SAR, or Specific Absorption Rate, is the only FCC-mandated test for phone manufacturers in the United States that shows how much radiation the brain absorbs from a specific cell phone. Although some countries have stricter regulations about how much radiation cell phones can emit and still be sold, the SAR value is still the international standard. In this article, I want to talk about simple ways you can check the SAR value of your phone.
I’m also going to cover what SAR is, why it isn’t a great indicator of how dangerous your phone is, and ways you can protect yourself from cell phone radiation.
First, let’s go over the 7 ways you can easily and quickly check the SAR rating of your phone. Afterward, we’ll go into a bit of depth about what SAR rating is, and why it’s not a great indicator of how dangerous your phone is.
7 Ways To Check The SAR Value Of Your Phone
I’m going to give you 7 quick and easy ways that you can find out what the specific absorption rate of your device is.
These are not ranked, just different ways that may be more or less convenient depending on your phone and circumstances.
1. Use the USSD Code To Check SAR Rating
This is probably my favorite method and the one I use all the time to check the SAR rating of someone’s phone if I’m just out and about and they are curious. The USSD sometimes referred to as the “Quick Code” is a protocol required by all GSM phones, that communicates certain device information about your specific phone, to the service provider (such as AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc.)
There is a ton of information, but part of that information is information about the Radio Frequency Radiation levels of your phone, including the SAR rating.
To check the SAR Value of your phone, just follow these simple steps:
- Open up your phone like you’re about to make a phone call.
- Dial exactly this: *#07#
- Press send as if you’re about to call that number, and voila, you’ll be presented with some information.
The next screen that you see really depends on the brand of your phone. Apple, for example, jumps you over to a portion of the settings that relays this information. At the bottom of that screen, there is a section called “RF Exposure.” At the bottom of that section, there will be a link for your exact phone model that will give you the SAR value.
Some other phone manufacturers will just list the SAR value when you type in the code, so go ahead and give it a try!
If you’re still a little confused, here is a quick video (although not the best quality) demonstrating this technique of checking SAR levels.
2. From The Manufacturer
Every cell phone manufacturer is mandated to not only obtain a SAR rating for their phones and report that information to the FCC, but they also must publish that information on their website in a user-friendly way. All you need to do is figure out the model of your phone (if you don’t already know it) by looking at the back of your phone, in the user manual, or in the general settings of your phone.
Then just go to the manufacturer’s website to find out the reported SAR values. Here are links to the SAR value listings of some of the major phone manufacturers to save you some time.
If your phone is made by another company, just google “(Your Phone Model) Sar Rating”, and scroll through the first few Google search results until you see the actual manufacturers website.
3. Check The FCC Website
The FCC, or Federal Communications Commission, is the regulatory agency that requires and keeps track of, SAR ratings for cell phone manufacturers. They have a portion of their website specifically designed to look up the Specific Absorption Rate of any phone.
I wouldn’t say this is the most user-friendly website, but the concept is pretty simple.
- First, you need to locate the FCCID of your phone. For most modern smartphones that do not have a removable battery, you’ll find the FCCID on the back of the phone in small writing. For an Apple iPhone for example, you’ll find it in the small writing near the bottom of the back of the phone. If you have a little bit older phone, with a removable battery, you’ll likely find this number underneath the battery. If you don’t find it in either location, you can just check the user manual and it should contain this number, usually towards the front or back.
- Next, enter that FCC ID into the search form you’ll see on the website, or you can see in the image below. You’ll enter it in two parts, the first part (before the hyphen) goes in the “Grantee Code” box, and the second portion of the code goes into the “Product Code” portion.
- Then just press search, and voila, you’ll be presented with a bunch of great information directly from the source, including the SAR value of the phone.
4. Check Your User Manual
The user manual of just about every cell phone will have the SAR value listed somewhere inside. I get it, you probably tossed the manual in the trash, or lost it in a drawer, or didn’t even know your phone came with one. No worries, these manuals are always listed online. Just do a simple google search for “(Your Phone Model) User Manual PDF” and you’ll likely be taken straight to the correct website.
As an example, Apple has a simple, searchable page that contains all of these manuals.
5. Check Your Phone Settings
The SAR Rating of your phone should always be listed in the settings. It will likely be in a “General” or “About My Phone” section, possibly under “Legal.” Look for things like RF Exposure, SAR Rating, etc. For iPhone users, you can find this information under Settings > General > Legal > RF Exposure. If you just give a quick look around the settings of your phone, you’ll likely find this information pretty quickly.
6. Use The EMF Academy SAR Chart
I created a simple, searchable chart, that lists the SAR ratings of nearly all phones. If your phone is not on the list, PLEASE send me an email or comment on the post and let me know, and I’ll get that information added right away.
It is essentially just a long chart that lists the manufacturer, model, SAR rating, and source of the information for smartphones. You can easily search the list just like you would search any page on the internet, with the “Find” feature of your browser.
In the future, I plan to greatly expand this resource to be more user-friendly, contain more information, and be easily searchable. For now, it is still a great resource to quickly see the SAR rating of your phone.
Use the resource here: EMF Academy SAR Ratings Chart
7. Do A Google Search (But Be Careful)
This is probably the default method for a lot of people, just type into google “Sar Rating Of (Your Phone Model)” and you’ll likely get an answer. I’d just warn you to make sure you get the information from a reliable source, as from my own experience, I’ve found some incorrect information on the web when searching for this information.
Still, this is probably the fastest way to check the SAR rating of your phone, so I don’t blame you for giving it a quick search! Just try to make sure the information is listed on a website that you know and trust.
What Is Specific Absorption Rate?
Ok, now that we’ve talked about 7 simple ways to check the SAR value of your phone, let’s talk a little bit about what specific absorption rate is, why we use it, and why it probably isn’t the best way to judge how dangerous a phone is. I won’t go too in-depth, because I already have a great post on SAR ratings that you can check out that contains much more information.
So first, what even is Specific Absorption Rate?
Well, in short, SAR is a measurement of the rate at which body tissue absorbs EMF radiation from a specific phone.
In 1996 the FCC (Federal Communication Commission published a set of rules outlining RF exposure limits for the manufacturers of any phone that was to be sold in the united states.
These rules stated that no phone could exceed a SAR rating of 1.6 w/kg of body weight. Essentially this means that you can’t sell a phone if when tested the body absorbs more than 1.6 Watts of radiation for each kg of the person’s body weight. The number 1.6 is considered far outdated, and unhelpful by many experts in the field. This is partially due to the fact that the number was decided upon based only on the thermal impacts of this radiation, and not the non-ionizing effects of electromagnetic radiation which are now well understood.
Essentially these measurements are based on an average person holding the cell phone against their ear for a 30-minute phone call. Although this manner of using a phone is extremely dangerous without some sort of protection, it also doesn’t account for the many ways we now use smartphones.
Remember that these guidelines were decided upon in 1996, over 20 years ago. Back then cell phones were quite primitive and did not emit anywhere near the radiation we see today.
Is SAR A Good Way To Judge How Dangerous A Phone Is?
First of all, the SAR ratings are intended to be the maximum level of radio frequency radiation emitted from the device. So these numbers have nothing to do with how much radiation the phone emits during normal use. Just because one phone has the potential to emit more radiation, doesn’t mean that the regular use of that phone isn’t less than a phone with a lower SAR rating.
To take some words right from the FCC website: “cell phones constantly vary their power to operate at the minimum power necessary for communications; operation at maximum power occurs infrequently. Consequently, cell phones cannot be reliably compared to their overall exposure characteristics on the basis of a single SAR value.
There are plenty of other reasons that SAR might not be a good indicator, such as:
- Doesn’t Account For Children – These tests are based upon the average adult brain. However, remember that children have much thinner skulls, as well as different brain matter consistency. These factors make children much more vulnerable to EMF radiation. At the time the FCC created these rules, phones for children were not that common. However, in today’s world children are constantly playing with phones, tablets etc.In fact, 56% of children ages 8-12 have their own mobile phone, and 21% of children under the age of 8 have a mobile phone.The world is changing, and SAR ratings as a way to determine how dangerous a phone is are not keeping up.
- Dummies Are Dumb – The dummies that are used when testing SAR ratings contain a liquid intended to replicate the absorbancy of human brain tissue. However, these dummies don’t contain the many things that could impact these readings. Things such as metal fillings, glasses, earrings, other piercings, etc. can all impact how our head absorbs and interacts with EMF radiation.
Ok, so now that I have you all worried about the radiation from your cell phone, let’s wrap up by talking about some of the things we can do to reduce our exposure.
Which Mobile Phone Has The Lowest SAR?
Technically, the phone with the lowest SAR is the Verykool Vortex RS90, however this phone was not very popular and is no longer manufactured. The RS90 had a SAR level of just .18.
If you want a full list of the cell-phones with the lowest SAR levels (and the higest SAR), see this popular article that I wrote.
What Is The Difference Between Head SAR and Body SAR?
We typically either have our mobile phone near our head (like when we’re talking with someone), or on our body (like when it is in our pocket). So, many countries regulate SAR limits for both of these locations. They utilize dummies to determine the amount of radiofrequency energy our bodies absorb from these devices.
The FCC has a good description of this on their website:
“SAR testing uses standardized models of the human head and body that are filled with liquids that simulate the RF absorption characteristics of different human tissues. In order to determine compliance, each cell phone is tested while operating at its highest power level in all the frequency bands in which it operates, and in various specific positions against the dummy head and body, to simulate the way different users’ typically hold a cell phone, including to each side of the head. To test cell phones for SAR compliance, the phone is precisely placed in various common positions next to the head and body, and a robotic probe takes a series of measurements of the electric field at specific pinpoint locations in a very precise, grid-like pattern within the dummy head and torso. All data for each phone placement are submitted as a part of the equipment approval test report for final authorization. However, only the highest SAR values for each frequency band are included in the final authorization to demonstrate compliance with the FCC’s RF guidelines.”
How To Reduce Mobile Phone Radiation Exposure
I recently wrote an enormous guide to reducing iPhone radiation, that applies to just about all mobile phones. It has 17 different ways for you to protect yourself, so to start with, I’ll just link you over to that article.
Since that article already goes into a lot of depth on mobile device radiation protection, I’ll just put a few of my favorite tips here:
Use Your Phone Less – Blek, I know, boring right? But let’s be honest, you probably use your phone a bit more than you need to. You probably scroll through Facebook or Instagram a bit more than you need to. One of the things we understand about EMF radiation is that the damage to the human body from it is cumulative. So every time you put your phone away instead of using it, saves your body and your health.
Get A Protective Case – I get it, in this day and age it is almost impossible to not have, and use, a smartphone. So although your best option for protection is to dramatically lower your use of the device, the best way you can protect yourself from your iPhone when you’re using it, is to get a quality case.
Don’t Keep Your Phone On You – It can be extremely damaging to keep your phone directly against your body, even if you’re not actively using it. So really try not to keep your phone in your pocket or in your bra. Instead, try to keep it in your backpack or purse. Even this small amount of distance will do a ton to reduce your exposure.
For more tips, check out my article: 17 Ways To Reduce iPhone Radiation Exposure (don’t worry, it applies to any cell phone, including iPhones, Samsung Galaxy, and other Android phones.)