Update: This was an April Fool’s day joke.
I recently discovered something really wild: the iPhone has a secret SATA interface. Using the SATA interface, the iPhone is much easier to hack because it looks just like a hard drive to a computer, so you can replace individual executables and symlinks with no effort. Readers know that I’m a bit of a storage freak. A month or so ago, I was reading on Lifehacker about this cool SATA USB docking station where you can just slide a hard drive into the dock:
So I ordered one and set it up. The accident that unlocked all this is that I was getting up out of my desk chair while reading on my iPhone. The chair bumped me and I dropped the iPhone from a couple feet up. By some weird chance, it landed in the docking station. Not only did it fit perfectly, but a hard drive picture appeared on the iPhone’s screen. Just a few seconds later, my Windows XP computer recognized the iPhone as an external hard drive! I pulled the iPhone out and was able to reproduce it by pushing the iPhone down hard into the docking station. Dropping it from couple feet the first time forced it into the connector, and it does take a little more muscle to make the connectors mesh than I’m used to with peripherals.
Anyway, this is what the iPhone looks like when it’s docked as an external hard drive:
The iPhone is formatted with HFS+. I happened to have drivers for HFS installed on XP; the default installation of Windows doesn’t have these drivers, but you can download hfsutils here. If you have hfsutils installed, the iPhone looks like a regular hard drive. I’ve been able to backup my iPhone and restore the image to my wife’s iPhone with no problems (she still keeps her phone number of course). I’m not an expert iPhone hacker, even though I know a few things, so it’s been slow-going. But I’m making solid progress and wanted to alert other people that the iPhone works in this way. I’ve tried a few other external SATA enclosures, but I’ve had best results with the Thermaltake so far.
Update: Some people are claiming that these images are photoshopped, but they’re actual images. What’s even more fascinating is that I discovered that the iPhone works as an external hard drive with my laptop as well:
Is anyone else seeing this behavior with their iPhone?
Update 2: Okay, this is getting a little scary. I started thinking about how the iPhone connected with both my laptop and my external hard drive dock. And I asked myself: “Where else can I stick my iPhone?” So I tried putting my iPhone into a CD player that was nearby:
To my surprise, a CD-ROM image appeared on the iPhone. Sure enough, the CD player started playing my iPhone! Of course, it was a data CD, so instead of music I got an awful racket as the CD player tried to play the data CD on the iPhone.
My mind reeled as I considered the possibilities. If the iPhone worked with electronics, maybe it would work with other appliances as well? I took a lamp, unscrewed the light bulb, and sure enough it worked:
The iPhone light turns on, and it’s surprisingly bright. From there, my brain really started to work. What if the iPhone could connect to anything mechanical? I walked over to a neighbor’s house and held my iPhone up to the lock on their door. Sure enough, a key appeared on the iPhone screen:
A few seconds later, the lock clicked and the door swung open. So far, every lock that I’ve tried with my iPhone has opened, even the industrial-strength ones.
I did have one bad experience though. I started to run all over the house plugging my iPhone into things. In the kitchen I dropped my iPhone into our toaster:
It worked really well, but in my enthusiasm I somehow buttered my iPhone and ate it in just a few bites. On one hand, the iPhone makes for a really expensive piece of toast. On the other hand, it was delicious. So that’s it — my iPhone is gone now. So I’m going to ask: has anyone else done similar experiments with their iPhone? Where you can stick your iPhone and what happened?