The iPhone 12 may cause problems for implanted heart devices

  • Apple’s iPhone 12 “MagSafe” technology speeds up charging time.
  • But MagSafe can also potentially cause inference with cardiac implantable electronic devices (CIEDS), according to new research.
  • While convenient, MagSafe can “inhibit lifesaving therapy,” including pacemakers.

Apple’s iPhone 12 might be all the rage — but could it be harming millions of users due to its wireless charging capabilities?

A new study found that the iPhone 12’s magnetic charging technology can cause interference with cardiac implantable electronic devices, potentially “inhibit lifesaving therapy” due to the strength of the magnetic field created by the phone’s MagSafe technology.

The research, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, comes after a report earlier this year warned iPhone users that the unique charging system can pose problems for people with CIEDs.

What is MagSafe?

Apple introduced its MagSafe charging ring with its latest iPhone models — the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro — back in October 2020. MagSafe was once only for magnetic charging cables for Apple’s MacBook, but the company designed a circle of magnets in its latest iPhones to allow users to charge their phones “quickly and safely” wirelessly.

Charging via MagSafe can drastically increase charge speeds, nearly boosting a phone to full battery in half the time that a lightening cable does.

What makes MagSafe potentially dangerous to users?

While the wireless charging capabilities can reduce desk clutter and decrease charge times, Apple’s MagSafe produces a magnetic field so strong that it could affect people with pacemakers, according to the study.

Researchers said they examined the charger’s effects on 11 pacemakers and defibrillators. Some of the tests were done on patients with the devices and others were completed on ones that have not been implanted.

Although results varied, researchers said that the iPhones were able to cause a “magnet reversion mode” in certain devices, including models from Medtronic, Abbott, and Boston Scientific, which all were found to have “magnetic susceptibility.”

“Our study demonstrates that magnet reversion mode may be triggered when the iPhone 12 Pro Max is placed directly on the skin over an implantable cardiac device and thus has the potential to inhibit lifesaving therapies,” researchers said.

“People often put their smartphones in a breast pocket over a device which can be in close proximity to CIEDs. This can lead to asynchronous pacing or disabling of anti‐tachycardic therapies,” they added.

What does this mean for iPhone 12 users?

With more than one million cardiac pacemakers implanted every year world wide — and 200,000 in the US alone — this could prove problematic for those with iPhones.

In January, a study that appeared in the Heart Rhythm Journal first warned about how the iPhone can affect CIEDs — which caused Apple to quickly issue safety guidelines for its users.

“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,” Apple’s statement read in March.

“Medical devices such as implanted pacemakers and defibrillators might contain sensors that respond to magnets and radios when in close contact.”

Apple said that users with CIEDs should keep their devices away from the iPhone and MagSafe accessories at a distance of more than 6 inches (15 cm) apart or more than 12 inches (30 cm) apart if wirelessly charging.