Apple has released a troubling warning for riders….
Recently, tech giant Apple issued a warning about exposing iPhones to high amplitude vibrations with specific frequency ranges. According to the company, the frequency of vibrations generated by certain motorcycles can damage some of the finer hardware in your smartphone and you might not even know it. Understandably, motorcycle owners are upset and confused at this revelation, so I want to dive in and examine what we know.
Watch an inexperienced rider try racing a Porsche with disastrous results here.
All vibrations have a frequency, just like soundwaves which are vibrations traveling through the air. What Apple says is the frequency generated by motorcycle engines, specifically those which produce lots of power and/or have high-volume engines (i.e., high displacement) are most likely to damage iPhone hardware.
According to Apple, two systems are vulnerable to these vibrations from motorcycles. The first vulnerable system is optical image stabilization. The way OIS works on iPhones is it uses a gyroscope to measure movement of the device while you’re taking a photo. The lens moves accordingly, cutting down on or sometimes eliminating any blurring. This is especially a factor when you’re taking a photo while holding your iPhone with just one hand.
The other vulnerable system is closed-loop autofocus. That technology helps the camera maintain a sharp focus on the subject of your photos and videos despite vibrations and the effects of gravity. To do that, on-board magnetic sensors measure both gravity and vibration, determining what position the lens should be in so compensating motion will be set accurately. The end result is fewer photos and videos which are out of focus, even if you’re not manipulating any of the camera settings on your iPhone.
Both of these technologies have allowed people who previously didn’t take too spectacular of photos to now turn out some pretty impressive photography. However, damage from vibrations in a motorcycle’s chassis, particularly in the handlebars where most riders mount their smartphone, could break the gyroscope and magnetic sensors, rendering the technologies inoperable.
Apple claims both OIS and AF have been “designed for durability” lest you start thinking your iPhone is overly fragile. I’m not sure if Android phones would have problems under the same situations, but it might be possible. Also, Apple says the sensors are only damaged over “long-term direct exposure to high-amplitude vibrations” as they “degrade the performance of theses systems.” That means a gradual reduction in photo and video quality, so it’s not something which happens overnight.
What should you do? Well, Apple recommends avoiding exposing your iPhone to these high-amplitude vibrations from your motorcycle for extended periods of time. In other words, don’t mount your device to the handlebars for long rides, which is something pretty much everyone does these days.
One of the big questions you might ask is what about the touchscreen display on your newer motorcycle? Why isn’t that affected by the chassis vibrations? Those don’t have the same camera sensors as an iPhone, but there’s other delicate hardware in there. Are they mounted with especially good dampeners? It’s something you might consider looking into.
While the announcement focuses mostly on high-power and high-volume motorcycle engines, that doesn’t mean owners of other two-wheeled vehicles are off the hook. Apple says attaching your iPhone to a vehicle with a small-volume or even an electric engine, including a scooter or moped, could still cause damage to your iPhone. It’s recommending using a vibration dampening mount on those vehicles, but apparently that’s not enough to protect your device when mounted to a motorcycle with a high-powered or high-volume engine. Some even claim their iPhone has been damaged after they’ve mounted it to the handlebars of their bicycle.
Is this a huge design flaw Apple should correct? Some think so while others see it just as an inconvenience. I figure you should know about this problem and keep your phone off your handlebars, or you can choose to switch to an Android if you think that will work.
Read the official statement from Apple for yourself here.