Apple: Magsafe on the iPhone 12 may interfere with pacemakers and cardiac defibrilators

No, no, this shocker isn't related to the price of the hardware


Apple fanboys will readily admit the iPhone sits close to their heart, such is the level of affection they hold. That said, if they've got a pacemaker or implanted defibrillator, you'd best hope they're speaking figuratively.

The latest warning that the MagSafe adaptor on the iPhone 12 may interfere with these medical devices came at the weekend.

New language added to the iPhone's support pages warns about the risk of MagSafe interfering with life-preserving implanted tech when in close contact. Apple advised customers keep their phones and accessories at least 15cm (or 6 inches) away, or 30cm (12 inches) while wirelessly charging, although the documentation noted the risk of any magnetic interference isn't greater than that of previous models.

"Though all iPhone 12 models contain more magnets than prior iPhone models, they're not expected to pose a greater risk of magnetic interference to medical devices than prior iPhone models," the firm said.

Apple introduced MagSafe on the iPhone last year. The tech consists of an array of rear-mounted magnets, allowing users to better lineup their phone with a wireless charger, as well as attach other third-party accessories, like wallets and in-car mounts. Apple's guidance also notes that these accessories may pose a risk to those with pacemakers.

"All MagSafe accessories (each sold separately) also contain magnets — and MagSafe Charger and MagSafe Duo Charger contain radios. These magnets and electromagnetic fields might interfere with medical devices," warned Apple.

It's no secret that magnetic fields can interfere with certain medical devices. In its guidance for pacemaker users, the American Heart Association explicitly warns against lingering around metal detectors (as one does), as well as carrying electronic devices such as mobile phones in the top pocket of a shirt, although it notes the risk posed is relatively low.

Still, the iPhone 12 ain't a normal phone, and some clinicians have raised concerns. One article published earlier this month in the peer-reviewed Heart Rhythm Journal raised concerns about potential interference, showing the iPhone 12 disrupting the normal functionality of a Medtronic-made implanted defibrillator while placed in close proximity.

"Once the iPhone was brought close to the ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator) over the left chest area, immediate suspension of ICD therapies was noted, which persisted for the duration of the test. This was reproduced multiple times with different positions of the phone over the pocket," the paper explained.

Prior to its mobile launch, MagSafe was used across the MacBook line, starting in 2006 before being gradually phased out in 2015 in favour of USB-C. This move proved to be unpopular, and Apple is reportedly considering bringing it back later this year, at least according to Apple analyst Ming Chi-Kuo.

Should that come to pass, Apple devotees with cardiac complaints are advised to resist the urge to tenderly hug their pricey new laptops. If they can. ®


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