Tawkon: The Android app that detects radiation spikes

The Tawkon app for Android "predicts" the level of radiation being emitted by your mobile phone and notifies you when you're likely experiencing "high exposure."

The reality of cell phone radiation
Buried deep in the pages of your cell phone manual is an often-ignored section on Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), which is the measure of the amount of radio frequency (RF) energy (radiation) absorbed by the body when using your handset. Every phone is measured and rated, and in the U.S. and Canada, the maximum allowable SAR for any handset is 1.6 watts per kilogram. For our database of current cell phone SAR ratings, be sure to check out our ongoing chart on Cell phone radiation levels.

What we don't know, though, is whether or not this radiation is actually harmful to humans. Some studies have linked these emissions to cancer, reduced sperm count, infertility, and other conditions. Meanwhile, there are a number of other studies that show no link at all.

Underlying technology
Tawkon for Android predicts the level of radiation being output by your phone and notifies you when you may be experiencing high exposure. It doesn't say you're in danger, and it doesn't otherwise try to scare you into changing your mobile habits; all it does is tell you whether you're experiencing high exposure or low exposure, so you can take action, if you feel like it.

It's important to note that Tawkon doesn't actually detect any radiation output because, well, your phone doesn't have a built-in Geiger counter. Instead, the app makes a prediction based on an algorithm. For instance, a weak network signal means your phone has to boost its radio frequency output in order to make and receive calls. Tawkon uses an algorithm that takes into account your network, signal strength, phone model, and other data, to "sense" this boost and alert you to the spike in RF output. It's not a perfect system, but it works. According to electromagnetic field testing firm Satimo, Tawkon's algorithm is able to predict SAR levels almost as well as actual radiation-detecting equipment ("within an accepted standard deviation").

Left: Tawkon keeps track of your radiation exposure throughout the week. Right: Tawkon warns you when an incoming call could lead to high exposure due to low signal strength.

(Credit: Tawkon)

Interface and features
The app surprisingly opens up to a beautiful, bright dashboard, with a decidedly lighthearted feel to it. It even gives you a cartoonish avatar, which, right off the bat, helps to cut through the seriousness that might otherwise surround a radiation output calculator. It almost feels like a lifestyle app that counts calories or gives you workout tips.

Tawkon lets you know if you're experiencing low exposure or high exposure, and it keeps track of these readings throughout the week. If you're experiencing high exposure, it gives you tips to reduce the amount of radiation making it to your body (it might tell you to switch to a headset or speakerphone, for instance). Also, if your phone happens to be primed for some high radiation output (say, if you're in a subterranean area with a low signal), it'll notify you before you answer or make a call.

There's also a social aspect to the app. You can invite family or friends from your phone's contact list to connect with you within Tawkon. Then, you can share with them your readings, as well as tips for avoiding excessive exposure. Personally, I find this feature a bit strange (share your radiation exposure readings?) and altogether useless, but ultimately, it doesn't hamper the rest of the app in any way, so it's not a big deal.

Whether you believe phone radiation is dangerous or not, there's no question that it exists. So, if you care to know whether you're experiencing any spikes in exposure, then Tawkon is certainly the best solution that I've seen. It knows when your phone is working harder to establish a connection to a cell tower, which is a strong indicator of elevated radiation output. And when it detects any spikes, it notifies you. What's more, it presents this information so that it's easy to understand.

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