The 10 smartphones that emit the most radiation

The 10 smartphones that emit the most radiation

Summary: Based on new research, learn the 10 smartphones that emit the most radiation, the 10 that emit the least radiation, and a few quick safety tips.


One of the scariest unknown technology risks of this decade is the issue of radiation from cell phones. There's still an open question about whether long term exposure to these mobile devices will cause damage or disease to human beings.

The Environmental Working Group has a comprehensive new study (download the full report as a PDF) that surveys the scientific research on cellphone heath risks and provides radiation data for most of the current cellphones in use. Here's how the EWG explained the mission of its study:

We at Environmental Working Group are still using our cell phones, but we also believe that until scientists know much more about cell phone radiation, it's smart for consumers to buy phones with the lowest emissions. The U.S. government ought to require cell phone companies to label their products' radiation output so that consumers can do the numbers at the point of sale. It doesn't, so EWG has created this user-friendly interactive online guide to cell phone emissions, covering over 1,000 phones currently on the market.

The EWG study looks at all mobile phones, but since smartphones are becoming a standard tool for businesses and IT professionals, I've drilled down and looked at the list from a smartphone perspective. I've broken out the 10 smartphones that produce the most radiation, the 10 that product the least amount of radiation, and a list of the radiation ratings of some of the most popular smartphones that did not make either of those two lists.

When you look at these lists, keep in mind that the EWG has also included some older models that are no longer being sold but are still used by many workers and consumers. Also note that "W/kg" stands for watts per kilogram, a measurement for power density.

The 10 smartphones with the highest radiation

  1. T-Mobile MyTouch 3G (1.55 W/kg)
  2. Blackberry Curve 8330 (1.54 W/kg)
  3. Palm Treo 600 (1.53 W/kg)
  4. T-Mobile Shadow (1.53 W/kg)
  5. Palm Treo 650 (1.51 W/kg)
  6. Blackberry Curve 8300 (1.51 W/kg)
  7. Blackberry Bold 9000 (1.51 W/kg)
  8. Sony Ericsson P910a (1.50 W/kg)
  9. HTC SMT 5800 (1.49 W/kg)
  10. BlackBerry Pearl 8120/8130 (1.48 W/kg)

The T-Mobile MyTouch 3G, an HTC smartphone powered by Google Android that debuted to lots of fanfare this summer, topped the list of the worst radiation offenders. However, other popular smartphones dominated the list as well, especially BlackBerries and Treos. The BlackBerry Curve, the best-selling smartphone on the market in 2009, was a close second on the list, and it was joined in the top 10 by its cousins, the BlackBerry Pearl and the BlackBerry Bold.

The 10 smartphones with lowest radiation

  1. Nokia 9300i (0.21 W/kg)
  2. Nokia 7710 (0.22 W/kg)
  3. T-Mobile MDA Wiza200 (0.28 W/kg)
  4. Samsung Impression SGH-a877 (0.35 W/kg)
  5. Nokia 9300 (0.44 W/kg)
  6. Samsung Propel Pro SGH-i627 (0.47 W/kg)
  7. Samsung Gravity SGH-t459 (0.49 W/kg)
  8. BlackBerry Storm 9530 (0.57 W/kg)
  9. Nokia E90 (0.59 W/kg)
  10. Nokia N96 (0.68 W/kg)

Nokia, with five models in this top 10, and Samsung with three, were clearly the winners in terms of smartphones that emit the least amount of radiation. It's also interesting to note that although both of these companies produce dozens of different models, neither of them had a single model that made the list of the worst radiation offenders. The surprising member of the low-radiation club was the BlackBerry Storm (RIM's first touchscreen device) since so many of the other popular BlackBerries were on the high-emitters list.

Other notables, from lowest to highest

If there's another phone you'd like to look up, here is the full list. Also, when seriously evaluating any smartphone on any of these lists, make sure you click through and look at the EWG page with the details of the phone's radiation emissions using different connections and doing different activities. The number listed is the maximum radiation rating, but it can be deceiving in some cases until you look at the whole picture.

For example, the iPhone 3GS has a rating of 1.19 W/kg, which is a middle-of-the-pack rating. However, 1.19 is its maximum radiation level, which only happens when it is connected in UMTS 1900MHz mode. In its other four modes, it averages 0.63 W/kg, which is more consistent with the lower tier of radiation emitters.

Safety tips

As part of the report, the EWG also provided eight safety tips for cellphone users who are concerned about radiation. Here is a quick list of the tips. You can click through to the original list for more detail on each of the items.

  1. Buy a low-radiation phone
  2. Use a headset or speaker
  3. Listen more, talk less
  4. Hold phone away from your body
  5. Choose texting over talking
  6. Poor signal? Stay off the phone
  7. Limit children's phone use
  8. Skip the "radiation shield"

The EWG also offers a one-page PDF that lists all eight of these tips along with a further explanation of each. IT professionals might consider distributing this PDF to employees who use company cellphones or posting it on the corporate intranet. Of course, you should consult senior management and your legal department before distributing something like this since it involves employee health.

See also: Are cell phones safe? Researchers still uncertain (CNET)

Bottom line

While there isn't conclusive scientific evidence proving that cellphones cause illnesses or diseases in humans, the EWG report does point to research that has shown links between prolonged cellphone use and  brain cancer, salivary gland tumors, migraines and vertigo, and decreased male sperm count (from carrying a cellphone in the pocket).

A lot more research still needs to be done, but in the meantime it makes sense for mobile manufacturers to limit cellphone radiation whenever possible and for users to be aware of which phones produce the most radiation so that they can take steps to limit radiation exposure as a precautionary step.

UPDATE 09/14/2009, 9:00 AM EST: I got a note from Daniel Van Hoy, a broadcast engineer, who wrote, "There is a big difference between 'ionizing' and 'non-ionizing' radiation... Cell phones, radios and TV transmissions emit non-ionizing radiation that has a longer wavelength, lower frequency and lower overall energy per photon than UV light, X-rays and gamma rays (a form of radioactivity), which are known as ionizing radiation because they have enough power to eject an electron from its orbit and leave behind a charged ion that can damage cells and tissues." I verified this information to be correct. There's also more on ionizing vs. non-ionizing radiation from the U.S. EPA.

Topics: Hardware, Mobility, BlackBerry, Smartphones

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  • BT rules

    But one cannot text wehn driving!

    How many of your thoughts can be expressed with 160 characters?
  • HTC Touch Pro for me!


    I love it! :)

    Hmm... I wonder how much the HTC Touch Pro2 will emit the radiation? :)
    Grayson Peddie
    • HTC Touch Pro for me!

      Now that several carriers have started selling it, I looked too, but it isn't listed.
    • Pity it runs Windows Mobile...

      The HTC TP is the same thing as the AT&T Fuze. It also drove me toward the iPhone because it is slow and buggy (even after the May 2009 ROM update) and because neither HTC or AT&T is willing to make a PROPER video driver specific for the Qualcomm chipset...

      Never mind Windows Mobile being the slowest of the mobile OS lot (well duh, it's a modified version of Windows 98...)

      • Pity? For whom?

        While I admit that WM isn't the most attractive and structured/managed mobile platform, it is amongst the most powerful, if not *the* most powerful platforms there is. It's second only to Android, in terms of flexibility and customizability.

        The "slowness" you notice is probably the UI addons/mods tacked on by the operator/distributor. But the cool thing is, you could do away will all that crap, and change the UI to something more responsive/to your liking. Thanks to the windows heritage, you can tweak the startup services, disable unnecessary devices (like STK or A2DP if you don't use it), remove items from the startup folder, defragment the registry, tweak the cache settings etc...

        Not that I'm saying that you should have to do it, I know most people will respond by saying that, but then, if *I* were you, I'd rather do it than not even have a choice. Because that gives me power. The feeling that you are in control over how the OS looks, feels, performs. The iPhone doesn't do that.
  • RE: The 10 smartphones that emit the most radiation

    When I first got my phone I kept it in my pants pocket most
    of the time, after a couple months I noticed a "twinge" or
    tingle feeling at the skin on my thigh...I then started to think
    about what these devices do and their radio transmissions,
    etc... at that point I began keeping the phone away from my
    body and carry it by hand and leave it sitting around when I
    don't use. The twinge in the leg went away...
    Mike from Philly
    • I used to get the same sensation

      from having my key ring, which holds about 15 keys, in my left pocket. The act of sitting down and standing up all day long kept changing the amount of pressure they would apply to my thigh. Putting these keys on a belt clip made the twinge go away for me too.
      Michael Kelly
      • do you work all day long

        Near a microwave transmitter?

        Metal objects can increase the nearfield intensity:

        "It has been found that the introduction of a pair of metalframed spectacles can, in certain cases, cause an increase in field levels by up to approximately 20 dB, a significant perturbation of the incident microwave field which should be accounted for in the setting of safety standards relating to acceptable levels of incident power."
      • Yup

        My left hip was doing something similar. Doc asked if I carried my billfold in my hip pocket. He said that one of the most common ailment he was seeing were men carrying items in their hip pockets that pressed on the nerves creating a tingling or ache. BTW, the pressure wasn't from money<:-))
    • That "twinge"

      I have a co-worker friend that I have seen on at least three occasions, reach for his belt-clip mounted cell phone, realize nothing's happening, put it back, and *then* it started ringing.
      Discounting psychic powers, it's quite possible he was sensing the initial exchange with the switch.
      Not sure there's any danger, but if nerves are stimulated...
  • RE: The 10 smartphones that emit the most radiation

    I am curious about mobile broardband dongles? How do these compare?
    The Management consultant
    • You generally do not hold those against your head

      That makes a big difference in the adverse effects radiation has on your brain.
      Michael Kelly
  • Curious:

    Do the phone's handling of issues like wireless internet and bluetooth make any difference? Does turning optional data services (wireless networking and bluetooth) reduce radiation output?
  • RE: The 10 smartphones that emit the most radiation

    Maybe I'm wrong, but it was my understanding that most BT headsets give off MORE radiation than even the phones themselves.
  • RE: The 10 smartphones that emit the most radiation

    Maybe we should all have shoe phones with bluetooth headsets. Our heel bone is one of the most dense in the body, and it keeps the radiation away from your torso and head. Walking motion could be used to recharge the battery.
    • +1

      +1!! That's really creative, but I can't help
      laughing at the idea! xD
    • Ah, Get Smart already...

      did that, didn't they?
      • As Max would say...

        ...missed it by that much! lol
  • RE: The 10 smartphones that emit the most radiation

    I use a bluetooth headset (Jawbone) ~ has there been any info released regarding the radiation from a headset? Can using a bluetooth headset lower or possibly eliminate the concern about radiation from the handset (BB Curve in my case)?
    • Bluetooth

      First question: "Yes"
      Second question:
      Depends on which Class of Bluetooth and what you do with the handset. Wear a Class 3 and clip the handset to your belt, and the answer is "No;" otherwise, the answer is "maybe." do you measure the realtime exposure from your wireless communications and your surroundings? That's what other radiation workers do ... measure their exposure as part of their exposure management plan.