Steve Jobs Waves Off Radiation-Detecting App
Mar 25, 2011 5:00 AM PT
An app that detects non-ionizing radiation and could answer questions about mobile phones and cancer risk is caught between a curt two-word rejection from Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Japan's ongoing nuclear radiation crisis.
Israeli app maker "Tawkon is a start up that has been working for the last 20 months on a patent pending mobile application that allows users to see the level of radiation they are exposed to from their mobile phone," founder and CEO Gil Friedlander emailed Jobs last August, after repeated rejections from Apple's App Store.
"No interest," Jobs wrote from his iPhone and his famous email@example.com email address.
Despite Jobs' dismissal, Tawkon just released the app for jailbroken iPhones on Cydia.
It is already approved for BlackBerry and Android devices, and in the wake of Japan's crisis -- which involves ionizing radiation the Tawkon app does not detect -- interest in the concept has nonetheless surged.
In light of these positive developments, Jobs' refusal to consider Tawkon may make him look like a stick in the mud. He's also considered a marketing genius, though, and his instincts may have kicked in as he read Friedlander's email, which he answered eight days after it was sent.
"I think Steve Jobs felt that having a radiation-detection app may emit unnecessary fear," said New York Computer Help (NYCH) and Apple-certified sales and service expert Joe Silverman. "There are lots of radiation sources at home, such as TVs, microwaves, ovens, hair dryers and heaters. This type of radiation is all around us, and Jobs probably doesn't want his iPhone to incite panic."
Though the publicity around Jobs and the Japan crisis has inspired interest in his app, Friedlander doesn't want it to overshadow Tawkon's mission.
"Our app allows users to see radiation they otherwise wouldn't see," in three levels -- green, yellow and red -- Friedlander told MacNewsWorld.
This capability creates a new level of feedback control; users can monitor their exposure, making and taking calls in zones or rooms where radiation is at a low base level or better dispersed.
"Once the app is installed, it runs in the background and will sound an alarm if you enter a radiation red zone," the highest permissible limit, he explained. "I measured the radiation my phone emits in every room, and found that the bathroom is a red zone, so I limit calls there. The rest of my house is a green zone, so I take most of my calls in other rooms."
Epidemiologists long lacking real information about mobile phone use and cancer risk have also brought positive reviews, Friedlander said. "Before, they were simply asking people, 'how much do you use your phone?' But now, our app provides exact behavior and exact exposure, storing statistics after every use."
With hundreds of thousands of approved apps and contenders in waiting, the App Store can be a complicated place for developers with new ideas.
To simplify it, "Apple looks for apps that are useful, unique, fun and positive, such as Angry Birds, iHandy Flashlight and UrbanSpoon," NYCH's Silverman told MacNewsWorld. "Lately, clients are looking for ways to make the iPhone more like their computers, with apps like Facebook, iMovie and Hulu Plus."
Though these trends may not leave much room for serious applications like Tawkon, Friedlander is undeterred.
"We have a very cool app," Friedlander said. "A lot of time, talent, and technology are under the hood. We're providing a tool that helps users take precautionary measures."
Which may also explain Steve Jobs' reluctance. "He most likely doesn't want such an app to backfire by having iPhone users pointing fingers at Apple complaining of iPhone radiation," Joe Silverman explained, adding that timing is also against Tawkon, now more than ever.
"With the Japan crisis, Jobs' refusal to accept the app makes even more sense," Silverman said. "Implementing a radiation app in the U.S. now is in poor taste."
Tawkon can't help the timing, Friedlander insisted, which is "entirely accidental."
*ECT News Network editor's note - March 25, 2011: In our original publication of this article, the terms "non-ionizing" and "ionizing" were incorrectly reversed here.