by Al Sacco

Ranking RIM BlackBerry RF Radiation Levels by SAR: How Does Your Smartphone Measure Up?

Jun 12, 2008 3 mins
Data Center

Whether or not cell phones can actually lead to or accelerate health problems remains unclear but we do know the trusty little devices emit radio frequency energy, and it’s a fact that too much radiation’s not a good thing for humans. That’s why the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) analyzes and measures mobile device radiation-emission levels before giving them the thumbs up for sale in the United States. That metric is called a Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), and to pass the FCC inspection, a phone’s SAR must be equal to or less than 1.6 watts per kilogram (W/kg).

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A while back, I touched on SARs when writing about why certain smartphones, specifically BlackBerrys, make nearby speakers buzz like crazed wasps. Today I’m revisiting the subject because of a cool quide to cell phone radiation levels I saw mentioned on Twitter. (If you’re a Twitter user and aren’t already following me, check out my page.)

Anywho, the guide contains lists of the U.S. mobile phones with highest SARs and lowest SARs, and being a loyal BlackBerry user, blogger and writer, I immediately started looking for where RIM’s smartphones fit into the picture. Frankly, I was a bit surprised to see that BlackBerrys are some of the worse “emitters.” In fact, RIM’s new BlackBerry Curve 8330 fills two places—the Verizon and Sprint versions–on the list of 10 phones with the highest SARs. The Curve 8330 is also the BlackBerry with the highest SAR. Now, it’s worth noting the differences between the devices on the 10 highest list and the lesser offenders is only a few tenths of a W/kg in some cases, and that the FCC did give them a passing grade. But I still wish my Curve 8320, which weighed in at number three on the list of BlackBerrys with the highest SAR, was bit closer to the bottom of the stack.

The BlackBerrys with the lowest SARs were RIM’s 8830 World Phone, followed by the BlackBerry 7100g and 7130c.

As for the overall comparison of all mobile phones’ SARs, Motorola had five handsets on the top 10 highest list—though it also had two of the devices with the least radio frequency emissions—and Samsung and Nokia both fared well with multiple devices on the 10 lowest SAR list. The LG KG800 had the lowest SAR at just 0.135 W/kg.

Where does your phone fall in the rankings? And if it’s one of the highest radiation phones, does that bother you?

Additional rankings and information can be found on CNET’s Cell Phone Radiation Levels page. And if your device isn’t on the list, you can visit the FCC’s page for instructions on how to find its SAR.