Vibrations from high-powered motorcycles can damage iPhone cameras, Apple says

Shawn Knight

Posts: 13,444   +132
Staff member
What just happened? Apple in a recently published support document notes that exposing your iPhone to high amplitude vibrations at certain frequency ranges, like those commonly generated by high-powered motorcycle engines, can have an adverse effect on the phone’s camera system.

As Apple explains in the document, some iPhone models feature technology such as optical image stabilization and closed-loop autofocus (AF) to help improve image quality. Understanding the basics of how these features work provides insight into why vibrations could make them fail.

Optical image stabilization works in combination with a gyroscope sensor inside the phone. As you may know, a photo can come out blurry if you move the camera too much while the image is being captured. This is especially true in low light situations where the shutter needs to stay open for a longer period of time to capture more light. With OIS, the camera’s lens moves according to the angle of the gyroscope to reduce this blur.

Closed-loop AF, meanwhile, utilizes magnetic sensors to measure gravity and vibration effects. This data is then used to help position the camera lens to counteract these forces.

The intense, high-amplitude vibrations created by motorcycle engines are transmitted through the chassis and handlebars. As such, Apple said it is not recommended to attach your iPhone to such cycles. Mounting to a vehicle with a small-volume or electric motor, like certain mopeds or scooters, could lead to “comparatively lower-amplitude vibrations,” Apple added. If you must, Apple recommends using a vibration-dampening mount to lessen the risk of damage.

OIS can be found on the iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7 and later models, including the second-generation iPhone SE. Closed-loop AF is featured on the iPhone XS and later models, and the iPhone SE second-gen.

Apple didn’t say why it was just now issuing the warning, or how such damage could impact an iPhone’s warranty.

Permalink to story.

 

trparky

Posts: 946   +1,009
Technically speaking, any camera that has optical image stabilization will be suspectable to this since the wires that stabilize the lens inside the camera are very fine. Any prolonged exposure to high amounts of vibrations will break these wires that suspend the camera and produce this issue.
 

Burty117

Posts: 4,193   +2,212
Had my iPhone 6 Plus camera die twice in its first year, Apple will just replace it as it's in warranty.

Was one of the factors for moving away from Apple and trying Android, see if I get similar hardware failure elsewhere (so far I haven't).
 

Sausagemeat

Posts: 689   +493
This is a common problem among GoPro owners who mount their cameras to cars/motorbikes. I’ve never done that but I’ve seen it raised on the forums, people recommending anti-vibrations mounts to counter it etc. It’s got something to do with the right kind of vibration interfering with the stabilisation algorithm. Or so I read.

I’d guess any camera with OIS could be susceptible to vibration damage.
 

cliffordcooley

Posts: 12,937   +6,267
Sounds to me they need to redesign the gyroscope. Much the same way engineers redesigned bridges to fight harmonic frequencies.
 

captaincranky

Posts: 17,220   +5,976
Not to mention what my motorcycle does to my prostate.
FWIW, "Flomax", (tamsulosin), is now available in generic form.

Just stay away from pseudoephedrine and particularly, methamphetamine. <(Which BTW and somewhat ironically, is the world's best nasal decongestant (IMO, of course)).
 
Last edited:

captaincranky

Posts: 17,220   +5,976
Fix your stupid design flaw then Apple and quit blaming a friggin motorcycle.
That's not entirely true. (Keep in mind I have no love or even time, for Apple) I've heard tell, (and I'm quite inclined to believe it), that somebody who rode a Harley, was constantly destroying very expensive camera equipment, by transporting it in his saddlebags.

The only qualifying factor there is, those big V-twins, are notoriously very rough running. Face it, even with 18 cylinders, those P & W Wasps didn't run all that smooth.

I have an old 750 Honda "Nighthawk", and I won't put cameras in the bags without them being in cases, with a towel or two on the floor of the bags for good measure.

You're confusing taking precautions and having some common sense, with product liability on the part of the manufacturer.

And as I said, I would never take Apple's side on a whim. But in this case, they may be right. If they added enough vibration protection into the phone, you wouldn't be able to jamb it into your pocket. Boy oh boy, then we'd hear some serious bellyaching., now wouldn't we?

Other makers phones could probably be damaged in the same way, it simply may not have come to light yet.

Either that, or Samsung owners have better sense from the onset.
 
Last edited:

Uncle Al

Posts: 8,167   +6,925
Is this an industry thing? Or just an Apple thing?

First I've heard of intense vibrations messing up a phone camera...

Must be an Apple thing. Iǘe been mounting my Samsung to my Soft tail for years without any problem .....
 

captaincranky

Posts: 17,220   +5,976
Must be an Apple thing. Iǘe been mounting my Samsung to my Soft tail for years without any problem .....
Does the Samsung have image stabilization? That's where the failure is occurring, and I'm thinking this is a new, (or reasonably new) feature on flagship models. I doubt you'll find IS on a $300.00 Motorola. Although, I really know almost nothing about smartphones, so I'll need some guidance about on what phones this feature actually exists.

I can see where IS would be the weakest part of the system. I have it in a couple of my SLR lenses, and often wondered about its durability.

It's on my beastly Sigma "Sport" 70-200 mm f2.8 and it's got at least 2 different modes for different shooting situations/..
 

captaincranky

Posts: 17,220   +5,976
If GoPros have the same problem, what do you say then? It's the nature of OIS.
As I said earlier, OIS is more than likely only a feature on flagship phones. Therefore, only phones with OIS, would suffer from its foibles, quirks, and frailties.

The only fault Apple has committed is installing it in the first place, without informing the iSheep of the liability it can exhibit under certain usage scenarios.

It would be interesting to know what the percentage of bikers own this phone in relation to the overall ownership. And then, what percentage of them actually have a working background in photography..So when they break the camera, it obviously must be Apple's fault, since they've obviously bought into Apple's mantra that, "it just works". But then again very few of this latest generation are anywhere near of a mind to take responsibility for their own actions.

As for the GoPro, obviously the customer base complained about, "shaky pictures".But putting OIS into such a device which will be hard fixed to a trail bike's handlebars, and then riding it down the rockiest, bumpiest trail you can find, is a recipe for disaster, pure and simple.

You can probably get away with it mounted on a drone, which really doesn't generate the forces necessary to destroy it. (Assuming we balance all the propellers properly, before we take to the skies).
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 8,167   +6,925
Does the Samsung have image stabilization? That's where the failure is occurring, and I'm thinking this is a new, (or reasonably new) feature on flagship models. I doubt you'll find IS on a $300.00 Motorola. Although, I really know almost nothing about smartphones, so I'll need some guidance about on what phones this feature actually exists.

I can see where IS would be the weakest part of the system. I have it in a couple of my SLR lenses, and often wondered about its durability.

It's on my beastly Sigma "Sport" 70-200 mm f2.8 and it's got at least 2 different modes for different shooting situations/..
Good point ... yes, mine has image stabilization and is the complete model, and I paid $400 for this one ... a minor upgrade ..... LOL
 

hwertz

Posts: 65   +28
"Is this an industry thing? Or just an Apple thing?"
Apple thing.
"Technically speaking, any camera that has optical image stabilization will be suspectable to this"
In theory perhaps, in practice they're not; there are plenty of people with high-dollar Android devices (the ones that would have OIS), and not complaints of the camera getting wrecked by their hogs.
 

trparky

Posts: 946   +1,009
Then why do GoPro owners have the same issue? I'd understand it being an Apple-only issue if they were the only ones having it but one person mentioned GoPros having the same issue so yeah. Can't blame Apple too much here when others have the same issue.