Your Motorcycle Is Trying To Kill Your Phone, Here’s What You Can Do

A shot from my helmet cam years ago.

A shot from my helmet cam years ago.
Image: Mercedes Streeter

Have you ever finished a motorcycle ride thinking that your bars transmitted a bit too much vibration to your hands? Apple says those very same vibrations can kill your phone’s cameras. Here’s what you can do about it.


On Friday, Apple published a support document with a worrying messag, reports our sister site Gizmodo. Exposing your phone to the vibrations of a motorcycle, moped, or scooter can cause some serious damage. Apple says that vibrations within certain frequency ranges can degrade an iPhone’s optical image stabilization (OIS) and closed-loop autofocus over time.

Smartphone cameras are brilliant pieces of engineering. Phones can take pretty amazing pictures considering their compact size. Remember when you basically had to hold your breath to get a good phone picture? Those days are largely gone thanks to OIS. These systems use a gyroscope to detect when the camera has moved, and move the camera lens to compensate.

Some iPhones also use closed-loop autofocus, which Apple describes as:

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.

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iPhone owners have been complaining about dying cameras from vibrations for a while. In some cases, as noted on Apple’s discussion board, the camera dies completely after a motorcycle ride. Apple users aren’t alone, as some Android owners echo similar problems with their phones after mounting them to a motorcycle. And the fix for the damaged cameras appears to be tossing out the phone for a new one.

It sounds like basically anything on two wheels is covered by Apple’s warning. The company says that high-power and high-volume motorcycles can damage your phone through high-amplitude vibration in certain frequency ranges. Meanwhile, mopeds, scooters and electric motorcycles can damage your phone through low-amplitude vibrations. So, it doesn’t matter if your steed is a Honda Super Cub or a Harley-Davidson Road King.


And if you think that your phone is too old to have OIS, think again. Various Android and iPhone models have been using OIS for nearly a decade. Apple started using OIS with the iPhone 6 Plus, which made its debut all the way back in 2014.

Apple recommends avoiding mounting its phones on motorcycles for prolonged periods, but that’s sort of unrealistic. Many riders, myself included, use a phone for navigation on long trips. Thankfully, it may be possible to mitigate the risk of killing the cameras of a phone using a vibration-damping phone mount. There are a couple of them on the market and they aren’t too expensive.


A vibration-damping mount won’t get rid of all of the vibes, but they definitely soften the blow to your cameras. It sounds like your best bet is to keep your phone off of your bike unless you absolutely have to mount it.

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