What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about Helium? Most people know that the gas is used for filling balloons at parties, for making pranks with funny laughter or in a few specific industries.
However, Helium is quite important for science and a vital compound for the cryogenics industry. How is that possible? Hospital MRI scanners wouldn’t be able to function without it. The gas keeps the temperature from the superconducting magnets constant, so that the pieces could work in proper conditions.
Apple phones’ functionality is affected by Helium
The feature mentioned above lead to an interesting discovery: iPhones can shut down if they happen to be exposed to Helium. The worst part is that they seem broken because they won’t restart for whole days or even a week. This issue is notable in iPhone 6 and newer devices.
The situation has been reported on Reddit by Erik Woolridge, a system specialist. His theory was supported by iFixit. According to these sources, the problem appeared while new MRI equipment was being installed at Morris Hospital, a facility situated near Chicago.
During the operation, the IT department received many calls which reported the same problem: devices like iPhone 6 and above and Apple watches stopped working. The only smartphone from Apple which kept working was an iPhone 5.
How can modern smartphones be affected by Helium?
While he was investigating the situation from Morris Hospital, Erik Woolridge found out that the ”iPhone crisis” had indeed been caused by a Helium leak. Since over 40 devices were affected, they realized that it is a general problem and not an isolated case.
After looking deeper into the problem, iFixit found out that the miniaturized clock circuit used by Apple in its devices should be blamed for this inconvenience. This means that the company uses silicon Micro Electro Mechanical System (also called MEMS) for replacing traditional chips.
The MEMS can be considered a miniaturized clock oscillator and, because it’s made of silicon, an exposure to Helium causes iPhones to stop responding. During their investigations, iFixit confirmed that devices which contain MEMS can be considered susceptible to helium. Obviously, the gas has some negative impact on the clock generator’s fundamental function.
How can we fix this problem?
Manufacturing companies know that their creations are not perfect and flaws might appear in certain conditions. It looks like Apple anticipated that some of their newest devices might turn off for some time when they are exposed to Helium, so they mentioned a way to fix the problem in the User’s Guide.
In case you happen to be near an MRI, your iPhone suddenly turns off and it doesn’t power back on, no matter what you do, the smartphone could be affected by Helium exposure. In this case, you can recover the device through a do-it-yourself procedure.
- Don’t connect a charging cable to your phone and let it rest for a week;
- The Helium needs a week to fully dissipate and let your device completely clean. This means that the battery should be totally discharged during this time;
- At the end of the ”resting” week, plug the iPhone into a power adapter and give it an hour to charge. After an hour, turn it on again.
iPhone users say that this bug could affect their personal and professional life. It’s pretty difficult to live without your phone for a week nowadays. However, it’s weird to think about the overall situation: top-notch devices that have outstanding features can be affected by a small glitch.
In general, electronics shouldn’t be affected by Helium. Of course, nothing is infallible and the wrong environment can cause functionality problems even to high-end gadgets. This proves that users should consider every aspect when buying a new smartphone, smartwatch and other similar items.
So far, people don’t know so much about the impact of Helium on iPhones and Apple watches. Hopefully, they will be willing to learn more as soon as they hear that a gas which is considered harmless can cause smartphones and other Apple devices serious functionality problems.
Agnes is a technical writer, being in touch with reports to come up with the latest tech leaks.