Helium may be a gas, but it's no fun for Apple iPhone and Apple Watch users

Helium may be a gas, but it's no fun for Apple iPhone and Apple Watch users
In the Apple iPhone User Guide is a section that states "Exposing iPhone to environments having high concentrations of industrial chemicals, including near evaporating liquified gasses such as helium, may damage or impair iPhone functionality. … If your device has been affected and shows signs of not powering on, the device can typically be recovered. Leave the unit unconnected from a charging cable and let it air out for approximately one week."

As mentioned in the iFixit.org blog, this was borne out by several incidents at Morris Hospital near Chicago during the installation of a new GE MRI machine that had a helium leak. The leak and the building's ventilation system allowed the gas to travel throughout the hospital. Several iPhones and Apple Watches stopped working. While 40 different devices had issues, Android handsets were not affected. The helium, which is used to cool the MRI machine, also didn't have an affect on older iPhone models.

It seems that Apple had recently had started using microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) timing oscillators to replace bulkier quartz components previously employed. The hospital's systems specialist Eric Wooldridge figured out that the helium molecules were small enough to infiltrate the MEMS chips and gum up the works. Placing an Apple iPhone 8 Plus in a sealed bag filled with helium, Wooldridge exposed the phone to a higher concentration of gas than the devices in the hospital, but it did make the handset freeze up after slightly more than eight minutes. The test was repeated in a lab, and that time the phone lasted just four minutes.

While helium will make balloons fly, it apparently makes the iPhone and the Apple Watch fall like a lead weight. Make sure that you don't expose either device to the gas.



1. tedkord

Posts: 17464; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Pretty clever, figuring that out.

2. kennybenny

Posts: 225; Member since: Apr 10, 2017

It's a new feature..... An innovative feature......

3. Alcyone

Posts: 571; Member since: May 10, 2018

I carry a bag of helium around with me at work. Never, know when co-workers might need to rapidly cool their iphones. /s

4. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1347; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

Bad news for people that work in the party services business.

8. lyndon420

Posts: 6878; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Only if they use apple products lol. For everyone else work continues as normal.

5. Soundjudgment

Posts: 370; Member since: Oct 10, 2016

"You're filling up the balloons wrong."

6. JayRob25

Posts: 1; Member since: Oct 31, 2018

It happened to my Apple Watch Series 1 last year when I was an intern at the hospital and working at the MRI Department at that time they’re replacing the helium then suddenly after I left the department my apple froze then died it never turned on, I’m glad I’m on the apple care that time and they’ve replaced my Apple Watch with a new one ☺️

9. chengdu1889

Posts: 1; Member since: Nov 11, 2018

It happened to my watch twice within a month. The strange thing is that it hasn’t effected the watch when is it exposed to high level area of the MRI. Both times when it happened when I am 3 metres away from the MRI. One of the guy who job is to refill the MRI has his watch failed 3 times year and it also failed on the same day as mine when down. The difference was about 2 hours apart. A piece of advice to the hospital that purchased GE MRI, return it by to them. No new machine should be leaking on delivery. You wouldn’t take a new car with a fuel tank leaking. The helium loss is about 25% of the MRI liquid helium.

7. AfterShock

Posts: 4147; Member since: Nov 02, 2012

8 minutes, in vapor form? Soaked it up like a sponge too huh.

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