Buried deep in the pages of your cell phone manual is an often-ignored section on its 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 chart of cell phone radiation levels for specific phones.
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.
Whatever you believe, Israeli startup Tawkon is banking that you won't want to take any chances either way. That's why the company developed the Tawkon app for Android, which 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 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 predict this boost and alert you to the spike in RF output. It's not a perfect system, but it appears to be reliable. According to electromagnetic-field-testing company Satimo, Tawkon's algorithm is able to predict SAR levels almost as well as actual radiation-detecting equipment, "within an accepted standard deviation."
As for Tawkon's interface, the app surprisingly opens up to a beautiful, bright dashboard, with a decidedly light-hearted 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, which I think will help to get new users on board.
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 on how 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 you phone's contact list to connect with you within Tawkon. Then you can share with them your readings, as well as tips on 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. When it detects any spikes, it notifies you. What's more, it presents this information so that it's easy to understand.
Tawkon for Android is available now for free download on Google Play.