Get ready for another round of news about how Apple is more controlling than a psycho ex-spouse, and according to some, just as dangerous. Last year, there was a big debacle over Apple’s banning of the Google Voice app. Apple and Google might have started out as friends, but lately have become less friendly and more competitive. It makes perfect sense, what with Google encroaching on Apple’s territory by launching their own cell phone meant to compete with the iPhone. Even before that came about, Google CEO Eric Schmidt resigned from Apple’s Board of Directors, citing a conflict of interest. You can see how that makes sense for Apple to not allow a Google-created app that pretty much bypasses AT&T’s voice service on the iPhone, right? But what about an app that helps people and doesn’t horn in on anyone’s business? Surely Apple would allow that, right? Not so fast.
An Israeli company called Tawkon developed an app for the iPhone that measures the radiation emitted by the device. All electronic devices emit radiation at varying degrees. Everything from your television to your computer sits in a small electromagnetic field when they’re on. The closer you are to this field, and the more time you spend in it, the more likely you are to be affected by it. The reason for more concern over cell phones is that they’re held up to the head, actually making contact with the body, whenever someone takes part in a phone call. Some people think this can have a direct effect on the brain.
Several studies have been done on the effects of cell phones on the body, but they drew different conclusions and reported conflicting findings. Part of the problem is that each cell phone emits a different level of radiation. There is a standard that mobile handset makers must adhere to, though, based on the method of measurement of this radiation, known as the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR). Right now, before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will certify a mobile phone and allow it to be sold in the United States, the device must have an SAR of less than 1.6 watts per kilogram.
Rather than measuring the level of radiation emitted by the iPhone, it’s actually more accurate to say Tawkon’s app indicates how much radiation is being absorbed by the user by taking three factors into account: the SAR, the environmental conditions like distance from a cellular base station, and the way the user hold the phone, specifically, distance from the head. When it reads a potentially dangerous level of radiation absorption, it offers suggestions like “Changing location may help.”
Apparently, Apple sees this app as a potential threat to its business. Tawkon’s app hasn’t been turned down for inclusion in the App Store—yet. But the application has been stuck in the approval process for an inordinate amount of time already. Apple has stated concern over the potential for users to become confused by the app. Sure, if someone were extremely concerned or, let’s be honest, paranoid about the level of radiation coming out of their iPhone, and they didn’t understand the app’s data and what it’s based on, they may be inclined to switch to another device. That’s definitely a possibility. But if an iPhone user takes the time to understand how the app works, and uses its features properly, it’s a tool, not an alarmist, panic-inducing threat. To treat it as such by banning it from the App Store would only increase interest in it, and make people wonder why Apple doesn’t want iPhone users to know about the radiation they’re subjecting themselves to by using the iPhone.
But here’s the kicker. A Washington, D.C.-based organization called Environmental Working Group (EWG) has compiled a list of all available cell phones and their corresponding SAR ratings. Remember that the limit set by the FCC is 1.6 W/Kg. According to EWG’s list, the iPhone’s range is between 0.24 and 1.03 W/Kg, well below the FCC limit. To contrast, the Motorola Droid is rated at 1.49 to 1.5 W/Kg.
While Apple mulls over its decision to approve the app, Tawkon is currently readying BlackBerry and Android versions. If Apple ends up denying it, do you think Google will approve it?
Image courtesy TechCrunch