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Apple Acknowledges iPhones Susceptible To Damage From Motorcycling

Updated: Sep 14, 2021

It’s no secret that iPhones are popular options as navigation systems for motorists the world over, but motorcyclists have suspected for a while that the phones had a flaw when it came to using them on bikes. Now Apple has acknowledged the susceptibility of their iPhone models to damage from prolonged motorcycle use.

The problem at hand relates to the camera systems of modern iPhone models which feature optical image stabilisation and closed-loop autofocus can be damaged by the high-frequencies produced by a motorcycle engine being transmitted to a phone mounted on a handler.

I’ve seen this first hand with my iPhone 11 which had its primary camera suffer damage after just one ride attached to my CRF250L Rally via a Quadlock (without the vibration damper it should be noted). Other riders have had similar issues.

Quadlock, to their credit, has an optional vibration damper which is said to reduce vibrations by up to 90% but other popular options seem to be lagging behind in offering similar vibration proofing for their products.

While Apple hasn’t outright stated that it won’t cover phone damage caused by motorcycling under warranty, their acknowledgment and recommendation that their iPhone products should not be used in conjunction with motorcycling should be of worry for anyone using an iPhone as a navigation system.

Exposure to vibrations, like those generated by high-powered motorcycle engines, might impact iPhone cameras

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.

The iPhone camera helps you take great photos in any situation—from everyday moments to studio-quality portraits. The advanced camera systems in some iPhone models include technology like optical image stabilization and closed-loop autofocus to help you capture great photos even in difficult conditions. These systems work to automatically counteract movement, vibrations, and the effects of gravity to let you focus on taking a great shot.

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.

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. Attaching your iPhone to vehicles with small-volume or electric engines, such as mopeds and scooters, may lead to comparatively lower-amplitude vibrations, but if you do so a vibration dampening mount is recommended to lessen the risk of damage to your iPhone and its OIS and AF systems. It is also recommended to avoid regular use for prolonged periods to further lessen the risk of damage. 1. OIS is available on iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone 7 and later including iPhone SE (2nd generation). Note that the Ultra Wide camera on iPhone 11 and later doesn't have OIS, nor does the Telephoto camera on iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 8 Plus. 2. Closed-loop AF is available on iPhone XS and later, including iPhone SE (2nd generation).

1 Comment

Cue a raft of gel mounts on Ebay and AliExpress.

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