Product: Pong iPhone 4S Case
Price: $49.99 (Leather/$59.99)
One of the first accessories many iPhone owners consider is a proper case — a case allows you to personalize your phone while also protecting your investment. But have you ever considered a case that offers protection for you? Pong Research claims to deflect 95% of near-field cell phone radiation, possible insurance against the long-term effects of using a cell phone daily...
We're on the fence about the dangers of cell-phone radiation. It's invisible and undetectable by our eyes and ears, and most studies have assured us that the non-ionizing type of radiation cellular phones emit is safe. There are legitimate concerns though, as cell phones have just been in heavy use since the 90's — too short a time to know the long-term effects. A well written, and alarming, article on the subject can be found here on GQ that compares cell phones to cigarettes — a wide-spread and fashionable trend initially touted as safe and then eventually discovered to have grave effects on our health.
What do we know about cell phone radiation?
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Your cell phone does emit varying amounts of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) when in use. The intensity of that radiation is linked to the strength of the signal from your wireless carrier — a low signal or number of bars on your device will trigger your phone to turn up the radiation dials as it reaches out for signal integrity to connect you to your calls and data. As you might expect, your exposure to that radiation is also correlated to how close that handset is to you. The type of radiation your cell or smart phone emits is non-ionizing and compares like this to other common types of radiation.
While the cell phone ranks low on the chart ranking EMR, there is one troubling fact. It is the only thing on that list that we hold directly against our heads, for possibly hours a day, every day. For this reason we should also consider SAR (specific absorption rate) data. This rating measures how much radio frequency is absorbed by the body when using the device. Here's a list we compiled with SAR numbers for common wireless devices.
The Pong Case
Pong Research claims that its case reduces up to 95% of near-field intensity radiation — as measured on the SAR scale. The case does this through a patent-pending antenna-module built within the case that redirects the radiation away from your head.
The company claims that all this is done without loss of signal, and they even offer a money-back guarantee if you do encounter signal loss through use of their case. The case is available for most popular cell phones in use today, including Apple iPhone 4/4S, Samsung Galaxy S II, and the Blackberry Bold. They even make a case for the iPad and iPad 2.
Unboxing: Look and Feel
The Pong case comes in a wide array of color options, and the review unit came in the red soft touch leather variety. In this package you'll get a case, microfiber cloth, front screen protector, and an information card you can use as a squeegee for applying onto the screen.
The case is very thin and minimal, which I like, and snaps snuggly and securely to my phone. The soft touch of the case offers it some flexibility, which would be appreciated when needing to remove the case for use in another accessory — it's not rigid to the point I feel it'd break if you case-swapped with any regularity. The material is nice to touch and grip, too, not slick like the standard glass housing of the iPhone 4/4S. All buttons and ports are readily accessible, and you won't have to get headphone adapters or extensions.
Performance and Protection:
The case is very minimal and doesn't offer much in terms of protection to the front of the screen. The case just barely extends around the edges and front of the phone, and I'm sure one swift unfortunate fall to the ground would cause damage to your front-screen. The included screen protector does offer some protection against key scratches, or other knicks and dings you may get with the phone tossing around in a purse or backpack. There is more protection to the back of the device, and I feel the soft, flexible material will do its part to cushion a fall sufficiently.
Unfortunately, we don't have the specialized facilities to test Pong's claims of SAR reduction. I can, however, mention that I didn't experience any signal loss when using the case, nor was there an increase in dropped calls. To me, the phone worked just as well with the case as it did without.
We like the Pong case and give it our Recommend* rating. The soft touch of the case was nice to hold and offered grip that the standard iPhone 4/4S just doesn't have with its glass design. Ports and buttons are easily accessible, and I didn't notice any difference in performance for better or for the worst with the case on. This included taking pictures with the camera (with and without flash). The case is minimal and maintains the iPhone's thin form factor. You'll still able to take the phone in and out of your front pockets or purse with ease. This is a trade-off against more durable and rugged protection other cases might offer, but a decision I agree with to keep things thin. If you use your cell phone a lot and want the peace of mind of reduced radiation, or SAR, then check this case out. You're getting added protection from electromagnetic waves in an about-as-minimal-as-they-come form. We like the fact that Pong is addressing a topic that is too easily ignored, and hope to see this technology built into phones themselves so no case is required.
If you are concerned about radiation another precaution you can take is to use a Bluetooth headset for long calls. As you can see from our chart above, using a Bluetooth device will dramatically reduce your SAR exposure, even beyond the capabilities of this case. Cell phones are still pretty new, and long term effects of prolonged use won't be understood for another few decades. It's prudent to be aware of the risks.
Radiation protection without loss of signal
Minimal case that doesn't add bulk
Soft Touch case adds grip
Case doesn't obstruct ports
Flexible and easily removed for pairing with other accessories
Minimal protection to front screen
Soft leather touch grain shows wear after months of use
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. This specific product was provided by the manufacturer for testing and review purposes.
(Images: 2. Chart from Scientific American, 3. Cell Phone SAR data from CNET, 4. Pong Research, All others: Chris Perez)