back to article Off yer bike: Apple warns motorcycles could shake iPhone cameras out of focus forever

Apple has advised motorcycle-riding iPhone owners that their metal steeds might damage their smartphones after prolonged exposure to engine vibration – but users report total dysfunction after even less frenetic vibrations. "The advanced camera systems in some iPhone models include technology like optical image stabilization ( …

  1. Alumoi Silver badge

    You're holding it wrong!

    Enough said.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: You're holding it wrong!

      Your damping ratio is wrong, Shirley.

      Apple will probably be coming out with new approved mounts, only $999.99 ...

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: You're holding it wrong!

        Or you could just, um, leave it in your pocket?

        I guess it's being used as a navigation aid strapped to the handlebars?

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: You're holding it wrong!

          NOT the BACK pocket - I have actually seen people do this with phones. Cracked screens and butt-dialing frequently occur, no doubt.

          iPhone in back pocket on a chopper, large 2 cylinder engine, no shocks, seat bolted to the frame. That'd do it, yeah.

          Use FRONT pocket, or some kind of handlebar or gas tank shock mount for the phone.

          /me thinks ape-hangers with a phone mount. heh.

          (alternate concept, phone inside helmet)

          1. David Webb

            Re: You're holding it wrong!

            My jacket has a liner with a phone pocket inside, but it's a liner so I remove it to prevent boiling in this lovely British weather. Instead it's 4 pockets which I then use as a memory aid of "did I remember to bring...?"

            Top left, phone, bottom left, mask for when I go into a shop/station (not to rob, honest), top right, wallet, bottom right front door keys and bike keys.

            Soon as I go out the door, or even before, I can tap each pocket and if something isn't there, I know I've forgot something and know what it is I've forgotten. As the phone is top pocket I can wear in ear buds for long distance rides and if I need GPS, I stick on my old Nokia (Windows phone) onto a handlebar mount

            1. herman

              Re: You're holding it wrong!

              "Tap a pocket" - Like the Pope coming out of an Arabian bazaar: Tap Spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch...

              1. Anonymous Coward

                Re: You're holding it wrong!

                Right punchline, wrong setup. It should be "why did the rabbi make the sign of the cross?"

                1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

                  Re: You're holding it wrong!

                  Sign of the cross...

                  Quite apt, for the Jesus phone

          2. jake Silver badge

            Re: You're holding it wrong!

            My phone is usually off, and stashed under the seat. When I'm riding, I'm riding, not playing with my toys. It's a self-preservation thing.

        2. ICL1900-G3

          Re: You're holding it wrong!

          Indeed so, and my lowly Pixel 3 has survived several trips from Cornwall to Munich and back, and still takes great photos, as well as providing useful navigation.

          1. ICL1900-G3

            Re: You're holding it wrong!

            I wonder who feels the need to downvote a statement of fact. Like it or not, my Pixel did go several times to Munich and back on my motorbike, providing navigation and being used as a camera. It still works. Weird people in this world.

            1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

              Re: You're holding it wrong!

              This Pixel 3?

        3. Anonymous Coward

          Re: You're holding it wrong!

          Obviously, Apple expects you to memorize your route before you get on your bike.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: You're holding it wrong!

            If I have an actual destination, of course I memorize my route before I get on the bike. Don't you?

            If I have no particular place to go, the plan is to get lost anyway. I've found some of my favorite places in the world when "lost" on a bike :-)

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: You're holding it wrong!

              This type of argument always confuses me. It's as if you don't understand how anyone could want something to tell you how to go somewhere. First, you might have trouble memorizing a longer route. Second, if the route changes, for example your map had you going through a road which has been closed, you might like something which can quickly calculate a new route rather than stumbling on it yourself. Third, if you change your plans while out, you might have a destination you didn't have when you left and hence can't look up the route in order to memorize it. For example, if you've really gotten lost and you now want to go home quickly or if someone asked you to meet them in a place you're unfamiliar with.

              Perhaps you've never needed one, but there are plenty of reasons that others do.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: You're holding it wrong!

                I'm not arguing anything, I'm just stating what works for me.

                Try to remember, I've been exploring the world with nothing more than maps (and sometimes a compass), on wheels, hulls and foot, for over 60 years. I've tried fiddling about with GPS, but frankly it doesn't help me much in anything but accuracy ... and let's be honest here, if you're not aiming missiles, getting to within a hundred yards or so after a couple thousand miles is plenty accurate. I think my track record of arriving in the right place at the right time speaks for itself, at least to those who matter.

                As another poster pointed out above, maps in the tank bag, with a PostIt in the clear plastic window containing notes sometimes comes in handy ... I can drive from here in Sonoma to Wrigley Field in Chicago without looking at any paper, but never having been to Yankee Stadium, before leaving home I'd probably make a couple notes to myself for the last couple miles. (I can get to the Bronx from here just by going ... it's hardly rocket surgery, even though it is ~2,900 road miles away. Just take Hwy. 80 East, cross the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson river, then over the Harlem River, and there you are. I believe Yankee Stadium will be just to your right, but you might want to check a map before heading out. I would.)

                I do use GPS in the air, but for me it's mostly just backup for the primary tools of charts and attendant kit.

                Obviously YMMV, and very probably does. Who am I to tell you that your way is wrong?

                1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

                  Re: You're holding it wrong!

                  The biggest advantage of satnav/mapping software is when it gets traffic updates and re-routes you. Not such a big issue on a motorbike, of course, but still helpful.

                  I tend to look at a map to decide what route to take, but then have the satnav on to help me follow the intended route. It's a lot easier not to have to memorise the last few turnings when you get to your destination, or that little wiggly bit in the middle where you're going through a town/village.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: You're holding it wrong!

              while helping brother move house about 5 miles across London, I noticed he ALWAYS entered the destination into the satnav, despite doing the same route almost daily for around a month, but after a couple of miles he then proceeded to ignore the satnav and take a 'short cut'!

              That poor satnav must have had a nervous breakdown after spending half the time suggesting ignored turns and 'recalculating'

              1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

                Re: You're holding it wrong!

                That's exactly what I do. Satnav routes around traffic, but gets confused by urban a/b roads - which are often local high streets, and not really the best roads for traffic.

                Every now and again I look at its suggested route, think that it's completely daft, and then end up stuck in the traffic jam it was trying to take me around.

    2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: You're holding it wrong!

      Motorcycles are known for their handling characteristics. In the case of models of motorcycles which experienced problems, maybe it's not so much the way the bike vibrated, but the way it rounded corners.

    3. druck Silver badge

      Re: You're holding it wrong!

      FTFY: You're riding it wrong.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: You're holding it wrong!

        Held hard; put away wet?

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: You're holding it wrong!

          I find a small zip-lock bag keeps the phone away from rain or sweat. Won't survive a swim for very long, but if you fish it out in a hurry it's (usually) salvageable. If you pick your phone carefully, it'll be fully usable without removing the bag.

          I said "phone", not "PIM, babysitter, gaming machine and pR0n viewer".

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            Re: You're holding it wrong!

            I was thinking more of

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: You're holding it wrong!

              I grokked your comment, I ride both four footed & 2 wheeled near daily. Mine was more of a suggestion for folks who may have never thought about simpler, cheaper options for protection from inclement weather and other sources of wet.

              1. ThatOne Silver badge

                Re: You're holding it wrong!

                My bike jacket is waterproof, even after 20+ years of use. Downpour grade waterproof, so my phone in the breast pocket is very well protected (necessary in this climate - lots of rain and snow). I guess it depends where you live and what you use your bike for (daily commute or just pleasure rides).

                1. PerlyKing

                  Re: Waterproof bike jacket

                  Now I'm interested - what bike jacket is still waterproof after 20 years? Over time I've come to think that an old friend of mine was right when he said a waterproof jacket costs about £100 per year - either one new £100 jacket every year or more expensive ones for more years :-)

    4. DrXym

      Re: You're holding it wrong!

      Actually you're shaking it wrong.

      1. Zarno

        Re: You're holding it wrong!

        If they reduce the weight of the iDevice much more, there will be nothing left to shake.

        Won't you think of the innuendos!

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: You're holding it wrong!

          If you prefer it inuendo, that zip-lock I mentioned up ^there somewhere might help.

          1. Zarno

            Re: You're holding it wrong!

            Once upon a past life I went river rafting with a Motorola candybar in a ziplock style bag.

            It got soaked through the heat sealed seam on the side that wasn't able to stand the wiggling in a pocket.

            Popped battery out, dried it overnight, still worked fine after that.

            I recently switched to a watch with LTE number sharing, and that links to a waterproof bluetooth headset.

            Works well for getting a call out on the boat/etc, and the secret agent vibe is strong.

  2. ShadowSystems

    What did you expect?

    You strap your phone to a giant vibrator & wonder why it gets all squirrely? =-)p

    In all seriousness, it's not surprising that getting strapped to the handlebars of your (mountain/motor) bike causes the camera to fail. It's designed to handle the occaisional mild quirks of a Human, not the constant & violent actions of the bike. Your mountain bike may not have the constant rumble of an engine, but then your motor bike probably doesn't get taken for off road BMX style runs through countryside that slams the phone with a thousand times the force of your typical pothole. Either way, just don't strap your tool to the handlebars - the vibrations might be nice in theory, but in practice they can really shake things up.

    Sorry for all the bad puns, I'm trying to type this with the song "Good Vibrations" scampering through my head. =-)p

    1. Rattus

      Re: What did you expect?

      Whilst I completely agree that this would seam to be obvious it doesn't help that Apple use navigation apps as part of their marketing for their fruity phones.

      If you are going to suggest a 'lifestyle' which involves 2 wheels, then be sure that your product can handle it...

      1. big_D Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: What did you expect?

        The article isn't clear, whether it is using the camera on the phone, whilst mounted on the bike, or just mounting the phone on the bike (E.g. navigation)...

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Re: What did you expect?

          Either way a motorbike isn't very mobile-phone friendly. For GPS I've always used a dedicated unit. It's properly waterproof, can be read in pretty much all visibility conditions from dark to direct sunlight, and, rather importantly, has a touchscreen that works with gloves and an interface that assumes wearing gloves and therefore has giant virtual buttons not the itty bitty ones a mobile interface have.

          Not to mention that Apple's reputation as a mapping provider isn't exactly stellar*.

          If being used as a camera to record rides, a gopro or similair would surely be a superior option.

          *not sure if that's changed in recent years

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: What did you expect?

            I always used a tank-bag with Post-Its in the window and reading the signs as I go along.

            1. MrDamage Silver badge

              Re: What did you expect?

              Penny Farthings had tank bags?

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: What did you expect?

                Yes, but they call them "knickerbockers".

              2. big_D Silver badge

                Re: What did you expect?

                They didn't have tanks.

                But my VFR and Bandit both did.

                I used to regularly tour through Europe. 4 Post-Its got me from Southampton in the UK to Sederon in Provence and 5 got me from Southampton to Sillian in Austria.

                I did drive over to Plzen in the Czech Republic and there was sever flooding, so I did relent and buy a map from a petrol station to work out a way around the mountains and back down to the border.

          2. Gene Cash Silver badge

            Re: What did you expect?

            I used to use dedicated GPS units like Garmin or TomTom, but then I decided I wanted something that had been updated this decade, and that "lifetime updates" didn't mean "2 updates and now you're no longer supported"

            Also, my Moto G6 is readable in sunlight, unlike the last 2 TomTom units I had.

            I try to use the newer gloves that have the touchscreen compatible fingertips.

          3. Snake Silver badge

            Re: dedicated GPS

            I tell everyone that, if you are using your cell phone on your motorcycle as a GPS and you are happy doing aren't traveling far enough. After my first 5,000 mile trip with a borrowed GPS I realized that I wanted one permanently, and the 3 days I spent without cell service only confirmed the choice of a dedicated one, if only for durability and touchscreen sake.

            1. ThatOne Silver badge

              Re: dedicated GPS

              > the 3 days I spent without cell service only confirmed the choice of a dedicated one

              There are phone navigation apps which work offline. I always have one (CoPilot) on mine, with maps for the whole continent downloaded on the phone, no internet required. Comes handy, given it takes no space and thus is always available, especially in those situations when you didn't expect to need one...

              (YMMV obviously, depending how much you're traveling and if you visit a lot of new places.)

          4. jake Silver badge

            Re: What did you expect?

            "a gopro or similair would surely be a superior option."

            Much cheaper to replace when it falls off, too.

    2. jollyboyspecial Silver badge

      Re: What did you expect?

      Except that plenty of other brands of phone have absolutely no problems with being used on a bike.

      1. BebopWeBop

        Re: What did you expect?

        they have not been reported and compared? I would love to see the full list - maybe a comparison of failure rates amongst all the news phones that have cameras with sophisticated wiggly bits?

      2. jmch Silver badge

        Re: What did you expect?

        Most brands of phone use digital zoom or fairly limited optical zoom. I suspect that with the iPhone it's a combination of lenses in a housing that give a large optical zoom, but are also much more delicate and prone to vibration. I would have thought it's something to warn users of beforehand, though, rather than find out years after the fact!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What did you expect?

          In all seriousness, maybe they didn't think to test it that way?

          As it effects "some" phones, I assume that the other older phones have a simpler design and so not prone to this.

          Re-reading this post - it is stating the obvious! (Sorry)

      3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: plenty of other brands of phone

        How many are there, exactly ?

        Care to be a bit more specific ?

        I know of Android and Huawei. There might be one or two more available, but "plenty" seems a bit of a stretch to me.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: plenty of other brands of phone

          There are only a few mobile OS options. There are lots of mobile hardware options. Since we're talking about hardware damage from vibration, we're clearly referring to hardware options. I can think of at least fifteen brands, though a few are owned by the same company.

    3. Stumpy

      Re: What did you expect?

      But if you ride your bike on the roads in Surrey, your phone would probably have an easier time off-road.

      1. jollyboyspecial Silver badge

        Re: What did you expect?

        Well a quick straw poll about my mates has found seven Apple owners who have had camera problems, not just with bikes but even with their phones mounted in cars and on push bikes (that's road bikes not mountain bikes). And only one who has had similar issues with another brand.

        Now of course we have no evidence that any of those eight phones issues were caused by vibration. But in conjunction with Apple's announcement it seems likely. Or it may just be that the camera's in apple phones are overly sensitive to damage.

        And therein lies a problem with Apple. They make a big deal of their phones' water resistance, but they are also very resistant to paying out warranty claims for water damage.

        Maybe it would be better if they just put a note on their sales material - "Look these things are a bit on the delicate side which is a bit of a problem for a mobile device really, so if you're going to be doing anything more active than sitting on your arse you might want to consider a different manufacturer."

    4. Falmari Silver badge

      Re: What did you expect?

      @ShadowSystems I agree why would you want to expose your smart phone to an environment it was not designed for. Most smart phones are consumer grade electronics not designed for the harsh environment of a motorcycle’s handlebars. It is not only vibration the phone will be subjected to.

      I live in the UK I have often ridden in torrential rain, hail, sleet and snow. In below freezing temperatures that with the addition of wind chill factor cause ice to form on my motorcycle clothing. Smart phones are not designed for that environment.

      If you need to have sat-nav or a camera then buy one designed for that environment. I keep my phones in my jacket’s top inside pocket and they have not seemed to have suffered any adverse effects.

  3. Chris G


    I would have thought for something like a smart phone that is handled much more than a conventional camera, electronic image stabilisation would have been the better option, Gopro does it it and look how much abuse they withstand.

    Bikes, if you aren't riding them wrong, you are buying them wrong.

  4. Potemkine! Silver badge

    My chinese handset manages well the vibrations of my good ol' Yamaha 600 XT. And in term of vibrations, there are quite some with a big mono-cylinder.

    I guess it's because it costs 5 times less than an iPhone?

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Five times more? Do you mean one fifth as much?

      Time for a maths nazi icon.

    2. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      5 times fewer - Stannis Baratheon

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had an issue with my Iphone 10 where the camera lost focus, I had been using it with a Quadlock mount on my motorcycle for a year

    To my surprise Apple repaired the phone for free even though out of warranty

    Quadlock then released an updated dampening mount for motorcycles :)

  6. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    My Honor 9 mounted to the handlebars of my 4 cylinder Kawasakis seems fine after many thousands of miles of use. It does sit in a rubber case and the handlebar mount is also damped, but my hands also hold those handlebars and I can't feel any vibrations. Perhaps this is mostly aimed at the big V-twin riding community who will be wanting to use their iPhones to get selfies of themselves looking tough in their Pirate uniform?

  7. Gomez Adams

    Garmin recognised motorcycle vibration as a problem with their sat-nav units a long, long time ago which is why they have a separate range of hardened devices for motorcycle use (Tom Tom were several years later to the partly).

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As Tim Cook looks to enter the adult film industry with AppleTV...

    Sorry, no. We'd be creating the wrong type of buzz around the new iPhone...

  9. imanidiot Silver badge

    But why?

    Why isn't the AF and OIS LOCKED when the camera is not in use? Most "full size" camera lenses I know do this, why doesn't the phone?

  10. Steven Raith

    The obvious answer...

    ... Is to get one of those older motorbikes with a creamy smooth straight six.

    Yes, those exist

    Steven R

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: The obvious answer...

      The CBX

      Deliberatley no downtubes to show off the exhausts

  11. jollyboyspecial Silver badge

    It Just Works

    That is all

  12. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    For a moment I thought this was the «WHO, ME?»

  13. Denarius

    another excuse

    to not buy a Harley ? Mines the one with the 1970s BMW workshop manual falling out of pocket and the Kwaka triple 2 stroke stains

    1. jmch Silver badge

      Re: another excuse

      Might depend on the BMW.... my 'old' R Boxer vibrates plenty, especially around the 3-4k rev range, but that's part of the charm. In any case there are many reasons besides vibration to not use a handlebar-mounted phone as a GPS

    2. Chris G

      Re: another excuse

      In the late 70s when the Met changed from Triumph to BMWs, a lot of the motorcycle cops complained about the vibration comparef to a Triump.

      Apparently they would carry a few spare bulbs for the rear light and number plate light as the vibration kept blowing them.

      I had a Meriden US spec at the time so used to get stopped a lot by cops who wanted to reminisce.

    3. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: another excuse

      Japanese parts fit together tighter than a nun's knees. Italian machining is done after a 3 hour liquid lunch, and Harley Davidson tolerances are measured in feet. -- RyanF9

      You meet the nicest people on a Honda. You meet the seemingly unhappiest most insular group of people on a Harley.

      Harley Davidson -- the most efficient means of turning gasoline into noise without the unpleasant side effect of horsepower.

      98% of all Harley Davidsons are still on the road, the other 2% made it home.

      You'll never get lost on a Harley... you can always follow the oil trail back home

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: another excuse

        I am not a Harley person, I find them a bit cringe. But the LiveWire seems like they’ve made something quite good. Would be phone camera friendly too.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: another excuse

        Hey, come on! Older Harleys are absolutely wonderful, in almost exactly the same way that older British cars are!

  14. BebopWeBop

    While a lack or durability is regrettable, I can well understand why someone on an MTB can do a better job of borking the camera than someone on a motorcycle. My eyes feel the same way after some descents.

  15. TeeCee Gold badge


    "designed for durability"

    Actually means:

    "we used the cheapest components that should outlast the warranty period"

  16. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge

    Apple need to look at Skynet on how to fix these issues, as Skynet's Terminators can take a lot of abuse without losing focus.

    Oh wait...

  17. TVU Silver badge

    iPhones are just consumer lifestyle devices and expensive ones at that. Real durability would require a GoPro or similar.

    1. WhereAmI?

      I could probably bugger an iPhone in no time flat on my RE 500 (Enfield, not Suzuki!). My fillings try to depart their housings at about 65mph...

      There's also the obvious but-not-yet-mentioned: smartphones are not waterproof if they're not ruggidised for that particular application. I was on a ferry yesterday with four multis and a V-twin (Ducati) in front of me and all had various smartphones exposed on the handlebars. The sky was getting a bit black and on that route you either have to go across or around a very, very large block of granite. I did wonder how the phones would survive. As it happened, I got home across the mountains before the Gods of Water decided to take a leak, but I had also passed the Ducati rider stopped at the side of the road where she was carefully packing away the smartphone.

      I would never consider doing that. A GoPro plus motorcycle-specific GPS is the only way to be sure that they will survive. Or a cheap Muvi as I found out some years back crossing the Himalayas. The two days of monsoon we hit would have killed a smartphone stone-dead within minutes.

  18. A. Coward

    Huh. Guess I'd better stop using mine as a snare drum damper...

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I feel a new product coming on...


    Wouldn't be the first time a company makes money out of an inherent flaw in their own product. Plus, apart from all the people who need one, there will be lots of mistaken purchases.

    I wouldn't do a Google search on it, though.

  20. IGotOut Silver badge


    It's almost as if you need some sort of phone designed for this.

    I've put my phone in a sandblaster and now the screen is scratched. Can I get a refund?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Surprise.

      I really miss my old Nokia 5185 ... Over 15+ years, it was stepped on by horses, gnawed on by sheep and puppies, run over by tractors, "cured" in the smokehouse overnight, left outdoors in the rain overnight a few times, dropped into toilets (three times), into a pot of boiling soup (twice) and into a bucket of used motor oil (once). When $TELCO forced me to retire it, it was still on its original battery, and didn't seem to function much different than the day it was new. I did have to replace the outer case and the "antenna" several times.

      Damn, I miss that phone!

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Surprise.

        Dropped in toilet AND soup!


  21. Gene Cash Silver badge


    I did have a Nexus blow out of the holder once... I might possibly perhaps maybe have been going just a wee bit faster than I should have been.

  22. Nick Pettefar

    My iPhone 12Pro is still working despite my BMW R nineT‘s vibrations. Maybe the leather case dampens those good vibrations? Fingers crossed.

  23. jobst

    Honda Goldwing

    Maybe Iphone users need to ride a Goldwing?

  24. Precordial thump Silver badge

    breaking news: iPhone is really an Etch-a-sketch

    Want to save a picture? Don't shake it.

  25. stewwy


    Vibrations probably cause the planned obsolescence counter to update too frequently

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