We get it, we’ve done it: You’re trying to find the quickest/sickest route to that far-flung camping spot/gas station/BBQ joint, and you need your smartphone’s GPS to guide you there. Simple solution? Strap it to your handlebars using one of about 10,000 aftermarket mounts or cradles so you can see it and poke at it as needed. Most all of us have done it, or are doing it. It’s handy. Convenient. Useful.
Turns out, it’s not such a good idea, at least for your smartphone, and especially if it has that shiny Apple logo on it.
In a post dated September 10 in Apple’s Support Communities, the company says that “exposing your iPhone to high amplitude vibrations within certain frequency ranges, specifically those generated by high-power motorcycle engines, can degrade the performance of the camera system.” Italics/emphasis ours.
Moreover, Apple says the worst offenders are motorcycles that, uh, vibrate a lot. “It is not recommended to attach your iPhone to motorcycles with high-power or high-volume engines due to the amplitude of the vibration in certain frequency ranges that they generate. Attaching your iPhone to vehicles with small-volume or electric engines, such as mopeds and scooters, may lead to comparatively lower-amplitude vibrations, but if you do so a vibration dampening mount is recommended to lessen the risk of damage to your iPhone and its OIS and AF systems.”
So there you have it: Sell that Ironhead Sportster or thumper dualsport and get one of those new electric Vespas immediately in order to protect that $125 camera module.
Really, this should surprise no one. While the vast majority of parts inside our miraculous smartphones are safely stationary, the incredibly small camera modules contain even smaller mechanical and glass bits for focus, image stabilization and so on. How small? Take a look at this video (below) posted in January 2021 from Fossbytes/SzTech & Tv where they take apart a phone to get at the camera module and the guts inside it. Just hop to 1:25.
The fact that something so small can shoot such amazing photos and video is truly a wonder, but the main takeaway for riders? Subjecting your fancy pocket computer/camera to hours of vibration on your bike is probably going to either drastically shorten its lifespan or as Apple says, “degrade” the performance of the camera. Not what you want on a long ride where you’re packing light and using your smartphone camera as your main documentation/photographic device.
This is not unprecedented news. This thread on Reddit from 2017 is littered with woeful stories of phone cams gone bad, crazy, inop or otherwise being problematic from being mounted on bikes. [Edit: Of course, ADVrider.com inmates have solutions, as in this thread).
Solution? Best practice: Just don’t do it. Better yet, use a purpose-built GPS if you need help with directions. If you’ve got your phone mounted up and find yourself peeking at the latest comments on your social media posts while riding, you may want to reconsider that choice as well. Just put it back in your vibration-isolated pocket and let Siri, Google or Alexa read them to you through a good set of helmet comms. Plus, your camera will be better able to capture your epic adventures – once you’ve safely stopped.