Radiation Extremes: 5 Highest and Lowest Rated Smartphones

Do cellphones cause health problems or don’t they? That’s been a popular question since the industry’s birth. Most recently, a study published in the journal of Epidemiology in December concluded that they do not cause cancer. And the CTIA would agree with that finding. However, the Italian Supreme Court would not. The European country’s high court ruled in October that a businessman’s brain tumor was caused by frequent and long-term use of a cellphone. 

The industry group of CTIA took the city of San Francisco to court awhile back over the city’s SAR Right-to-Know law, which required large retail chains that sell phones to display each phone’s SAR rating. The SAR, or specific absorption rate, of a phone is the amount of electromagnetic radiation or RF energy that’s emitted. In the United States, cellphones and smartphones must have an SAR rating of 1.6 watts per kilogram (W/kg) or less, according to the rules set up by the FCC. In Europe the limit is higher, at 2 W/kg. Generally speaking, the lower the SAR rating on a phone, the less radiation you are exposed to.

San Francisco city officials eventually rewrote the law to remove the SAR requirement. But other areas are eyeing similar legislation, including four cities in California and the state of Pennsylvania. 

If you’re concerned about your radiation levels and exposure, one remedy is to shop for a phone with a low SAR rating. To help you make that decision, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite smartphones with relatively low, or alternately, high SAR ratings. Beyond selecting a phone with a relatively low SAR rating, you can also use a Bluetooth headset or text, rather than talk, to lower your exposure.

AUTHOR BIO
Anna Attkisson
Anna Attkisson
A lover of lists and deadlines, Anna Attkisson covers apps, social networking, tablets, chromebooks and accessories. She loves each of her devices equally, including the phablet, three tablets, three laptops and desktop. She joined the Laptop Mag staff in 2007, after working at Time Inc. Content Solutions where she created custom publications for companies from American Express to National Parks Foundation.
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  1. David Says:

    The evidence still doesn’t seem to be conclusive either way. Occasional reports come out about the dangers, then others (usually industry sponsored) saying there are no effects.

    I doubt mst people will even look at the SAR rating when choosing a phone – as long as it is under the guidelines they will worry more about features, design and usability.

    interesting that all four of the phones you feature are Samsungs. Are they generally the lowest?

  2. Gary Says:

    There is no plausible reason to think that EM radiation causes any significant harm at this level. It’s non-ionizing radiation, so people who think “Radiation=nukes=cancer” are simply not aware of the difference between ionizing and non-ionizing. Further, we get so much more EM flowing through any normal city, and have for decades, if EM caused noticable harm we’d have noticed it by now.

  3. Jack Says:

    My self currently bought a HTC incredible Smarphone from Verizon and when I use it without Bluetooth I feel something terible on the side of the ear and head including my eyes. My wife also felt the same when she used this HTC incredible phone. But my self or my wife don’t have any issues with her Motorola DroidX. That means something wrong with this HTC incredible never felt before with any phone we used. So now a days either I talk through the bluetooh or speaker phones. This is a major problem I have faced with HTC incredible. Otherthan this the phone is good but, ofcourse this is a very bad thing

  4. polacanthus Says:

    I use Samsung Jet and the radiation makes my head uncomfortable after putting it near my ear for 1 minute.

  5. Brad Says:

    I have the samsung Epic 4g touch (galaxy s II) i can’t even hold it to my ear for 30 seconds without my head hurting, it last for sometimes hours near the temple area on the right side. So now i’m contemplating on giving it back and getting a non smart phone. its lame

  6. Kara Says:

    I always check SAR ratings before making a cell purchase. I currently have a Samsung Impression with a very low sar rating, .27 and it’s sooo much better than I-phones,, etc. that I’ve held up to my ear and have to put down within seconds. People that are senstive to the SAR ratings can tell right away the radiation levels are high.

  7. Lisa Says:

    Be warned people, this will happen to you in time. Any information on SAR ratings should be very much appreciated and not ignored. I’m really surprised that not many other people are experiencing this yet – but my phone literally burns my hand and arms. The form factor itself isn’t hot but the radiation from it has caused a black mark on my palm, my arm, hands and elbow which also hurt very much. My entire row of teeth were in pain for 3 days as well as my esophagus burns and swallowing has slowed down now because that’s where I hold the phone when I speak. I want to sue but how can I prove it except to say that my friend also feels the same sensation when they hold my phone. My phone is one of the higher radiation phones and needless to say I’m terrified of using it anymore and am searching for the lowest radiation phone possible. But it’s so difficult to find the information easily. I have to dig and comb thru everything to find information. I hear in California they require the SAR ratings to be posted by law near the phones in the store. I wish that was the case on the websites and in all stores. My experience has been accelerated, in other words, I have experienced 10 times the amount than the average person has so that even when I touch someone else’s phone or a Kindle or iPad, I can feel the sensation. People think I just have an extreme sensitivity to it but I am a victim of the cumulative effect of radiation experienced exponentially in two years and I am sounding the alarm to warn anyone I can. Even if you don’t feel it now, keep your phone away from your face as well as ear and demand that the manufacturer’s make lower radiation phones and provide accessible SAR ratings.

  8. Joe Glys Says:

    “Walking Dead” caused by Smartphones and their Masts

    This note dated 16-11-2012- Mobile phones can do some serious damage to muscle tissues, usual symptoms are mild to severe excruciating pain, in shoulder, wrist, arm area or knees, and groin area in men.
    This also depends on the direction/orientation of your local Mobile telephone mast and the mobile handset you are using, and the way you hold your mobile phone.
    These symptoms only effect 1% to 5% of smartphone/mobile telephone users, medical professional say that this pain phenomena is caused by bodies immune system.

    If you suffer from mild to severe joint and muscular pain then best idea is to check this theory/fact: Switch off your mobile phone and wireless laptops for 1 week to check if the muscular pain eases off or vanishes, To switch off your mobile phone you will have to takeout the battery and sim card from your mobile phone, and keep minimum distance of 5 meters away from any active or in use mobile phone and also WIRELESS laptops/computers.

    Some mobile phone vendors openly admit that yes there are small percentage of customers who have complained to them that their mobile phones causes them muscular pain.
    But I guess this information/data will never be made public because mobile phone industry turnover per year is in the region of £100 billion plus, and it employs 100s of thousands of staff throughout the world, especially in EU countries and US, such as Samsung, Google Android, Apple, Microsoft etc.

  9. Lolita Says:

    Amen to the previous people that have posted the reality of using cell phones. I am experiencing numbing sensations in my face on the left side. every time i open the straight talk phone tha tI use to use I feel like i’ve been zapped. I stopped using it back in march 2012 and I still have effects from the phone. I tell every one to be aware that cell phones really are dangerous and that some of the physical issues they are experiencing really are as a result of the cell phone and not just a normal head ache or facial ache. I;m happy to see that straight talk and others aere now marking CDMA and GSM on the packaging but I think they should be made to disclose the SAR ratings, the technology and to tell the truth that people are experiencing more brain tumors that ever as a result of increased cell phone usage.

  10. Angie Says:

    I can no longer surf the net on my HTC Incredible…it makes me terribly sick. My hands tingle and numbing sensation up into my arms after just a few minutes of using it. I also get heart palpitations and shortness of breath. Sucks cuz I really like this phone….why can they not make these things safer.

  11. Dee Says:

    I have noticed that when my 3G isn’t turned off I get an aching, throbbing pain in my groin or area near to where my phone (ie. pocket). As soon I remove the phone from my pocket and place it on a table, the pain goes away. Two of my other friends, all guys I might add, also have a recurring pain in their right groin as well. The common thing between all of us is that we habitually leave our phones in our right pockets. Ladies tend to keep their phones in their bags remember.

    I definitely wouldn’t put this down to coincidence. Not impressed and looking for a solution.

  12. remindmelater Says:

    When some phones are double or even more than double the SAR of others, it surely would be unwise to ignore this information.

    Apart from the fact that those sensitive to SAR are already complaining about side effects, we ought to recognise the possible effects are probably too new for Cancer forming cells to be activated without conclusive evidence to disprove SAR.

    I won’t allow my children to use high rated SAR phones for this reason. Just in case………..

  13. LAURA Says:

    I just purchased my first smart phone, a ZTE ,. I started using it several hours a day playing games and texting. I have just developed a black/blue spot on the palm of my hand where I hold the phone. It is sore. does anyone think this could be a radiation burn?

  14. Ronan Says:

    The black mark could possibly be a radiation burn. If anyone uses a high-emmiting phone, try use it as less as possible, only about 3-4 hours a day.

  15. mary Says:

    I thought that in the UK the SAR has to be displayed on the product box? Carphone warehouse used to list it on their pages of phone details but then stopped. Reviewers never seem to refer to it, but I can only hold a phone to my ear if it is .5 or below – otherwise a head pain in 20 seconds. Holding it near the Antenna also gives a slight pain in my hand. i use an old Samsung (G600) with low SAR of about .35 which is ok for a minute or so. If a Nokia is used in the car 2′ away from me I get a pain from that. Samsung phones used to seem to have the best record for low SAR levels. All my children and grandchildren are told to check the SAR, but I have heard that new smart phones emit radiation even when turned off. i am currently trying to find out the SAR of the new Asus Fonepad?

  16. shahriar Says:

    For several days, I used my Samsung galaxy note ii while it was on charge, now i feel serious burning pain in my left hand skin and mucles. It doesn’t show but I can feel it. As they said my smartphone has the less radiation rate, so please be careful. It is more harmful than you think…x(

  17. Serotonin Says:

    It would be great if you guys (and gals) could update this article. Many phones has been released since this was published!

  18. krishna Says:

    Hi…..in pre ious I used to use htc wildfire, but now I am using Samsung galaxy core …can i know that how harmful this phone to person…??? Plz

  19. Mari Says:

    I am very sensitive to the EMF from smartphones. I have been trying to find one that doesn’t trigger the symptoms; metallic taste in my mouth, shooting pain up my arm, heart palpitations. I just bought the Samsung Galaxy 4 because the SAR rating is low but it, too, causes the symptoms. I am at a loss.

  20. Dilek Says:

    Hi thank you for sharing your stories everyone. I have been experiencing burning sensation in my left palm last 1 year. Sometimes I can see red mark where I usually hold my phone. The pain in my arms getting really worse. I always suspected the relation between these symptoms and my phone. By reading these comments now I know for sure what to do, dispose the phone in the bin. Not worth putting up with this pain :(

  21. Mark T Says:

    Heart disease used to be the number one killer now cancer is you figure it out!

  22. weedguy34 Says:

    fuck it, blaze it 420

  23. Dr. John Says:

    Great article.
    How about publishing a compilation of all phones searchable by Name, SAR level, Manufacturer, Category? That way folks can check their or their kid’s phones. This info needs to get out there. Thanks for all you do.

  24. Wirth Says:

    Which model number of the Samsung galaxy note ii are you covering in this article? I also noticed you included one of the SAR values. It sounds like you included the head SAR rating. Is that correct?

  25. dishank Says:

    its a harsh truth that these days its just impossible to get radiation free environment around us.I ve personally observed people who use smartphones a lot have undergone lot of changes in their behaviour. Also, when i use samsung galaxy grand, within 2-3 min, i get headache & feel uneasy. Radiations of mobiles is like slow poison!

  26. Tiger Says:

    Radiation or microwaves from cellphones causing health problems is the little secret those cell phone companies and related companies does not want you to know. Those zombies holding that smartphone/cellphone against their heads for hours and hours per day… I’ve noticed people are like brain dead these days. Their brain cells are frying up slowly, but surely.

  27. Lloyd Says:

    One thing you have to take into consideration is that testing results may not be totally honest if the company doing the test has a financial interest in the outcome of the test.

    Who would release test results that were bad for the company? Even tobacco company’s test showed that smoke wasn’t harmful at first.

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