Anyone with a pacemaker has surely been given a speech about avoiding strong magnets. After all, pacemakers are sensitive devices that have life or death implications. Recently, a disturbing study published by cardiologists suggested that the latest iPhone model, the iPhone 12, can interfere with pacemakers and other implanted cardiac devices.
This is because Apple’s newest iPhone features a powerful magnet in its back to support the company’s MagSafe technology. It turns out that MagSafe might not be safe at all. The study, published in the Heart Rhythm Journal, found that the iPhone 12 can go so far as to deactivate pacemakers.
Now, an updated Apple support document warns users about keeping their iPhone 12 and other MagSafe accessories away from pacemakers and sensitive medical devices. It’s a good reminder that today’s technology doesn’t always come with a warning label. Sometimes, playing it safe is better than being sorry with new devices.
Implanted pacemakers have helped save millions of lives since they were invented. They can be used to treat conditions like a-fib as well as more serious forms of heart disease. While they’re typically very reliable, pacemakers are vulnerable to magnets.
Apple’s new iPhone 12 poses an interesting problem for both the company and its consumers. Given that the iPhone is one of the world’s most popular smartphones, it is sure to end up in the hands of people with pacemakers.
As such, the company’s new support document aims to keep users safe while they use their new phone. It says, “To avoid any potential interactions with these devices (pacemakers), keep your iPhone and MagSafe accessories a safe distance away.”
That means maintaining at least six inches of separation at all times and 12 inches or more when the phone is charging wirelessly.
Interestingly, Apple claims that the iPhone 12—despite containing more magnets than its predecessors—does not pose a greater risk of magnetic interference with medical devices.
That’s noteworthy since the study published earlier this month found that the iPhone 12 could put an implanted defibrillator into a suspended state. Of course, that’s concerning because it can’t perform its lifesaving functions when suspended. It will be interesting to see if further studies are conducted to evaluate the effects of the iPhone 12 on pacemakers.
Every indication suggests that Apple is going all-in with its MagSafe tech. The iPhone 12 launched alongside multiple accessories that are compatible with its magnetic rear. Meanwhile, third-party companies are already rolling out MagSafe compatible accessories of their own.
This could be problematic if Apple doesn’t find a way to prevent its devices from interfering with medical equipment. Although it isn’t a problem for most people, the potential results could be devastating.
If a user with a pacemaker put their phone in a shirt pocket without thinking, it could cost them their life. That’s something Apple will need to grapple with in the coming days.
In the meantime, users with any sort of implanted medical tech should be wary when using their iPhone 12. Keeping its MagSafe back away from other devices is critical.