Friday, April 5, 2019

Apple Discouraging Photo Recovery From Damaged Devices

Mike Wuerthele and Malcolm Owen:

After querying third-party repair outfits nearby, the Billards were referred to a company near Rochester, New York called iPadRehab. The firm, operated by Jessa Jones who formed the company following a similar water-based mishap of her own and taught herself how to repair iPhones, was able to get the iPhone up and running enough to recover the data for the couple.

The report then moves towards how Apple’s advice the pictures were unrecoverable is a common statement from the company. Jones claims “The most common answer - and I hear this from customers all the time - is ‘there is no way to get your pictures from your iPhone if it won’t turn on.’ It’s heartbreaking, because it’s absolutely not true.”


While her company is doing well from Apple’s unwillingness to service water-damaged iPhones, the report highlights issues Jones has when posting to the Apple Support Communities, a section of Apple’s website where users can offer advice to others for issues with problematic devices. When Jones writes posts to the forum advising that water-damaged devices could undergo a repair via non-Apple authorized means, her posts are removed as being “inappropriate,” and eventually the account itself is banned.


The CBC put a lot of weight on the Apple support forums as a venue for data. However, Apple in no way participates in the forums, nor issues any form of formal statement regarding data recovery there.

See also: Louis Rossmann.

Via Josh Centers:

Yes, people were generally okay with Apple being locked down as long as the products were dependable. That’s increasingly not the case. Meanwhile, Apple is going to greater lengths to prevent repair.


8 Comments RSS · Twitter

John Daniel

I’m one of those high-level contributors on Apple Support Community that Louis Rossman and Jessa Jones rail against. There are a few specific issues here that the CBC either glosses over or completely falsifies:

Apple doesn’t offer board-level repairs. No surprise here. Apple doesn’t offer board-level repairs for any product. Even repairs on top-of-the-line Macs consist of logic board replacements. Apple promotes backups as the best option for data recovery. There is no reasonable counter-argument to that approach. For those who like to spend money, Apple offers iCloud subscription services.

If users don’t have backups, then they can send their devices off to data recovery specialists. They need to be aware of the costs and the risks. The cost will be several hundred dollars. The risks are exposure of intimate details, such as e-mails, texts, photos, videos, passwords, etc., that are often stored on personal devices. It is critically important to find a reputable, professional service.

There is no prohibition on Apple Support Communities against recommending independent repair. People do it all the time. The CBC show even goes to the trouble to crop out one such reply in one of the threads they highlight. But only professional, reputable services should be recommended. There is a niche industry of hard drive and data recovery specialists. There is a much larger industry of credit card and identity theft, stolen iPhones, and fake refurb iPhones. Apple doesn’t like to talk about theft and fraud, but it is a huge, global business.

No one has been banned from Apple Support Communities for recommending independent repair services. You can even recommend your own service as long as you are up front about it and follow the posted Terms of Use. If you are engaged in some kind of for-profit enterprise, you can expect your posts to be scrutinized much more closely than posts from other people. Again, I don’t see a reasonable counter-argument to this approach.

These independent repair folks have been banned for repeatedly violating multiple items in the Apple Support Communities terms of use. The CBC piece even shows them doing that.

@John There’s a difference between Apple not offering its own data recovery service and telling customers that recovery is impossible.

Which TOS items are they violating? Both Jones and AppleInsider (which was critical of the CBC) believe she shouldn't have been banned.

John Daniel

I’m not sure what Apple tells customers. I think there would be liability issues if Apple started recommending 3rd party services. Even if these independent repair services are totally honest and do a good job, no company should recommend another company’s products or services without having some kind of legal agreement in place in case something goes wrong.

My interest in this story is with respect to Apple Support Communities. In that context, Apple doesn’t say or do anything other than moderate the forums. If someone thinks that recovery is impossible, they are free to say that. Anyone else is free to contradict that advice too. Both of these happened in the fake thread the CBC started. However, the CBC only highlighted the reply that supported their claim. They did not mention the very next post that suggested "IF this shop can do board level soldering then you MIGHT be able to recover your photo”. I’m sorry, but that’s just fraudulent reporting by the CBC.

In terms of moderation, Apple does a very good job cleaning up the forums. Unless you are right there and capture the thread before moderation, there is no way to tell what was there. However, Apple doesn’t edit posts, delete posts, or ban users on a whim. Someone really has to work hard to get banned. It is pretty easy to find posts by Jessa Jones going back for years that violate the restriction on “discussions of Apple policies or procedures or speculation on Apple decisions”. And yet, these posts are still available and the user was not banned because of them. I think the more serious issue was "interfere with or disrupt the Site”. Surely creating new accounts after being banned, posting fake questions, making misleading YouTube videos, and participation in these “investigative reports” qualifies under that criteria. And all of this is just from the posts that Apple hasn’t deleted.

Apple provides Apple Support Communities so that people can get unbiased, independent advice. I’ve told people something was “impossible” only to be proven wrong by someone else. That’s the point - everybody gets a chance to learn something new and maybe solve impossible problems - for free. But when people are posting purposefully misleading advice for their own gain, it undermines that system. That is what they were banned for.

Niall O'Mara

As a long-term Apple advocate, I'm currently banned from Apple Support 'Community' from when I posted disappointment in the over-compression of a Apple Photo book such that the resulting book was of a fer lower resolution than expected given I spent hours compiling hi res images. Someone from the 'community' chimed in that my then powerbook was a few years old and when I replied that 300dpi pri nting predated that by many years my response was deemed inappropriate or some such and when I complained I was banned.

I occasionally read stuff there to which I could post a helpful reply but am unable to - which I view as a form of reverse karma ;)

Jessa documents her posts getting deleted:

John Daniel

I just learned some interesting new information. Apparently, both Louis Rossmann and Jessa Jones have been recently busted by US customs for attempting to import counterfeit Apple parts. There is nothing wrong with using aftermarket parts. Reputable places like OWC do this. The problem with counterfeit parts is that, if the Apple logo is the battery fake, the UL safety certification must also be fake.

It would have been nice if the CBC had done a Google search like I did before they ran that story.

@John Daniel

The parts were refurbished. They were taken from broken iPhones and Macs, repaired, and resold. Apple doesn't like this, they don't want anybody to get repairs outside the Apple authorized repair channel.

John Daniel

As I said above, it is US Customs making those seizures, not Apple. There is no law against selling or using parts that are aftermarket, used, refurb, or pulls. OWC does this all the time and they don’t get busted. But international imports carry a higher standard of scrutiny. They may be subject to duties, taxes, sanctions, and/or tariffs. Additionally, imports may come from places that do not conform to US patent, trademark, or safety laws. Anything that has already been legally imported can be re-sold, traded, refurbished, etc. I would assume that people running popular repair shops should have plenty of broken devices on hand from which to pull spare parts. Why do they need to import new parts? Regardless, they can do that as long as they follow the law. Apple didn’t write that law and Apple doesn’t enforce it.

Leave a Comment