Motorcycles can permanently screw up your iPhone camera

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Motorcycles can permanently screw up your iPhone camera
Harleys and iPhones don’t always mix well.
Photo: Javier Aguilera/Pexels

Motorcycle riders, if you’ve noticed that your iPhone pictures have been getting worse, it’s not your imagination. Apple warned that long-term exposure to “high amplitude vibrations” can damage the camera in your iPhone.

And the situation isn’t much better with scooters.

Motorcycles can wear out iPhone camera’s stabilization hardware

The problem stems from the negative effects of the motocycle’s vibration on the stabilization mechanisms built into the camera. These are designed to keep the camera lens still when taking a picture but can wear out from extended shaking — the kind of shaking that comes from a motorcycle engine.

A gyroscope in the iPhone detects that the lens is moving when taking a picture and, to prevent a blurry image, the camera tries to keep its lens still. This is called optical image stabilization (OIS). And some models have closed-loop autofocus (AF), which uses magnetic sensors to set the lens position to compensate for any motion.

“The OIS and closed-loop AF systems in iPhone are designed for durability,” Apple writes in a new support document. “However, […] 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.”

Don’t mount your iPhone on your handlebars

Apple points out that “high-power or high-volume motorcycle engines generate intense high-amplitude vibrations” transmitted through the handlebars and chassis. That’s why the company doesn’t recommend mounting an iPhone to a motorcycle at all.

Which is a bit ironic. Many people mount their iPhones on their motorcycles so they can use the smartphones safely while riding.

Although Apple doesn’t specifically say this, the implication is that there’s no risk to the camera from carrying an iPhone in one’s pocket while riding a motorcycle. In that case, the rider’s body likely dampens the harmful vibrations.

Mopeds and scooters create lower-amplitude vibrations. Apple suggests using a vibration-dampening iPhone mount with these. But the company also suggests avoiding “regular use for prolonged periods to further lessen the risk of damage.”