Cell phones and other mobile devices emit radiofrequency (RF) waves, a type of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation (commonly called “cell phone radiation”). When you hold or carry a mobile device close to your head and body, you can absorb over half of the transmitted RF energy.

Cell phone radiation level varies from device to device and is measured by the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR). A mobile device’s SAR rating is used to estimate the maximum rate of RF energy absorption by a user’s head and body when using the device. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sets the exposure limit for the general public to be an SAR level of 1.6 watts per kilogram (1.6 W/kg). A mobile device’s SAR rating must not exceed 1.6 W/kg in order to receive FCC certification and be sold in the United States. SAR is measured for placement of the phone next to the head and on the body. For example, the iPhone 6 has a Body SAR of 1.14 W/kg and Head SAR of 1.08 W/kg.

How to find the SAR of your device?

There are several ways to find the SAR rating of your device.  We have listed our top choices below.

From Manufacturers
Most manufacturers provide SAR information in their product’s manuals and on their websites. For example, the RF exposure of Apple devices can be found here

Mobile Manufacturers Forum
The Mobile Manufacturers Forum provides a database of SAR values for popular devices by Apple, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.

The FCC maintains a SAR database. To find the SAR rating of your device, you’ll need its FCC ID number. It’s usually shown somewhere on the case of your device or specified in the “About” data on the device itself. For some devices, you might have to remove its battery pack to find the number. Once you have the number, you can go to the FCC website and follow the instructions.

Other Sources
CNET maintains a list of the 20 cell phones with the highest SAR.

Is my cell phone safe?

While cell phones bring enormous convenience to our lives, the possible health consequences of exposure to cell phone radiation have aroused considerable public attention and scientific debate. The results of thousands of scientific studies are mixed and contradictory. The reported health effects include cancer, impaired brain and nervous functions, sperm damages, behavioral problems in children, to list a few. In May 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified cell phone radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.  Read more in our blog to learn about cell phone radiation studies.

Just because your device’s SAR rating is below the regulatory threshold doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe. As a matter of fact, cell phones were introduced to the market without any safety testing on humans in the first place. Although the FCC enforces SAR limits on exposure, the standards have not been updated since 1996, and were based on a couple of animal behavioral studies in the 1970s. As of today, cell phones have been in widespread use for more than 15 years, and there is still extremely limited research data on its long-term health effects and the effects on children.

Furthermore, you may not be aware that the current FCC guidelines allow a device to be tested up to 25 mm away from the user’s body. Distance is a key factor in determining the amount of exposure from a device – the intensity of radiation increases rapidly as you get closer to the device. As a result, when you carry your device directly against your body, you may be exposed to radiation levels that exceed the device’s SAR rating and even the FCC exposure limit. For instance, if you place an iPhone 5 in contact with your body, your body exposure may exceed the FCC’s limit by more than 4 times. That’s why all cell phone manufactures include warnings in their user’s manuals to keep the cell phone a certain distance away from your body for safety concern. For example, you can find RF exposure information for Apple devices here. Apple even includes a proximity sensor in its iPhone 5S, 6, 6Plus and iPads to detect the presence of a user’s body and subsequently reduce the device’s transmitted signal in order to comply with the FCC’s RF exposure limit.

In March, 2013, the FCC commenced a formal Inquiry to determine whether there is a need for reassessment of the Commission radiofrequency (RF) exposure limits and policies.

How does a Pong Case affect SAR?

The Pong radiation redirection case offers a science-based solution to reduce the SAR of your device and therefore your RF exposure. Pong does not assert that cell phones are “unsafe” but believes that less exposure is better than more before we have a definitive answer. Pong’s built-in antenna technology reshapes the electromagnetic field pattern of your device’s transmitted signal to direct RF energy away from you while optimizing your device’s outbound signal. Specifically, micro-thin, gold-plated antennas, precisely engineered in size, shape and location, are imbedded in each Pong Case to achieve optimum coupling with the mobile device’s own antennas and maximum protection to you. Pong is the only technology proven in FCC-certified laboratories to reduce RF exposure. Pong’s claims were further verified by the Wired Magazine.

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