Apple Says Motorcycle Vibrations May Be Bad for iPhone Cameras

iPhone cameras can be degraded by “high-amplitude vibrations” generated by “high-power” motorcycle engines, Apple warned through a new support page posted online. Most iPhone models nowadays carry optical image stabilisation (OIS) and closed loop autofocus systems that are designed to reduce the impact of any accidental movement while shooting. Apple recently said that long-term exposure to high-amplitude vibrations could degrade the performance of these systems. It may also eventually lead to reduced image quality for photos and videos.

Apple explained in its support page that it uses OIS on some iPhone models to prevent blurs from resulting images if you accidentally move the camera when you take a picture. The OIS system uses a gyroscope that senses the movement of the camera and helps move the lens in an appropriate position to reduce image motion and its resulting blur.

Similarly, the closed-loop AF system is available on some iPhone models that helps resist the effects of gravity and vibrations using on-board magnetic sensors to preserve focus in images and videos. The sensors measure gravity and vibration effects and analyse the position of the camera lens to compensate for motion.

Both OIS and closed-loop AF systems are vulnerable to degradation due to “long-term direct exposure to high-amplitude vibrations within certain frequency ranges” that can eventually impact photos and videos on the iPhones, Apple said.

“High-power or high-volume motorcycle engines generate intense high-amplitude vibrations, which are transmitted through the chassis and handlebars. It is not recommended to attach your iPhone to motorcycles with high-power or high-volume engines due to the amplitude of the vibration in certain frequency ranges that they generate,” the company noted.

Apple also mentioned that attaching an iPhone to vehicles with small-volume or electric engines, such as mopeds and scooters, might also carry the risk of damaging OIS and AF systems in the long run. The company in these cases, however, recommends users to attach their iPhones with a vibration dampening mount to lessen the risk of damage.

“It is also recommended to avoid regular use for prolonged periods to further lessen the risk of damage,” Apple said.

The OIS system is a part of the iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7, and later models including the iPhone SE (2020), whereas the closed-loop AF technology is available on the iPhone XS and later. This means that all newer iPhone models are not recommended to be used with motorcycles generating heavy vibrations.

The support page, which was initially reported by MacRumors, has not defined what exactly it considers as “high-amplitude vibrations” and whether all motorcycles available in the market could harm the iPhone cameras. It has also not provided what solution it could offer to customers in case they are already noticing the impact.

Gadgets 360 has reached out to Apple for clarity on both these parts and will update when the company responds.

The timing of releasing the support page is interesting as Apple is currently preparing for its September 14 event where the iPhone 13 series is expected to be unveiled.

For the last several months, several users have discussed on multiple online forums including Apple’s own Communities forums about degraded iPhone camera performance after using them on motorbikes. Various retailers are, however, still selling motorcycle mounts both through online and offline channels that are claimed to be meant for the iPhone.

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