iPhone can connect to anything!

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:

Thermaltake Blackx HDD docking station

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:

iPhone as external 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:

iPhone plugging into laptop

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:

iPhone in CD player

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:

iPhone in light socket

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:

iPhone unlocking a door

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:

iPhone in 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?

33 Responses to iPhone can connect to anything! (Leave a comment)

  1. Lol, sales of Thermaltake go up, really Matt going to need better than that to fool anyone =) But i think its to take away the attention from your “tattoo”, anyway good tries 🙂 didnt get me though.

  2. Does the needle actually move when it’s being accessed?!

  3. Yup Brian White, you can watch it scan. As far as I can tell, it’s not a physically accurate rendering though. There are five different images and it just swaps to whatever image is the closest to correct.

  4. Ha, ha. Good one. We’re not buying it. That hard disk picture was photoshopped onto the iPhone.

  5. And I thought you weren’t doing April Fools day this year? 😉

  6. Wow, you’re really good with Photoshop! (heh) This is what happens when you don’t do an official April Fools’ post.

  7. and today is april 1st… 😀

  8. I’d be really worried about viruses . . . there’s no antivirus on Iphone as far as I know. . .

    ; – )

  9. Of course the shots are not ‘shopped. How hard could it be to get the iPhone to display a nice image of a HDD and then snap some pictures 🙂

  10. April job’s on you. I expecially like how the iphone is still to fit in a full PCCard slot! hehe… Yeah right…

  11. oh man, I’m getting an iphone for sure now!
    I’m always needing more lightbulbs!

  12. I can confirm all except the CD player as I don’t own one of those since, you know, I have an iPhone. Try holding it next to your electric shaver…this thing cuts so close and leaves you feeling SO smooth!

    Thanks Matt for the amazing tip, I can’t believe we never realized this before. May 4/1/08 live in infamy.

  13. That’s googley. Our iPhone makes Kentucky bourbon.

  14. “Where you can stick your iPhone and what happened?”

    i’m not touching that question. good photoshop tho:)

  15. Wow!!! Apple beats Microsoft this time. I wonder what Microsoft will come up now.

    Oh by the way, I tried the iPhone in an ATM machine and it allowed me to withdraw funds from somebody else’s account. After plugging it into the ATM slot, the ATM screen started showing the Apple logo and listed all the accounts available for withdraw.

    This is just amazing!

  16. lol, Matt. This is a good April Fools’ Day joke, better than most I’ve seen (today|the past couple days). Still chuckling as I move back to my homework… 😀

  17. You have redeemed yourself. This post I liked, and yes, I almost thought it was possible until the CD player image.

    I’m slower than the rest of the group. 🙂

  18. Dave (original)

    BUT, can you make a phone call? 🙂

    Apple and Google should amalgamate. Both are VERY intuative 😉

  19. Adriana, I put “Where can you stick your iPhone?” in to see who would have their mind in the gutter. You win. 😉

  20. “By some weird chance, it landed in the docking station.”
    This was the first give away. Heh, a candy you dropped landed straignt into a kids mouth 🙂

  21. just one word “too much” oohh thats two words!!

    Happy Fools Day!!

  22. Nobody noticed that all of the pictures have the left and right arrows underneath them? Hence they are on the iPhone picture slide show screen 😛
    I did believe the tattoo though…… 😛

  23. Well, I figured if all this worked on the iPhone, it would work on my iPod Touch as well, so I tried it this morning in various places, and nothing. Finally, as I was popping it into the toaster for one last attempt, the following message appeared on the screen:


  24. hehe, as long as i win:) do i get an iphone?

  25. Thanks Matt,

    They keys and the toaster… i LOVE IT ! 🙂

  26. Very funny Matt !
    You gave yourself some trouble to put up this prank.
    Good job; it’s one of the best ones I’ve seen around

    Au revoir

  27. *Very* amusing. 🙂

    I suppose one tangent here is how long will it be before Apple comes out with something like this? Ultimately one assumes that if the current rate of technological advancement is maintained it won’t be long before even basic appliances have some kind of central CPU that may well present an interface option to AOG (Any Other Gadget). Lost your TV remote control? Try your toaster instead; sure, you can only move between a handful of channels but it’s better than being stuck on C-SPAN.

  28. lol

    Thats great, versatile and the perfect size. I wonder if it’s able to crash a CD player as gracefully as it crashes itself?

    The toast one is the best.

  29. Laurent and Emmanuel, glad you like it. If anyone wants to post their own photos, it’s pretty easy to do. Just do an image search for something fun like a brain (as if the iPhone were going to be a brain augmentation device for example), pick a good photo and zoom in on it, then position your iPhone for a photograph.

    Like this:

    iphone brain

  30. Can this work on the iphone touch[ just the mp3 player, that looks like a iphone cellphone]?

  31. nice joke
    i tried it with my iphone and (of corse) it didn’t work.
    but it make some good pics for my tv show.
    very funny

  32. Thanks Matt, VERY FUNNY!

    Found a short but very funny video on YouTube called
    “Iphone can do anything!” ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THpELk-2ASg )

    Just for your information. ^_^

  33. I’m getting an iPhone soon. I’m going to try and unlock and start my car with it!