$5 part saves data from phone that was literally thrown under a bus

Turns out it’s possible to recover data from a phone that’s been run over by a bus.

Best-selling author and consumer advocate Bob Sullivan learned this the hard way this week when his Android phone, an HTC One swaddled in a strong Incipio case, slid out of his pocket while he was riding his bike in Washington. Sullivan stopped and went back to retrieve the phone, which seemed intact. But before he could grab it, a bus drove right over it. Twice, if you count both front and back wheels.

“It was one of those slow-motion moments, watching the bus wheels approach my phone,” said Sullivan, who wrote about the incident on his consumer-advocate website. “I’m not proud of the stream of words that came out of my mouth when I turned the phone over. I literally walked down the block to get away from a couple of families I saw so I could swear in relative isolation.”

A USB mouse connected to the phone via an inexpensive USB-OTG connector let Sullivan enter his PIN and get past the shattered phone’s lock screen.

Bob Sullivan

Sullivan regularly backs up his phone, but he doesn’t have it on automatic backup because he takes so many photos and videos. He wanted to get a few last photos off the dying phone and make sure his contacts were saved.

The phone would turn on and off, but it was shedding glass like a Persian cat shreds hair, and it was too damaged to recognize Sullivan’s PIN.

“So many things run through your mind,” Sullivan said. “What did I lose? How will I get to that doctor’s appointment I have at the new address I don’t know (true story)? What story will I miss? What deadline? We all rely too much on our phones, of course, it’s something I think about (and write about!) a lot. But still, it’s reality. ”

A $5 (3.45 UK pounds, 6.7 AUD) part saved the day. Sullivan bought a USB-OTG (“on the go”) adapter, which allows a standard USB mouse to be plugged into the mini-USB port on an Android phone. When he plugged it in, a large mouse pointer appeared on the shattered screen, allowing him to enter his code and grab those few not-backed-up images.

The cheap solution may have been obvious to some tech experts, Sullivan admits, but to him it was a huge thrill.

“My dad was an amateur mechanic and instilled in me an ethic of always at least trying to fix things yourself,” he said. “I know, it’s trivial for plenty of folks — but it felt awesome to me.”

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