- Photos stored in a broken iPhone, even one that doesn’t turn on anymore, can still sometimes be retrieved — even if Apple says they can’t.
- Canadian broadcast service CBC interviewed a tech repair shop that said it can and has retrieved photos from broken iPhones, but it’s not a 100% guarantee.
- If you want to recover your photos from a broken iPhone, Apple may be able to help depending on how damaged it is. But if your iPhone doesn’t turn on, Apple is unlikely to help, and you may need to turn to unofficial services that may come with their own costs and risks.
- You can also prevent ever losing your photos if you use Google Photos or Apple’s iCloud to back up your photos in the cloud.
It can still be possible to retrieve the photos stored inside a broken iPhone even if Apple says it can’t help, according to an interview by Canadian public broadcast service CBC with Jessa Jones, owner of tech repair shop iPadRehab outside of Rochester, New York.
The most common answer that Apple gives to iPhone users is "there is no way to get your pictures from your iPhone if it won’t turn on," Jones told CBC. But, having recovered photos from broken iPhones herself, Jones said "it’s absolutely not true."
Jones said that most water-related iPhone damage is recoverable, "about 95%," she said.
Check out what you can do to retrieve your photos from your broken iPhone:
What you should do to recover your photos from a broken iPhone
The first thing you should do is ask Apple. An Apple employee at an Apple store may be able to retrieve your photos depending on how damaged the iPhone is. But if your iPhone doesn’t turn on, Apple isn’t likely to be much help.
You might even be told by Apple that it’s impossible to retrieve your photos if your iPhone doesn’t turn on, but there are still other avenues to explore.
If your iPhone doesn’t turn on, your best bet for retrieving photos that aren’t backed up to the cloud is to contact third-party tech repair shops to see if they can help.
It should go without saying that you should look for a trusted and reputable tech repair shop. A good criteria to look for is whether or not the repair shop charges you if the repair or retrieval is unsuccessful.
Jones says she charges $300 for photo recovery, but only if she’s able to retrieve the photos. If not, you don’t pay.
During your search, you’ll likely run into "authorized" Apple repair shops, which are third-party shops supported by Apple. As they’re Apple-supported, authorized repair shops will likely tell you the same thing that Apple tells you.
What Jones did to retrieve photos from a broken iPhone
In a separate video from CBC, Jones explained how she retrieved the photos from a Newfoundland couple’s iPhone that had suffered water damage.
Jones simply made the broken iPhone functional again — or at least functional enough to retrieve the photos — by replacing water-damaged parts.
Once the iPhone could turn on, the iPhone functioned as it normally did before suffering water damage, and the photos could be extracted from the iPhone.
If Jones couldn’t repair the iPhone itself to turn on and function normally, it would have been unlikely that the photos could have been retrieved. A quick search through Apple’s support forum revealed that data on iPhones — like photos — are encrypted, and can’t be extracted from an iPhone’s storage without the iPhone being functional to decrypt the data.
You can see the full video of how Jones was able to retrieve the photos below:
How to avoid losing your photos in the first place
Download and use Google Photos. It’s that simple.
Google Photos is the easiest and cheapest way to backup all your photos and videos. It gives you an unlimited amount of cloud storage for photos and videos, which can automatically upload from iPhones to Google’s Photos cloud.
Apple has a similar service to Google Photos called iCloud Photos, but it’s part of your iCloud storage, of which you only get a mere 5GB of free storage compared to the unlimited storage on Google Photos. You could pay to get more iCloud storage, of course. Or get free unlimited storage on Google Photos. It’s your call.
I should note that Google Photos’ free storage compresses your photos and videos to take up less space in Google’s cloud, which can affect the quality of your photos and videos. To save your photos in original quality, Google Photos will use your Google cloud storage. You get 15GB of free storage with Google’s cloud storage, which can fill up pretty quickly if you take a lot of photos and videos. For more Google cloud storage, you’ll need to buy plans with more storage from Google.
From personal experience, the difference in quality between Google Photo’s free "high quality" storage and "original quality" storage is negligible.
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