Apple unable to repair iPhone of teen lost at sea

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 2016
A team of Apple engineers worked "around the clock" to return missing Florida teen Austin Stephanos' iPhone back to working order after it was submerged in sea water for some eight months, but on Wednesday the device was deemed unrepairable.




An attorney for Austin's father, Blu Stephanos, said a dedicated Apple forensics team disassembled the damaged iPhone, cleaned its components and performed a chemical report as part of an exhaustive diagnostics and repair process, according to ABC News affiliate WPBF 25. The device was sent to Cupertino for examination in April.

"Although they were unable to restore the phone to a functional state, I want to thank Apple, Inc. for their hard work and generous assistance," Stephanos said in a prepared statement. "If the FBI turned to Apple when they needed help, I see no reason to doubt that every possible means was employed to get Austin's phone working again. It's our understanding that Apple had a team assigned to the iPhone around the clock, and for that we are truly grateful."

Austin and his shipmate Perry Cohen, both 14 years old, went missing last July during a fishing trip off the coast of Jupiter, Florida. The U.S. Coast Guard found the pair's 19-foot boat in an initial search and rescue operation last year, but the vessel was set adrift before salvage teams were able to tow it ashore. In March, a Norwegian supply ship rediscovered the boat 100 miles off the coast of Bermuda. Stephanos' iPhone 6 was later found in a stowage compartment.

Investigators had hoped the device held clues as to the missing boys' whereabouts, though concerns were raised regarding whether or not to subject the sensitive electronics to potentially risky data recovery techniques. In the weeks following the phone's recovery, the Cohen family sued Stephanos and the Florida wildlife commission in a bid to keep the iPhone in government hands.

Ultimately, both families reached an accord to send the device to Apple.

"We learned yesterday that Apple went as far as they could to try to get Austin's iPhone working, which, as Apple advised, was the first step in the process of retrieving information that might help us understand what happened to the boys," Pam Cohen, Perry's mother, said in a statement. "Apple also made it clear that getting the iPhone to power up was its only commitment to Blu Stephanos, which differs from what we heard from his attorney in court. For the generous efforts by Apple's engineers, who we understand worked tirelessly to try to help us, we are so very grateful."

While the examination is complete, there appears to be disagreement as to where the phone will end up. In his statement, Stephanos suggested he would take receipt of the phone as a memento of his son, but the Cohens seem intent on exploring other options.

"According to Apple, there are other experts in the field who may be able to pick up where Apple left off, to continue the work," Cohen said. "Apple has offered to securely hand the iPhone off to an expert in this technology if the families can agree on such an expert. We look forward to working cooperatively with Austin's family toward this transition. We are not giving up on the iPhone's potential for evidence until all viable efforts have been exhausted."

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 9
    bestkeptsecretbestkeptsecret Posts: 3,216member
    It was always a slim chance, given how exposed the phone was to corrosion. I really hope they find something about those kids.
    pulseimagesdiplicationlolliverpte applesteveh
  • Reply 2 of 9
    jfc1138jfc1138 Posts: 3,090member
    Some photos showed the casing split open from the expanded corrosion. A very tough challenge. Unfortunate conclusion but not surprising: saltwater and the heat the hulk would have been subject to are tremendously damaging. 

    Just unfortunate the wreck wasn't recovered with that initial contact. 
    edited May 2016
  • Reply 3 of 9
    techlovertechlover Posts: 879member
    That Apple both did everything they could AND say there are other outfits who may have better luck retrieving any data, is a mighty fine gesture in an otherwise tragic series of events.


    caliziPRR
  • Reply 4 of 9
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    The cool thing is, this isn't Apple's job nor responsibility. Could be risky helping a person recover one iPhone since Apple has over a billion devices in the wild. Wouldn't want the public to expect free recovery service.

    And Where's the media hype about this story?
    edited May 2016
  • Reply 5 of 9
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,280member
    cali said:
    The cool thing is, this isn't Apple's job nor responsibility. Could be risky helping a person recover one iPhone since Apple has over a billion devices in the wild. Wouldn't want the public to expect free recovery service.

    And Where's the media hype about this story?
    It was on the news reports last night. Saw it on Fox around 6:00/6:30 or so. 
  • Reply 6 of 9
    pscooter63pscooter63 Posts: 912member
    cali said:
    And Where's the media hype about this story?
    They weren't female.
  • Reply 7 of 9
    boltsfan17boltsfan17 Posts: 2,157member
    It was always a slim chance, given how exposed the phone was to corrosion. I really hope they find something about those kids.
    I really hope they find something. It's really unfortunate it's come down to the parents fighting each other in court. Given that area, my guess is they stumbled across something they shouldn't have seen. Off the Florida coast is a popular location for drugs from places like Columbia to be air dropped out into the sea for waiting boats. It's either that or they were hit by a rogue wave and the current pushed them too far out to be able to make it back to their boat. 
    edited May 2016
  • Reply 8 of 9
    misamisa Posts: 827member
    This is one of those cases where the chances of recovering anything is pretty close to zero. If the device was actually sealed (eg no microphone or speaker holes/jacks) at best the device might survive a week exposed to ocean. Not 9 months.

    From the photo's it looks like it had been immersed in a puddle of salt water, and salt water is conductive.

    So the best case scenario is a data-recovery company might be able to remove the NAND memory and get something from it. The worst case is that the battery and salt water shorted out everything inside and the phone is completely 100% dead.


  • Reply 9 of 9
    buzdotsbuzdots Posts: 449member
    I don't understand why the two families are pissing and moaning in opposite directions.  Seems like they should both want the same outcome.
    edited May 2016
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