Apple’s latest flagship phone, the iPhone 12, and its latest smart watch, Apple Watch 6, can interfere with pacemakers, defibrillators and other lifesaving heart implants, a new study warns.
Researchers at the US Food and Drug Administration conducted an investigation into Apple’s devices, which were released in autumn last year.
The experts found they emit powerful magnetic fields that can change how implanted devices work and could result in ‘life-threatening’ situations.
People should keep any consumer electronic devices that may create magnetic interference, including cell phones and smart watches, at least six inches away from implanted medical devices, in particular pacemakers and cardiac defibrillators.
The study follows Apple’s own advice for users, first noticed in January, to keep the iPhone 12 at least six inches away from such implants.
MailOnline contacted Apple for comment regarding this new study, which suggests the Apple’s cutting-edge technology could come at a serious cost.
Pictured, the iPhone 12, which can trigger ‘magnet mode’ in cardiac implanted electronic devices (CIEDs), including pacemakers
An Apple spokesperson said it supports the FDA’s guidance to keep consumer electronics a safe distance away from any implanted cardiac device, consistent with its guidance to customers.
The investigation has been conducted by experts at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) and published in the journal Heart Rhythm.
‘Ensuring the safety of our nation’s medical devices is a cornerstone of our consumer protection mission, especially as technology continues to advance,’ said lead investigator Seth J. Seidman at CDRH.
‘As part of this work, the agency reviewed recently published articles describing the possibility that certain newer cell phones, smartwatches, and other consumer electronics with high field strength magnets may temporarily affect the normal operation of implanted electronic medical devices, such as pacemakers and implantable defibrillators.
‘Based on our review, we decided to conduct our own testing to confirm and help inform appropriate recommendations for patients and consumers.’
New research findings verify FDA recommendation for patients with implanted medical devices to keep their smart phones and watches at least six inches away to avoid interference with implanted medical devices
Cardiac implanted electronic devices (CIEDs) are intended to correct life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias, which can cause the heart to beat too fast, too slow or irregularly.
CIEDs include pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), as well as biventricular pacemakers and cardiac loop recorders.
CARDIAC IMPLANTED ELECTRONIC DEVICES
– Implantable cardioverter defibrillator
– Biventricular pacemakers
– Cardiac loop recorders
Implantable pacemakers and ICDs include a ‘magnet mode’ designed to be used when a patient is undergoing a procedure where electromagnetic interference is possible, or when suspension of the device is necessary for medical treatment, such as an MRI scan.
However, this feature can also be triggered accidentally from strong magnetic fields greater than 10G (a measure of magnetic flux density), which can change how the device works and could result in serious harm to the patient, including death.
‘ICDs in magnet mode will not deliver lifesaving shocks or antitachycardia pacing therapy, which can be life-threatening to the patient if a dangerous abnormal heart rhythm were to occur,’ the study says.
The investigators tested the magnetic field output of all iPhone 12 and Apple Watch 6 models at varying distances from the CIEDs.
They found that all the devices have static magnetic fields significantly greater than 10G in close proximity – high enough to place implanted cardiac devices into magnet mode.
However, when a separation distance of six inches or more is maintained, the phones and watches will not trigger magnet mode.
Pictured, the Apple Watch 6 series, which was released by the tech giant last October. Both iPhone 12 and this series of smartwatches should be kept at least six inches away from CIEDs
For years, magnets strong enough to trigger magnet mode were large and identifiable, such as stereo speakers or electronic motors in cordless tools.
ADVICE FOR CONSUMERS
The study authors offer the following advice for people with cardiac implanted electronic devices (CIEDs):
– Keep the consumer electronics, such as certain cell phones and smart watches, 6 inches away from implanted medical devices.
– Do not carry consumer electronics in a pocket over the medical device.
– Check your device using your home monitoring system, if you have one.
– Talk to your health care provider if you are experiencing any symptoms or have questions regarding magnets in consumer electronics and implanted medical devices.
‘Pacemaker patients were relatively unaffected from these magnets by maintaining some separation distance, since the static magnetic field decays exponentially with distance,’ the authors point out.
However, the advent of small but powerful rare-earth magnets (such as neodymium) means strong magnetic fields are now found in headphones, door locks and smartphone speakers.
What makes matters worse is that the researchers expect the number of consumer electronics containing strong magnets in to increase over time.
Seidman stresses the importance therefore of not carrying consumer electronics in a pocket over the medical device.
‘Because of these results, we are taking steps to provide information for patients and healthcare providers to ensure they are aware of potential risks and can take simple proactive and preventive measures,’ he said.
‘We believe the risk to patients is low and the agency is not aware of any adverse events associated with this issue at this time.
‘Therefore, we recommend people with implanted medical devices talk with their healthcare providers to ensure they understand this potential risk and the proper techniques for safe use.
‘The FDA will continue to monitor the effects of consumer electronics on the safe operation of medical devices.’
Powerful rare-earth magnets (such as neodymium, pictured, a magnetic ore used in the technology industry) means strong magnetic fields are now found in headphones, door locks and smartphones
Back in January, Apple itself quietly confirmed that the iPhone 12 can interfere with pacemakers and other medical devices.
iPHONE 13 MAY HAVE BIGGER WIRELESS MAGSAFE CHARGER THAT REFUELS AIRPODS
Apple’s upcoming iPhone could be compatible with a new ‘reverse charger’ that would let users charge their AirPods just by placing them on the phone while it charges.
EverythingApplePro’s Max Weinbach reported that the phone will have a stronger array of magnets in the back to support the bulked-up MagSafe charger, which is wireless.
The rumored charger is also said to be better at keeping the phone from overheating, while allowing for a quicker recharge.
EverythingApplePro’s website also postulates the jumbo coil could be used for reverse wireless charging – which essentially uses the energy from the phone to wireless charge another device.
iPhone 13, which is the unconfirmed name of Apple’s next flagship iPhone, is expected to be released in September 2021.
The firm’s latest devices feature a technology called MagSafe, which uses in-built magnets to firmly attach accessories like wireless chargers and wallets to the back of the phones.
Apple says on its website: ‘If you suspect that your Apple product is interfering with your medical device, stop using your Apple product and consult your physician and your medical-device manufacturer.’
The MagSafe feature in the iPhone 12 series also uses a strong rare-earth magnet to align the phone for wireless charging, the FDA study authors point out.
Prior to Apple’s admission, another research paper, also published in Heart Rhythm, highlighted iPhone 12’s ability to ‘potentially inhibit lifesaving therapy in a patient’ with an implanted medical device.
The authors of this study, from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, had held an iPhone 12 near a patient’s ICD.
Once the iPhone was brought close to the ICD over the left chest area, the ICD immediately went into a ‘suspended’ state, they found.
‘We hereby bring an important public health issue concerning the newer generation iPhone 12 which can potentially inhibit lifesaving therapy in a patient particularly while carrying the phone in upper pockets,’ the study authors reported.
‘Medical device manufacturers and implanting physicians should remain vigilant in making patients aware of this significant interaction of the iPhone 12 and other smart wearables with their cardiac implantable electronic devices.’
MagSafe was initially introduced in 2006 for Mac laptops – a handy little feature that ensured power connectors stayed attached.
MagSafe connectors were discontinued across Apple’s product lines between 2016 and 2019 and replaced with USB-C.
All iPhone 12 (pictured) and Apple Watch 6 models tested have static magnetic fields significantly greater than 10G in close proximity, which can change how the device works and could result in serious harm to a person with a CIED
However, the brand name was brought back for the iPhone 12 to allow rapid 15W wireless charging.
Wireless charging as a concept has been around since Nikola Tesla, a Croatian inventor, first suggested in the 19th century that power could be transferred between two objects via an electromagnetic field.
The charging pad contains a loop of coiled wires around a bar magnet, known as an inductor.
When an electric current passes from the mains through the coiled wire, it creates an electromagnetic field around the magnet.
This can then be used to transfer a voltage – or charge – to the smartphone.
Apple’s MagSafe charging method uses an array of magnets placed around the wireless charging coil that Apple says ‘perfectly connects to iPhone every time’.
Apple’s next flagship phone, which will likely be called iPhone 13, is expected to be released in September 2021.
iPHONE 13 RUMOURS
Apple is considering ditching the black ‘notch’ at the top of the iPhone for its next flagship model, the iPhone 13, according to an online tipster.
The rectangular black notch, which has featured on flagship iPhone models since 2017, conceals the phone’s front-facing camera components and sensors.
Pictured, the iPhone 12 marking out the notch and the bezel. Zero bezel effectively means the device’s screen blends seamlessly into the edges of the device. The notch’s days may soon be numbered on the iPhone, according to Mauri QHD, an Apple tipster on Twitter
But according to the tipster, who goes by the name Mauri QHD on Twitter, Apple has created an iPhone 13 prototype with no notch at all.
The prototype instead puts these important components at the top of the bezel, the border between a screen and a phone’s frame.
‘There’s a prototype with no notch at all, but – a bit – bigger bezels,’ Mauri QHD tweeted.
All four sides of bezel on the prototype ‘are equally bigger’, he added, meaning the top part of the bezel won’t stick out further than the others.
The sensor-housing notch was first introduced to the iPhone with 2017’s iPhone X – but was mercilessly lambasted by critics and fans alike as a terrible design flaw.
Apple’s phone-making rival Samsung even mocked the notch in an ad for its Galaxy Note 8 smartphone at the time, featuring a man with a notch-shaped haircut.
RETURN OF TOUCH ID
A report in January indicated that iPhone 13 would see the return of its Touch ID technology, in the form of an in-screen fingerprint reader.
This would help users unlock their smartphones without having to remove their face masks during the current pandemic.
According to Bloomberg, instead of reintroducing a Home button, the Touch ID technology would be embedded within the new iPhone screen
Apple first introduced Touch ID in 2013 with the iPhone 5S, in the form of a fingerprint reader integrated into the iPhone’s home button.
However, Apple started to move away from this technology in 2017, with the introduction of Face ID in the iPhone X.
According to Bloomberg, instead of reintroducing a Home button, the Touch ID technology would be embedded within the iPhone 13 screen.
Rather than being a replacement for Face ID, Touch ID would be an additional method of unlocking the iPhone, according to the report.
iPhone 13 models will feature an upgraded Ultra Wide camera lens with a wider ƒ/1.8 aperture, compared to ƒ/2.4 on iPhone 12 models, according to an investor note shared with MacRumors.
The site said in February: ‘A wider aperture would allow for more light to pass through the lens.
‘The move from a ƒ/2.4 to ƒ/1.8 aperture [will] likely to result in significantly improved low-light performance when shooting in Ultra Wide mode on iPhone 13 models.’
PRO-RES FOR PROFESSIONAL FILMMAKERS
iPhone 13 will have major upgrades to both its photo and video taking capabilities and a smaller notch, according to another report.
The new devices are expected to let users take videos in a portrait mode, similar to how they take photos now, using a higher-quality format known as ProRes, according to Bloomberg.
The ProRes feature will allow iPhone users to take higher-quality videos, including in HD and 4K formats, and allow professional filmmakers more editing capabilities in post-production work.
In addition, the devices will use machine learning to improve the look and color of photos with a new filter system.
BEST BATTERY LIFE
Insiders are saying iPhone 13 will also come with a much longer battery life.
The iPhone 13 will be a ‘little thicker’ than the current iPhone 12, ZDNet reports, and rumors are that’s because ‘Apple plans to bump the battery capacity of the new lineup and bump it up quite significantly’.
The tech news site said the Pro Max battery capacity will go up from 3687mAh to 4352mAh, and the Pro and regular models going from 2815mAh to 3095mAh.