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iPhones reportedly malfunction after helium exposure

Keep your iPhone away from helium. Óscar Gutiérrez / CNET                                                 If you're one of those people who actually read the…

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Keep your iPhone away from helium.


Óscar Gutiérrez / CNET

If you’re one of those people who actually read the iPhone user guide, you know there are certain things that should keep your device away from. That apparently includes helium.

“Exposing iPhone to environments having high concentrations of industrial chemicals, including near evaporating liquified gasses such as helium, may damage or impair iPhone functionality,” the user guide says.

But for many people, including Reddit user harritaco, this came as a surprise. The Redditor shared earlier this month that after an MRI machine was being installed and tested at his or her workplace, around 40 people’s iPhones and Apple Watches stopped working. (Liquid helium is used to cool magnets in MRI machines.) Only iOS devices were impacted. Android users did not experience any long-term issues, Harritaco said.

“It does not surprise me that a massive, powerful, super-conducting electromagnet is capable of doing this,” the Redditor wrote. “What surprised me is that it is only affecting Apple products.”

Another Reddit user, captaincool, wrote that the helium caused the issue because of its impact on microelectromechanical system, or MEMS, oscillators. These are the tiny devices that drive the phone’s clock. For den mekaniske til at fungere korrekt, har den mekaniske resonator to være holdt inde i en hermetisk lukket kammer, redditoren forklarede, men de sæler kan stadig være permeable til gases som helium.

In a Tuesday follow-up to the original post, Harritaco said he or she could confirm the cause of the iPhone malfunction was indeed helium. Harritaco conducted some tests, which involved placing an iPhone in a sealed bag with helium. The phone was locked up after about eight minutes. This, along with the iPhone user guide and information from the MRI vendor, confirmed the theory on helium being the culprit, Harritaco said.

Apple did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

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