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

Crosscreek Avatar
86 months ago
I hope for the parents sake they can find out what happened.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Col4bin Avatar
86 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)
captain cadet Avatar
86 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)
elmateo487 Avatar
86 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)
garirry Avatar
86 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)
ArtOfWarfare Avatar
86 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)

Popular Stories

Cyber Monday Deals Feature 2022

Best Cyber Monday Apple Deals Still Available for AirPods, Apple TV, iPad, and More

Monday November 28, 2022 5:24 am PST by
The Black Friday and Cyber Monday holiday shopping rush is drawing to a close, but there are still some good deals to be had out there. For Apple products, many of the deals you've seen since last week are still available, though some have expired. So for anyone who missed out on Black Friday deals, there's still an opportunity to get some of the year's best prices on many Apple devices. Note: ...
iPhone 14 Pro Rear Camera

iPhone 15 to Use 'State-of-the-Art' Image Sensor From Sony for Better Low-Light Performance

Monday November 28, 2022 11:00 am PST by
Apple's upcoming iPhone 15 models will be equipped with Sony's newest "state of the art" image sensors, according to a report from Nikkei. Compared to standard sensors, Sony's image sensor doubles the saturation signal in each pixel, allowing it to capture more light to cut down on underexposure and overexposure. Nikkei says that it is able to better photograph a person's face even with...
Apple Watch Ultra Oceanic Plus App

Apple Announces Oceanic+ App Now Available for Apple Watch Ultra

Monday November 28, 2022 6:11 am PST by
Apple today announced that the Oceanic+ app is available for the Apple Watch Ultra starting today. Designed by Huish Outdoors in collaboration with Apple, the app serves as a dive computer for recreational scuba diving at depths up to 40 meters/130 feet. Apple already offers a basic Depth app on the Apple Watch Ultra for viewing your current depth, maximum depth reached, water temperature,...
app store awards 2021

Apple Announces 2022 App Store Award Winners, Highlighting Best Apps of the Year

Tuesday November 29, 2022 3:10 am PST by
Apple today announced its 2022 App Store Award winners, highlighting the 16 best apps and games selected by Apple's global App Store editorial team. The top apps were chosen by Apple for their quality, innovative technology, creative design, positive cultural impact, and ability to deliver "exceptional experiences." Apple CEO Tim Cook said: This year's App Store Award winners reimagined...
rapid security response

Apple Releases Another Rapid Security Response Update for iOS 16.2 Beta Users

Monday November 28, 2022 10:16 am PST by
Apple today released a Rapid Security Response update that is available for those running the iOS 16.2 beta, marking the launch of the second RSR update since the feature was released in iOS 16. The Rapid Security Response Update is designed to provide iOS 16.2 beta users with bug fixes without the need to install a full update. The initial RSR release for iOS 16.2 beta users was a test with ...
twitter elon musk

Elon Musk Claims Apple Has 'Mostly Stopped' Offering Ads on Twitter and Is Making Moderation Demands

Monday November 28, 2022 10:42 am PST by
Apple has cut back on its Twitter advertising, according to Twitter CEO Elon Musk. In a tweet, Musk said that Apple has "mostly stopped" its Twitter ads, asking if Apple hates "free speech." Musk went on to publish a poll asking if Apple should "publish all censorship actions" taken that impact customers and he began retweeting content from companies that Apple has had moderation discussions ...
iphone 11 tesla cybertruck close up

Elon Musk Pledges to Build iPhone Rival If Apple Ousts Twitter

Tuesday November 29, 2022 2:48 am PST by
Elon Musk has pledged to offer an "alternative phone" if Apple and Google remove Twitter from their app stores, adding to long-standing rumors about an iPhone rival from Tesla. Modified iPhone 11 Pro in the style of the Tesla Cybertruck, by Caviar. Musk's remark came after being asked about the potential scenario of Twitter being removed from app stores, which could conceivably happen if the...
General Black Friday Deals 2022 Green

All the Apple Black Friday Deals You Can Still Get

Friday November 25, 2022 4:40 am PST by
Although Black Friday is now technically over, many Apple products are still seeing major discounts through the weekend as we head into Cyber Monday. In this article, you'll find every Apple device with a notable Black Friday sale that's still available. We'll be updating as prices change and new deals arrive, so be sure to keep an eye out if you don't see the sale you're looking for yet. Note:...