Portless iPhone 13 to use 'Internet Recovery' for restoring, claims leak

iPhone charging port
iPhone charging port (Image credit: Joseph Keller/iMore)

What you need to know

  • We've heard multiple reports that at least one iPhone this year will not have any ports.
  • That raises the key question of how a phone without ports could be restored/recovered if it has any issues.
  • A new report claims Apple will solve this with an 'Internet Recovery' feature.

A new iPhone 13 leak claims Apple will use an 'Internet Recovery' feature to get around not having any ports on one of its iPhone models released later this year, as it looks to finally get rid of the Lightning port of the iPhone 12.

The report comes from Appleosophy and McGuire Wood (a.k.a Jioriku). From their report:

Coming to you as an Appleosophy exclusive, today I will be sharing new details about the recovery and software installation on the portless variant of the iPhone 13.

Explaining first the dilemma, Wood notes the plight of Apple Watch, which can't easily be restored from home by users if there are software/hardware problems that require a restore or recovery to fix. This is a problem that could impact at least one upcoming iPhone 13 model, as we've heard multiple reports Apple is planning at least one 'portless' iPhone this year, that would rely solely on wireless charging and wireless audio connectivity. To solve the issue of recovery and restoration, Apple is reportedly planning a new 'Internet Recovery' feature:

Enter what I have been told is dubbed Internet Recovery. Apple tasked both their software and hardware teams on this in different ways. Allow me to explain the two sides of the story Apple has going on here, starting with the software team. They tasked certain developers to create a reliable and Apple-level safe way for users to recover their devices at home. I am being told that developers are looking at using one of a few methods.

One such method involves the user manually placing the device into recovery mode, triggering an Internet Restore broadcast feature, which "enables an update to iTunes/Finder to scan for devices in the Internet Recovery state", Wood explains:

If found the device will be added to iTunes/Finder and the prompts will then guide you through restoring/upgrading the device.

The report notes this is the "primary" focus for Apple. A second option could involve a device automatically going into Internet Recovery mode, broadcasting the same signal, with Apple using prompts to instruct a user as to how to restore/update their device's firmware.

The third, "least preferred" option apparently explored an internet recovery prompt using Bluetooth, however, this was found to be insecure and unreliable, as well as too slow.

Wood notes Apple could in fact choose both options one and two so there are multiple options for users.

Wood says that on the hardware side, Apple is instructing teams to "integrate wired data by means of pogo pads", the kind used in the hidden port on the Apple Watch:

This is the same tech Apple uses to restore the Apple Watch using the little hidden port behind the band attachment area using iBUS. The current options are a custom SIM card tray cable that would interface with hidden pads in the back of the SIM slot, or possibly using pogo pads on the board which would obviously require the device to be opened. This task has proven rather daunting as the team is not (to the extent of my knowledge) allowed to make housing modifications to hide the pads behind a door like on the Apple Watch.

According to Wood, this is prototype technology running on a prototype device, but that Apple's developers are "confident in the tech". Apparently, restoring takes about two-and-a-half times longer than using a cable.

Wood, or Jioriku, is a more obscure leaker with a limited Apple track record. However, through Appleosophy, he has previously shared images of a rumored new Mac Pro "mini" reminiscent of a later design leaked by Jon Prosser just this week. Wood also correctly shared details of the iPhone 12's design in August, long before its announcement. Given the prominent rumors of a portless iPhone, it also makes perfect sense that Apple is working on tech to aid remote/wireless recovery of devices. Regardless, given the reports are of prototype technology, Wood says we should take "everything with the usual grain of salt."

Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone 13 (more likely a 12S) later this year, featuring a 120Hz display, an under-display fingerprint scanner, and more.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9