Apple warns motorcycle vibrations can damage iPhone cameras

Photo: Ralph Katieb on Unsplash

Bikers should take extra caution in using their iPhones while riding their motorcycles. Apple has published a warning on its Support forum on Saturday, Sept. 10, that the iPhone’s camera system can be damaged by exposure to vibrational frequencies “specifically those generated by high-power motorcycle engines.”

First spotted by MacRumors, Apple’s document states that the camera system is built with optical image stabilization (OIS) and, for some models, closed-loop autofocus (AF). These two features are susceptible to damage, as they use gyroscopes or magnetic sensors to help compensate for movement and vibration when shooting photos or video.

Here is Apple’s explanation

If you accidentally move a camera when you take a picture, the resulting image can be blurry. To prevent this, some iPhone models have optical image stabilization (OIS).1 OIS lets you take sharp photos even if you accidentally move the camera. With OIS, a gyroscope senses that the camera moved. To reduce image motion, and the resulting blur, the lens moves according to the angle of the gyroscope.

Additionally, some iPhone models have closed-loop autofocus (AF).2 Closed-loop AF resists the effects of gravity and vibration to preserve sharp focus in stills, videos, and panoramas. With closed-loop AF, on-board magnetic sensors measure gravity and vibration effects and determine the lens position so that the compensating motion can be set accurately.

The OIS and closed-loop AF systems in iPhone are designed for durability. However, as is the case with many consumer electronics that include systems like OIS, long-term direct exposure to high-amplitude vibrations within certain frequency ranges may degrade the performance of these systems and lead to reduced image quality for photos and videos. It is recommended to avoid exposing your iPhone to extended high-amplitude vibrations. 

iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s Plus, and all other models from iPhone 7 onwards have OIS and/or closed-loop AF. To prevent decreasing its performance, Apple suggests refraining from attaching your iPhone to the motorcycle’s handlebars and frame. In addition, use a “vibration dampening mount” to lessen the risk of damage even while using “small-volume or electric engines, such as mopeds and scooters.”

Apart from high-frequency vibrations, Apple alerted iPhone users earlier this year that their devices’ OIS and closed-loop AF are also vulnerable to magnetic interference from some iPhone accessories. Yet this can be prevented simply by removing the accessories.

In related news, Apple has announced its Sept. 14 event, where the company is expected to unveil the iPhone 13, AirPods 3, Apple Watch Series 7, and an updated MagSafe charger.


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