Big day for the non-Olympic sport of regulatory hoop-jumping: iOS 17.1 will make the iPhone 12 legal in France again. At the very end of the developer notes for iOS 17.1 Beta 3 is this little tidbit:
Updates the iPhone 12 for users in France to accommodate a test protocol for Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) testing. For more information, visit this website: https://support.apple.com/kb/HT213923 (116601274)
En bref: In September, France temporarily banned sales of the iPhone 12 after the Agence nationale des fréquences (ANFR), the country’s regulator of radio-frequency emissions, tested 141 phones for their specific absorption rate (SAR) and found that the iPhone 12 exceeded the legal limit for on-body emissions. Specific absorption rate refers to the amount of energy absorbed by the body from radio-frequency electromagnetic fields; all phones have to comply with certain limits, which vary by country. In the US, this is regulated by the FCC.
Apple, somewhat frostily, pointed out that the iPhone 12 does meet on-body SAR limits when it’s worn or carried because it has on-body detection and lowers its transmission power accordingly but that the ANFR doesn’t test them in that circumstance: “The specific test protocol used by ANFR requires that devices meet the on-body SAR limits, even when the device is tested off-body on a static surface.”
Nevertheless, the iPhone 12 was pulled from the market in France right as Apple was about to stop selling it anyway, and other European countries indicated that they were following the story with interest. Apple told Reuters in September that it was working on a software fix to let the iPhone 12 pass that specific ANFR test protocol. French regulators approved it on September 29th, and the fix will roll out with iOS 17.1.
There, now everyone’s happy. The iPhone 12 will now pass the ANFR’s on-body emissions threshold when tested off-body, Apple can once again sell a phone it’s already stopped selling, and everybody learned a valuable lesson about something or other. (Although if there had been dangerous levels of electromagnetic emissions, it would have been nice to hear about it about three years earlier.)