Apple has released a new support document that is not pleasant to read for bikers who like to mount their iPhones to their motorcycles. Apple warns that the camera system could be harmed in the support document. “Exposing your iPhone to high amplitude vibrations within certain frequency ranges, specifically those generated by high-power motorcycle engines, can degrade the performance of the camera system,” Apple stated in the document.
High-amplitude vibrations in certain frequency ranges can cause long-term problems with the iPhone’s camera system, according to a support document. Motorcycle engines with a lot of power or a lot of volume are specifically mentioned as potential threats.
Apple notes that modern iPhone models have optical image stabilization and closed-loop autofocus systems to help with errant device movement. Long-term exposure to vibrations like those transmitted through a motorcycle’s chassis and handlebars can degrade these mechanisms, even if they are “designed for durability.”
OIS shifts the camera’s lens based on input from an internal gyroscope, and is available on iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7 and later. Closed-loop AF, which is available on iPhone XS and higher, uses magnetic sensors to accurately set compensating motion by measuring gravity and vibration, as well as lens position. The systems aid in the reduction of image blur and the maintenance of sharp focus.
Due to the use of gyroscopes and/or magnetic sensors to compensate for movement and vibration when shooting photos or video, iPhone camera lenses with optical image stabilization (OIS) or closed-loop autofocus (AF) are vulnerable to this damage.
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.
What not to do with your iPhone if you’re a biker
Apple advises users not to attach their iPhones directly to the chassis or handlebars of such motorcycles due to the risk of direct vibration transmission. Apple even suggests that users who mount their devices to lower-powered vehicles such as mopeds and electric scooters use a vibration-dampening mount to reduce the risk of damage. The company also advises against using it on a regular basis for long periods of time.
When used with certain iPhone accessories, Apple has previously warned that OIS and closed-loop AF systems can suffer from magnetic interference, which degrades camera performance. However, magnet-related issues are usually temporary and can be remedied by simply removing the accessories. Vibrations have a higher chance of causing permanent damage to systems.
Some iPhone users have reported camera system failures as a result of what appears to be excessive vibrations, but the problem does not appear to be widespread. Apple’s decision to issue the warning this week, just days before an expected iPhone release, is unclear.
It’s unclear why Apple has made the document public now, but there have been a number of reports of damage caused in similar scenarios, including on mountain bikes, on discussion forums and other venues over the years.