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Apple’s wireless charging tech may interfere with pacemakers

A new study shows that Apple’s MagSafe technology may pose problems for patients with cardiac implants.

Apple’s wireless charging tech may interfere with pacemakers
[Photo: Tewan/iStock]
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A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association shows that the iPhone 12 Pro Max can cause magnetic interference when placed very close to implantable cardiac devices from three major brands.

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Researchers first tested the iPhone 12 Pro Max by placing it on a patient’s skin right over the implant, replicating the impact of a phone placed in the breast pocket of a shirt. In a second test, they placed the phone on top of an unwrapped implantable device, still in its box. In both cases, researchers were able to detect significant magnetic interference. The study was small, involving three patients and a total of 14 devices from Medtronic, Abbott, and Boston Scientific. Still, interference was present in all of the implanted devices and more than 70% of the boxed-up devices.

The culprit here is MagSafe, a feature that was reintroduced in 12-series devices and refers to Apple’s various magnetic accessories for iPhone and iPad. This includes MagSafe wireless chargers, cases, and wallets. To connect iPhones and iPads to these accessories, Apple has installed a ring of magnets inside the 12-series devices. This allows the accessories to snap onto its phones and tablets and stay attached.

The study was first reported by Apple Insider, which noted that the new findings confirm a previous study in Heart Rhythm Journal that found the magnets in the iPhone 12 suspended normal function of a cardiac implant that restores normal heart rhythms in patients with arrhythmia. In the wake of that study, Apple issued an update saying that its latest range of products could interfere with medical devices and should be kept at least 6 inches away from them—12 inches away if charging.

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“Apple Inc. has an advisory stating that the newer generation iPhone 12 does not pose a greater risk for magnet interference when compared to the older generation iPhones,” the study notes. “However, our study suggests otherwise as magnet response was demonstrated in 3/3 cases in vivo.” As other studies have shown, older generations of iPhones, like the iPhone 6, have not interfered with patients’ heart implants.

The researchers are calling for a wider study to be done.

About the author

Ruth Reader is a writer for Fast Company. She covers the intersection of health and technology.

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