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

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.

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