If you or someone you know has an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD), you may want to avoid using an iPhone 12. According to a recent study in the Heart Rhythm Journal, the iPhone 12 and its accessories can interfere with an ICD’s behaviour, and even stop it from working.
The study found several components within the iPhone 12 can “potentially inhibit lifesaving therapy in a patient particularly while carrying the phone in upper pockets.” This warning applies to all iPhone 12 devices, including the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12 Max, and iPhone 12 Max Plus. The iPhone 12’s MagSafe accessories are also a risk, specifically the MagSafe Charger and MagSafe Duo Charger, due to their magnets and NFC radios.
According to the study, the magnetic charging coils and RF-emitting components in these products are strong enough to interfere with an ICD’s internal mechanisms, which respond to magnetic fields. Researchers observed immediate suspension of the ICD’s heart-regulating operations if an iPhone “was brought close to the ICD over the left chest area.” The interference “persisted for the duration of the test.”
This poses serious health risks, including the possibility of heart failure or cardiac arrest. To help inform users of the potential risks, Apple updated its iPhone 12 health and safety documentation with new guidelines based on the report’s suggestions. Apple now recommends users keep their iPhone 12 and MagSafe accessories more than six inches away from their chest at all times, and more than 12 inches away if your phone is wirelessly charging. Definitely don’t put your iPhone in your shirt or jacket’s breast pocket.
While these warnings are for the iPhone 12 line and its magnetic accessories specifically, they’re not the only products that can affect medical devices. A similar case study shows smartwatches and fitness trackers can interfere with ICDs if they come within 2.4 centimeters of the ICD’s location in a patient’s chest. The iPhone 12 interference is more severe — especially while charging wirelessly — but you should take caution using any smart devices near someone with an ICD.