You’ve never seen an iPhone like this before

The Apple logo on the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Your Apple iPhone has a camera, my iPhone has a camera, so everyone’s iPhone must have a camera right? Wrong, as an image posted to Reddit shows.

Originally uploaded to the “Mildly Interesting” subreddit (somewhat ironically, given it’s actually very interesting), it’s a photo of an aging and somewhat battered Apple iPhone. But before you think you are looking at the startup logo on the screen, it’s actually the back of the phone, and it’s missing the camera entirely.

According to the author of the post, the unusual iPhone is owned by a friend who works at a nuclear power plant, where cameras are not permitted on site. More details on the possible origin of the phone came when the post then appeared in the r/iPhone subreddit, where several responses state that the camera-less iPhone is not made by Apple, but modified by a third-party company for use by companies and personnel in jobs and locations where security is paramount.

An image of an iPhone without a camera.
An image of an iPhone without a camera.

While an obvious rarity, it’s not the first time a photo of an iPhone without a camera has been uploaded to Reddit. Several years ago, a Redditor found a similar model for sale in a store selling used smartphones in Dubai, and some replies stated that camera-less iPhone models were used by the military. Elsewhere in the replies, several claimed that Apple would at one time also sell modified versions of the iPhone without a camera to certain government institutions.

Other interesting tidbits from the replies to both images include information suggesting the entire camera system is removed, from the hardware to the software, likely to ensure that it’s impossible for someone to add a camera. Logically, as these devices are for use where cameras are not allowed, there won’t be a camera on the front of the phone either.

Where does the camera-less iPhone come from? A company named NonCam is mentioned in the Reddit post’s replies, and sure enough, its (very slow) website lists conversion kits for several old iPhone models — including the iPhone SE, iPhone 8, and iPhone 5S — to rid it of the camera for $250. It also sells pre-modified versions for more than $1,000. The website states its customers include those in the military, the oil and gas industry, and even education.

An image of an iPhone without a camera.
An image of an iPhone without a camera.

Digging deeper into the world of camera-less iPhone models takes us to Singapore, where a company called Mister Mobile provides more information on who would want to do this. It states the practice is common for residents starting their national service in the military, where phones with cameras are banned. The way it modifies the phone is reversible, enabling residents to take their own phone with them, along with all their contacts and data, and then return it to the way Apple intended once their military service is complete.

It’s a much cheaper service than NonCam, too. If you take your iPhone 14 Pro to Mister Mobile to have the camera removed, it’ll cost you the local equivalent of $28, but it seems to be less “final” than NonCam’s service. The company doesn’t only work on Apple phones either, and it lists camera removal as an option for most major device manufacturers, including Samsung, Sony, Google, and OnePlus.

Next time you stumble upon an iPhone without one of the top features you’d buy the phone for in the first place, you now know where it may have originated — and why a company may perform a “camera-ectomy” on Apple’s finest.