Apple to Analyze Recovered iPhone of Florida Teens Lost at Sea

by

Apple has agreed to examine a recovered iPhone at the center of a dispute between the families of two Florida teens who went missing during a fishing trip last summer (via ABC News).

In July 2015, 14-year-old Austin Stephanos and his friend and neighbor Perry Cohen, also 14, launched a single-engine vessel on a fishing expedition off the coast of Palm Beach County, Florida. The boys never returned, and despite a Coast Guard-led eight-day search of the Atlantic covering 50,000 nautical miles, their bodies were never found.

recovered_iphone_austin_stephanos

The recovered iPhone that belonged to Austin Stephanos (Image: Blu Stephanos)

Last month, their abandoned boat was discovered by a Norwegian crew 100 miles off the coast of Bermuda, along with a locked box inside of which was Stephanos' heavily water-damaged and inoperable iPhone 6.

Cohen had borrowed Stephanos' phone to communicate with his family the day they disappeared, and the Cohens wanted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to treat the phone as evidence in an open missing persons case, but the agency insisted on returning the phone to Stephanos' family, according to a local television report.

Cohen's mother, Pamela Cohen, sued Stephanos' family to have the iPhone returned to the state, to allow her access to its contents, and if necessary, have the phone turned over to law enforcement as evidence in a possible criminal investigation.

In the emergency hearing yesterday, Cohen's attorney pointed to an accident investigation report that suggested foul play in the boys' disappearance. According to the court file, Cohen's stepfather, Nick Korniloff, contacted the FBI in the belief that the boys had been abducted, but no official criminal investigation was undertaken.

Both families have now consented to turn over the phone to Apple, which "has already agreed to take in the phone" and analyze it for answers, according to a lawyer representing the Stephanos family. It will be sent to Cupertino via FedEx for forensic examination in-house. Apple has not commented on the lawyer's claim, although the company has previously acknowledged that it was asked to look at the device.

It's unclear whether the iPhone was passcode-protected when it was in working order, nor is it known what methods Apple will employ in its attempts to recover data from such a damaged device, therefore comparisons between this case and Apple's dispute with the FBI over its refusal to unlock the San Bernardino shooter's phone are premature. In the event that anything is found that sheds light on the circumstances of the boys' disappearance, the data will be given to a judge, who will consider if it is evidence and whether it may be shared with the families.

The phone "potentially holds the key to answer a question that a mother desperately needs answered," the Cohens' lawyer told the judge presiding over the hearing. "And let's be clear, your honor, the boys are not declared dead."

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
59 months ago
I hope for the parents sake they can find out what happened.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
59 months ago

These are all signs of a creeping invasion of privacy - and Apple is complicit, while pretending to be against it.

Please get over yourself. The kid was a minor. His parents, as was their right, 100% agreed to allow Apple complete access to the iPhone to possibly shed light on what happened to their missing and presumed dead son. How is this a creeping invasion of privacy issue again?
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
59 months ago

My god why is it that when someone is lost it absolutely HAS to be a terrorist abduction... The guys probably just fell off the boat and sank somewhere.

But how did 2 of them fall in the sea? I am a keen boater (as my name gives away), I worked at a major shipping company and have helped the RNLI (British Lifeboats). Its hard to see how both of them disappeared, also how were they so far out?
Its a single engine, its design for near shore use, not the Atlantic (by crossing). I have seen how wild the sea is and how calm it is one moment, then how wild it is. I also know how remote you can be and how vunreble you are to the elements, even in a port. Once you are around a head, you are just on your own, and thats its. if someone comes up to you and wants to be malicious, your in deep poop...

They probobly want to see the call logs (did they try to call for help?), the location of the phone (as if there been no internet connection, it stores until data and just to see general information about what happened.

Also if anyone here does boating, Please dont take your phone out at sea, you'll be amazed but even 200 meters away from cliffs you may not have any signal. Buy a waterproof VFH. And life-jackets.
Sadly there is a similar story with some Fishermen from where I am from with an RNLI, coastguards and Royal Navy search.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
59 months ago

My god why is it that when someone is lost it absolutely HAS to be a terrorist abduction... The guys probably just fell off the boat and sank somewhere.

My god why is it that when I read an article on MacRumors I absolutely HAVE to read comments from armchair warriors who think they know something about the article. Yet that warrior didn't even read the article.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
59 months ago
My god why is it that when someone is lost it absolutely HAS to be a terrorist abduction... The guys probably just fell off the boat and sank somewhere.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
59 months ago

My god why is it that when someone is lost it absolutely HAS to be a terrorist abduction... The guys probably just fell off the boat and sank somewhere.

That's what the terrorists want you to think.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

First iPhone 12 Mini Hands-On Video Surfaces [Update: Video Pulled]

Wednesday October 28, 2020 1:21 pm PDT by
Apple's iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 Pro Max aren't set to be available until November 13, but a Romanian YouTuber got his hands on the iPhone 12 mini and showed it off today, offering a size comparison between the iPhone 12 and the 12 mini along with going over some of the device's features. The iPhone 12 mini is identical to the iPhone 12 in design and functionality, but it has a...

Apple References Unreleased 2020 16-Inch MacBook Pro in Boot Camp Update

Monday October 26, 2020 8:42 am PDT by
Last week, Apple released an update for Boot Camp, its utility for running Windows on a Mac. While this update would typically be unremarkable, several of our readers noticed that the release notes reference an unreleased 2020 model of the 16-inch MacBook Pro. While this could easily be a mistake, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is nearly a year old, so it is certainly a worthy candidate for a...

After Mocking Apple, Samsung May Remove Power Adapter From Galaxy S21 Box

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:29 pm PDT by
Samsung's Galaxy S21, coming in 2021, may not include a power adapter or headphones in the box, according to reports from Korean media sites highlighted by SamMobile. Rumors earlier this year also said that Samsung was considering removing these accessories from future smartphone models, but that didn't stop Samsung from mocking Apple for selling the iPhone 12 models without a power adapter...

Report: Apple Silicon iMac Featuring Desktop Class 'A14T' Chip Coming First Half of 2021

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:14 am PDT by
The first iMac powered by Apple Silicon is set to arrive in the first half of next year and will feature a desktop class "A14T" chip, according to Chinese-language newspaper The China Times. Codenamed "Mt. Jade," Apple's first custom-made desktop processor will be twinned with its first self-developed GPU, codenamed "Lifuka," both of which are being produced using TSMC's 5-nanometer process, ...

iPhone 12 Ceramic Shield Still 'Scratches at Level 6 With Deeper Grooves at Level 7' in Mohs Hardness Test

Wednesday October 28, 2020 7:10 am PDT by
iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models feature a new Ceramic Shield front cover that is "tougher than any smartphone glass," according to Apple, but the displays on the devices still have similar scratch resistance as previous iPhones based on a new test. Zack Nelson today shared his much-anticipated iPhone 12 Pro durability test on his YouTube channel JerryRigEverything, and based on the Mohs...

2020 iPad Air vs. iPad Pro: Hands-On Comparison

Tuesday October 27, 2020 3:03 pm PDT by
Apple announced the new 2020 fourth-generation iPad Air in September, but the new tablets just started shipping out to customers last Friday. We picked one up and thought we'd do a hands-on comparison with the iPad Pro, which was last updated in March, because both tablets are about as powerful and share many similarities. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Design and ...

MagSafe Charger Only Charges at Full 15W Speeds With Apple's 20W Power Adapter [Updated]

Monday October 26, 2020 3:38 pm PDT by
Alongside the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro models, Apple introduced a new MagSafe charger that attaches to the magnetic ring in the back of the devices, providing up to 15W of charging power, which is double the speed of the 7.5W Qi-based wireless charging maximum. Apple does not provide a power adapter with the $39 MagSafe charger, requiring users to supply their own USB-C compatible option. Apple...

Apple Files Mystery 'Personal Computer' With Placeholder 'B2002' Name in Bluetooth Product Database

Tuesday October 27, 2020 12:36 pm PDT by
Last week, a listing appeared in the Bluetooth product database for an Apple product with a placeholder name "B2002" and a model number of "TBD." MacRumors was alerted to the listing by health and fitness tech website MyHealthyApple. The product is filed under the "personal computer" category, which Apple has used for previous Mac and iPad listings in the database, so it is hard to pinpoint...

Apple Releases First macOS Big Sur 11.0.1 Beta to Developers [Update: Public Beta Available]

Wednesday October 28, 2020 10:15 am PDT by
Apple today seeded a new macOS Big Sur 11.0.1 beta to developers for testing purposes, with the new beta replacing the existing macOS Big Sur 11 beta 10 update that was released two weeks ago. The macOS Big Sur beta can be downloaded through the Apple Developer Center and once the appropriate profile is installed, subsequent betas will be available through the Software Update mechanism in...

iPhone 12 Models Might Support Reverse Charging of Future Apple Accessories According to FCC Filing

Tuesday October 27, 2020 6:25 pm PDT by
iPhone 12 models could have an inactive wireless charging feature for accessories, according to an FCC filing discovered by VentureBeat's Jeremy Horwitz. In the filing, Apple said that 2020 iPhones support a wireless charging function that will seemingly be enabled for at least one future Apple accessory:In addition to being able to be charged by a desktop WPT charger (puck), 2020 iPhones...