Apple Unable to Restore Data From iPhone of Florida Teen Lost at Sea

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Apple has been unsuccessful in its attempts to retrieve data from a waterlogged iPhone that belonged to one of two Florida teens who were lost at sea last summer, reports ABC News affiliate WPBF 25.

14-year-old Austin Stephanos' iPhone 6 was found in an abandoned boat off the Bermuda coast in March, eight months after he and friend Perry Cohen, also 14, went missing during a fishing expedition that began at Palm Beach County, Florida, in June 2015.

recovered_iphone_austin_stephanos
The two boys' parents, who had been locked in a court battle over the iPhone's fate, recently agreed to hand it over to Apple after the company said it would do everything it could to recover information from it in the hope that it would shed light on the circumstances of the teens' disappearance.

With the iPhone in Apple's possession, a dedicated forensics team disassembled the damaged device, cleaned its components and performed a chemical report as part of an exhaustive diagnostics and repair process. But despite the team of engineers working "around the clock", Apple has been unable to glean any data from it.

The news was released by Austin's father, Blu Stephanos, via a statement read by the family's attorney, Michael Pike. "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.

"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."

Stephanos' statement went on to suggest he would keep the iPhone as a memento of his son, but the parents of Perry Cohen seem intent on exploring other options.

Pam Cohen, Perry’s mother, issued a subsequent statement which likewise thanked Apple for its efforts, but she also claimed that Apple had offered to hand the phone to other experts in the field who may be able to pick up where Apple left off and continue the work.

"We look forward to working cooperatively with Austin's family toward this transition," said Cohen. "We are not giving up on the iPhone's potential for evidence until all viable efforts have been exhausted."

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Top Rated Comments

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55 months ago

The forensic company that unlocked the terrorist's phone could contact the family and take a look at the phone.

I guess they won't because if they can't decrypt the content, the family will reveal it.

This is not about unlocking or decrypting. This is about getting a water-damaged device back to work. The forensic company will not have any additional value here.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
55 months ago

Couldnt they just restore a working iPhone from the kids latest iCloud backup?

Presumably, the data they need happened after the last backup. It's unlikely the phone connected to wifi and backed up to iCloud while at sea, after whatever important location info was logged by the phone.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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55 months ago
Those poor parents
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
55 months ago

This is not about unlocking or decrypting. This is about getting a water-damaged device back to work. The forensic company will not have any additional value here.

Water damage is a complete killer, I dropped a phone in the sea a few years back and it dried out and worked for about 3 weeks longer before stopped working again. I opened it up to find that all the wires had corroded and there were a few places that they were touching...
New phone time
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
55 months ago

Water damage is a complete killer, I dropped a phone in the sea a few years back and it dried out and worked for about 3 weeks longer before stopped working again. I opened it up to find that all the wires had corroded and there were a few places that they were touching...
New phone time

Fresh water is bad enough. Salt water? That phone didn't stand a chance. Sorry for the family, but realistically there was little hope of recovery.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
55 months ago

There's cases of people recovering cameras (SD cards to be more precise) and recover all the data.

I was expecting the chips (ram?) to have certain resistance from water.

It's not just water, it's sea water. A powerful corrosive; just look at the photo showing the back of the phone.
[doublepost=1463066145][/doublepost]

Salt water is death of anything electrical/mechanical. Even stainless steel will corrode in high salt content.
Even a Galaxy 7 would not last much longer.

The reason is salt is an excellent electrolyte, and the dozens of dissimilar metals in a phone will cause rampant electrolytic corrosion. Battery may even accelerate the corrosion.

Now, IF the memory chip was not breached, it may be possible to hook it into a new motherboard, but that requires robotic precision removing of outer case and attaching microcosmic leads, something I doubt Apple has because they work with components, not manufacturing IC chips.
They could ask foundries like Intel, AMD, etc for help,

If they add nickel to the outer shell, it may not corrode, but that doesn't prevent all the other components from corroding.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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