Let’s face the facts. We live in the age of devices, and whatever you think of the smartphone revolution, it’s hard to deny that screen time has come to dominate our everyday lives.
Computers have made their way into just about every object you can imagine as well as a handful you probably can’t. Did you know that even washing machines and fridges now come with a WiFi connection? Or that you can connect your smart bulbs up to an app on your phone?
But what’s the big deal? You might ask. So what if my toaster can tell me what the weather’s like in Peru? It’s not harming anyone, is it?
Now, we’ve talked before about the potential dangers of WiFi, so we won’t repeat ourselves here, but suffice it to say there’s more than one reason to be hesitant about the new-found prevalence for so-called ‘smart’ devices.
Today we want to take a closer look at one device that’s been gaining popularity in recent years and ask whether the benefits out-way the negatives. We’re going to be exploring its origins, its usage, the best brands to buy in 2023, and whether or not they’re worth the risk of radiation.
It’s time to take a closer look at smartwatches.
Table of Contents
The Origins of The Smart Watch
Historically speaking, there are two distinct generations of smartwatch – those from before 2015 and those from after.
The early smartwatches date all the way back to the 1980s and the invention of the digital watch. Although initially expensive to produce, as the popularity of digital watches grew and the technology improved, the price started to come down until what had started as a high-end luxury product quickly became another everyday accessory.
In case you’re wondering, even these basic digital watches emit some low-level magnetic radiation, though not enough to be worth any real concern.
It was at this point that companies began to experiment with adding further features and accessories to their watches. In particular, Casio became well-known for their ‘calculator watches’ and ‘computer watches’. By modern standards, these were pretty clunky pieces of gear with large, physical button inputs, but at the time they were cutting-edge technology.
Once Again Apple Corners The Market
So what changed in 2015?
Well, put simply, Apple changed the game. Although some companies – such as Samsung and Microsoft – were starting to experiment with the idea of smartwatches, for many people, the Apple Watch was the first moment when the concept really gained mainstream recognition.
Earlier attempts had marketed themselves as something akin to a cross between a Fitbit, a digital watch, and a smartphone. In many respects, the Apple Watch was no different, but brand identity is a powerful thing and, for many people, the strong association between the Apple Watch and the iconic iPhone was enough of a draw to get consumers through the gate.
The Benefits of An Apple Watch/Smartwatch
So, with all that in mind, why do people continue to buy and use smartwatches?
At first glance, a smartwatch doesn’t appear to bring an awful lot of new functionality to the table. After all, it’s basically a phone but on your wrist. Where’s the big selling point in that?
Well, as it turns out the convenience of being able to perform simple tasks like monitoring your heart rate, adjusting the volume on your music – or even (surprise, surprise) checking the time – without the need to pull out your phone is quite appealing to a number of people.
But is there an unseen cost to all this extra convenience?
Do Smart Watches Emit Harmful Radiation?
As always with these things, the answer isn’t as black and white as we might like to think. The fact of the matter is that if the health hazards of a product like this were easy to prove, then they’d have a much poorer chance of ever going to market. That being said, if you are concerned about the potential risks of EMF radiation, then it may be worth digging a little deeper for yourself.
First things first, pretty much any smart device you buy will emit at least some kind of radiation.
It helps to think of it this way: many electronic devices emit EMF radiation, but the ones that emit the most are the ones that communicate with each other. Whether we’re talking about Bluetooth, WiFi, or even the infrared emitter on the end of your TV remote, these are all forms of EMF radiation. In other words, EMF radiation is the only way for one device to carry a wireless signal to another.
So yes, smartwatches absolutely emit EMF radiation, but the question is, do they emit a harmful amount?
As we said before, even digital watches emit some level of magnetic radiation, but it’s so negligible that there’s very little reason for you to be concerned. On the other hand, your phone emits a number of EMF signals that could potentially be harmful under the wrong circumstances.
All of which brings us to the most important question of all: are smart watches dangerous?
The Dangers Of Close Proximity
Over the years, there has been some scientific discussion about the potential danger of close proximity to high sources of EMF. Although there is dispute among scientists as to the exact level of danger posed by EMF, that danger increases considerably when the source of the radiation is in close contact with the skin.
Now, it is true that all of these products come within the FCCs approved SAR (specific absorption rate) and so, by legal metrics, are regarded as safe. Unfortunately, SAR is not the clear indicator many would like to claim it is.
For one thing, the given SAR of a device is not representative of its usage over time but is rather one reading taken under specific conditions. SAR fluctuates a lot depending on which features you are using.
Secondly, when it comes to smartwatches, we’re talking about wearable tech. A mobile phone might be pressed against your head for the space of a short call, but a watch goes around on your arm all day. Any side effects are, therefore, bound to be amplified.
All that being said, what SAR does give us is a comparison point – a metric by which some smartwatches can be measured against others. So, with that in mind, how does the Apple Watch hold up against its competitors?
The Best Models To Buy
These days, there are three main competitors in the smartwatch market, so let’s tackle each one at a time to weigh the various pros and cons. We’ll talk about their functionality, the reasons why some people might choose one over the other, and how they compare in terms of EMF radiation.
Samsung’s line of smartwatches are about what you’d expect from the average, middle-of-the-road smartwatch in 2023. They’re functional, stylish, and modern, with a wide range of useful features available.
That being said, there are some real downsides to choosing the Samsung and the biggest of them is the limited capacity of Samsung pay.
Many people find that one of the most useful functions of their smartwatch is to perform contactless payments. As with phones, almost every smartwatch offers some form of contactless payment app. Unfortunately, unlike their major competitors (Apple and Google), Samsung pay is somewhat limited in terms of which banks can use it.
While Samsung pay is accepted by most banks, there are some major exceptions. Perhaps the most significant of these is Barclays, a very popular UK high-street bank. Put simply, if you bank with Barclays, you won’t be able to use one of the most popular functions of a smartwatch.
Samsung’s smartwatches do emit a fair amount of EMF and although they aren’t as bad as, say, your average smartphone. If you’re concerned about your EMF absorption then you probably shouldn’t buy a Samsung smartwatch, but if you look at smart devices in general, there are worse offenders out there.
Our verdict: not great, but probably not worth replacing.
Ah, the good old Fitbit. For over fifteen years now, they’ve been a staple of fitness tech, helping runners, joggers, cyclers, and more to monitor their physical activity. In many ways, the original Fitbit was the de facto choice for those looking to update their old-fashioned pedometers, and, in that respect, it became the real forerunner of the modern smartwatch.
As time has gone on and technology has improved, the modern Fitbit has come to function in much the same way as any Apple or Android Smart Watch, except with more of a focus on sports and fitness. In terms of contactless functionality, the Fitbit does offer Google pay in most countries so for those people considering making the switch from Samsung this could be a real selling point.
As it turns out, it’s good news for you all workout lovers, because, of the three main market competitors, Fitbit actually has the lowest SAR. That’s not really too surprising when you consider that the Fitbit exists as a fitness tracker first and a smartwatch second, but it’s nice to know that if you’re wanting to go for the simple option, your health won’t be compromised.
Our verdict: perfect for fitness tracking and a decent all-round smartwatch. Probably the lowest levels of radiation you’ll find on the market today for a product of its kind.
So here it is. The big one. The one we’ve all been waiting for. How does the Apple Watch compare to the other big brands?
Well, in terms of functionality, it’s hard to argue with an IOS device. While Apple’s approach doesn’t suit everybody, across the board, there’s a reason that their devices have come to dominate the market and it’s not all about adverts and branding. IOS uses intuitive design principles to make it easy for most users to pick up their devices without much learning required.
As for general usage, it has pretty much everything you’d expect from any other smartwatch:
- Apple pay is almost universally accepted
- You can use it to control your music
- You can track your exercise
While the Apple Watch does not have as low an SAR as the Fitbit, it still comes out far in advance of the Samsung and most other digital watches in the grand scheme of things.
Our verdict: if you’re looking for the best compromise on quality and health, the Apple Watch is probably the way to go.
Do We Really Need Smart Watches?
All in all, smartwatches are only a small contributor to the wider problem of EMF, and while there is concern that close contact could enhance the problem, the evidence simply isn’t there yet to make a strong case in either direction.
On the other hand, when you wear a smartwatch you are taking an extra risk. While there might be worse devices out there, mitigating your exposure to EMF is all about being selective about how you use devices.
Where do you charge your devices? How much time do you spend on your phone? These are exactly the kind of questions you should be asking, and perhaps most important of all: are smart watches a necessity?’
Now whether or not you need a smartwatch is a question only you can answer. Perhaps it is a vital part of your fitness regime, or perhaps you use tools like heart monitoring to keep a close eye on a significant health condition.
At the end of the day, we don’t want to tell you how to live your life but to give you the information and tools to make your own decisions.
So what do you think? Will you continue to wear a smartwatch? Does the challenge of minimising your EMF exposure affect your everyday life? Why not tell us more by joining the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram? Add your voice to the growing movement against EMF radiation today!