Cooper's prototype arrived on the market a decade later at the staggering price of $3,995. Designed by Rudy Krolopp, it was known as the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, or simply "the brick.” Featuring 20 large buttons and a long rubber antenna, it measured about 11 inches high, weighed almost 2 pounds, provided one hour of battery life and could store 30 phone numbers.

The guidelines recommend keeping phones away from the body when they’re not in use—in a backpack, for example, rather than a pocket—and sleeping with phones away from the bed. People may also choose to use speakerphone or a headset to make calls, rather than holding the phone to their heads. (They should remove their headsets when they’re not in use, though, as these devices also emit small amounts of RF frequency.)


Since 2001, the FCC has allowed manufacturers to test phones at a distance of up to one inch from the body to account for the use of a holster. In a 2012 report, however, the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional watchdog agency, noted that many cell phone owners actually keep and use their phones right next to the body, so these outdated testing policies could result in radiofrequency (RF) radiation exposure greater than the FCC’s legal limit (GAO 2012). The GAO report concluded:
Researchers have carried out several types of epidemiologic studies in humans to investigate the possibility of a relationship between cell phone use and the risk of malignant (cancerous) brain tumors, such as gliomas, as well as benign (noncancerous) tumors, such as acoustic neuroma (tumors in the cells of the nerve responsible for hearing that are also known as vestibular schwannomas), meningiomas (usually benign tumors in the membranes that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord), and parotid gland tumors (tumors in the salivary glands) (3).
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When it comes to ionizing radiation — which we’re exposed to in X-rays, in CT scans, and during air travel — we know it’s powerful enough to damage the DNA, and that repeated DNA damage over time can cause cancer. That’s why, for example, you’re not supposed to get too many X-rays in your lifetime. (In case you were wondering, there’s no precise number on how many X-rays are too many — but the Food and Drug Administration suggests keeping track and avoiding any that seem unnecessary.)
In addition, the findings might be influenced by the fact that the study subjects owned cell phones that were in some cases manufactured two decades ago. The way we use cell phones and the networks they’re operated on have also changed since then. Last, cancer can develop slowly over decades, yet the studies have analyzed data over only about a five- to 20-year span.
Four years ago -- before I bought my first iPhone -- I wouldn’t buy certain model cell phones because their radiation emission levels were too high. I became obsessed with researching this in the buying process, especially after finding out that a man I knew died of brain cancer and was an early mobile phone user. Suspicion was that the phone caused the cancer.
Consumer Reports is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to helping consumers. We make it easy to buy the right product from a variety of retailers. Clicking a retailer link will take you to that retailer’s website to shop. When you shop through retailer links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission – 100% of the fees we collect are used to support our mission. Learn more. Our service is unbiased: retailers can’t influence placement. All prices are subject to change.

Over time, the number of cell phone calls per day, the length of each call, and the amount of time people use cell phones have increased. Because of changes in cell phone technology and increases in the number of base stations for transmitting wireless signals, the exposure from cell phone use—power output—has changed, mostly lowered, in many regions of the United States (1).
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