Apple responds to France's iPhone 12 radiation ban with software update

iPhone 12 in green
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Earlier this month France announced that the iPhone 12 (yes 12) would be pulled from sale, after it was discovered to have exceeded the legal radiation exposure limits. While both Apple and French officials noted the phone was still safe to use, it was promised that a software update would be issued to deal with the problem.

It seems Apple has made good on its promise, developing a software update that has been submitted to French regulators. iPhone 12s with the update will then be tested to ensure the phone’s radiation emissions are within the legal limit. 

Radiation sounds scary, but it’s actually a very broad term that covers a lot of different things. What’s actually being discussed is radio-frequency radiation. That’s not the scary kind of radiation associated with serious health problems and comic book superpowers. 

While it’s been found these waves can cause localized heating of human tissue, there’s no evidence that it’s actually a health risk. Still there are legal limits to prevent overexposure, and France has historically been rather strict at enforcing it.

Radiation sounds scary, but it’s actually a very broad term that covers a lot of different things.

It’s odd that the iPhone 12 would fail those tests three years after it was first released. Regulators claimed that post-release software updates are the cause of the problem, and that’s why it’s taken until now to figure out what the problem is. And if software is initially to blame, software could easily be the solution.

At the time of the initial sales ban, Apple claimed that the problem stemmed from the way French regulators tested for radiation exposure. But it would still release a software update, with regulators to reduce emissions down to a legal level. According to France, that would be enough to allow the iPhone 12 back on sale — and prevent any chance of a recall. 

It’s not clear whether this update will be limited to French iPhone 12s, or if it will be pushed out to the rest of the world as well. In either case, it’s not really something you have to be worried about. 

So iPhone 12 owners don’t need to ditch their phone over health concerns and pay out for something new. There are plenty of ways to justify buying a new iPhone, be it the new iPhone 15 or something a little older, but health concerns aren’t one of them. You should only upgrade if you’re unhappy with the phone you have.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.