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Belt clips live on in smartphone radiation testing

Stephen Lawson | July 13, 2015
The FCC's radiation standards for your smartphone date back to the 1990s. But that's OK. You use a belt clip, don't you?

And despite their careful advisories about maintaining a buffer between the phone and your body, and making sure the accessory you use doesn't contain any metal that might conduct radiation, cellphone makers don't offer many products to keep their handsets at a safe distance. Most carriers, too, stock just a handful of models. There are better selections at online retailers, especially, which must have more warehouse space for storing unsold belt clips.

So why do manufacturers keep testing phones as if everyone snaps up a matching holster and shows it off on MySpace as soon as they buy a phone?

"Compliance and safety are not the same thing, and compliance with a 5mm testing standard would not necessarily be safer for consumers than compliance with a 1.5cm standard," Motorola Mobility spokesman William Moss said via email. "The test at 1.5cm meets all requirements for consumer safety, and is widely used in the industry." Other major manufacturers did not comment.

Vendors may keep doing it the same way for consistency, said Roger Entner, an independent mobile industry analyst. If anyone took phone makers to court over the safety of their products, they'd have one less thing to explain.

"There's nothing nefarious about testing it the way you've always tested it," Entner said.

"It may be that they started using this as a crutch," Greengart at Current Analysis said. Today's phones are more efficient and therefore emit less radiation, so more of them might pass without the extra buffer, he said. "So maybe it's time for us to update the testing specs."


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