Does Your iPhone’s Camera Move on Its Own? Here’s Why

Iphone Xr Camera Credit: Angela Lang/CNET
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Does your iPhone’s camera move on its own? While it may be kind of startling, the cause is likely a problem with a normal smartphone camera feature.

This week, a Redditor posted a short clip (shown below) showing the lens on an iPhone 7 seemingly moving of its own accord. The iPhone in question probably hasn’t become self-aware. And no, the NSA probably isn’t spying on the user. Instead, the problem is likely a broken optical image stabilization unit (OIS).

OIS is a standard camera feature in most modern smartphones. Basically, it uses a suite of components and sensors — like a gyroscope — to compensate for hand movements while taking a picture.

In layman’s terms, the smartphone detects hand movements and moves the camera lens in the opposite direction to cancel out the movement. The end result is a much clearer image, especially when in low-light environments.

Of course, OIS should only move this much if the Camera app is open and it detects movement. (Although the camera may try to calibrate itself when idle, the movement shouldn’t be this noticeable and persistent.)

If the camera lens is moving by itself randomly, then there’s almost certainly a problem with the system. It’s also worth noting that the lens in the video is moving fairly erratically. Normal OIS movements to compensate for a shaky hand should be more subtle.

You’ll probably also find a decrease in overall image quality if there’s a problem with the OIS system. That usually manifests as blurry images, even when there’s little to no hand movement.

While this is the first time that we’ve seen this particular error, it stands to reason that broken OIS components could become more common. Before the iPhone 7, only Apple’s Plus model iPhones had OIS.

With the OIS systems becoming standard across Apple’s recent lineup of smartphones, more users could experience problems with them as they age. That’s especially true if an OIS-equipped iPhone has been dropped during its lifetime.

If your iPhone has a randomly moving lens, or your picture quality seems motion blurred, then your OIS system is likely broken. We recommend taking your device to Apple for repair. Devices under warranty or AppleCare+ should be eligible for a free replacement, otherwise the cost is $59.

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