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Here’s what we know so far about Jamal Khashoggi’s Apple Watch

The Apple Watch has called for emergency help, warned of dangerous heart rates, and even anticipated seizures. Can it help solve an international mystery?

Here’s what we know so far about Jamal Khashoggi’s Apple Watch
[Photos: Tom The Photographer/Unsplash; Etereuti/Pixabay]
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The mystery surrounding the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi on October 2 became a tech story with revelations that the journalist regularly wore an Apple Watch, which could have been used to record and transmit what really happened. The Turkish government claims it has recordings of Khashoggi’s murder inside then Saudi consulate October 12, and the Saudis say the journalist left the consulate unharmed. And Monday, CNN reported that the Saudis are about to release a report containing their version of what happened.

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Here’s what we know and don’t know so far about the possible role of the Watch in the story.

Could Khashoggi have recorded the events that occurred after he entered the consulate using just his Apple Watch? Yes, via one of a number of recording apps like Just Press Record.

Could Khashoggi’s fiancee have accessed the recordings? Possibly, but with some big if’s. Khashoggi reportedly left his iPhone with his fiancée when he went into the Saudi consulate (phones are not allowed there). The Watch, a Series 3, would have to have transmitted the recordings back to the phone via Bluetooth 4.2, which has a range of only 330 feet. She would have to have been parked outside the consulate. She also may have been able to access the files if she knew Khashoggi’s iCloud username and password.

Could the Watch have transmitted the recordings any other way? The Apple Watch Series 3 has a cellular radio inside. But the Watch doesn’t currently support a cellular connection in Turkey.

What about Wi-Fi? It’s unlikely Khashoggi’s Watch would have connected to the Wi-Fi network inside the Saudi consulate, even if the network was open. The Watch tries to connect to Wi-Fi before it even tries to connect to cellular, but it will only establish a connection to networks that its paired iPhone has connected to before.

Could the Saudis possibly have accessed the recordings, then deleted them from the cloud?  It’s possible, but only if they guessed Khashoggi’s four-digit passcode, and that seems unlikely. (They could not have fingerprinted into the Watch, as was reported earlier).

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The dissident had lived in the U.S. and written for the Washington Post, often critically about Saudi Arabia’s suppression of dissent, its sanctions on Qatar, and its war in Yemen. In Turkey, where he had connections and believed himself to be safe, he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 at 1 p.m. local time to complete some routine paperwork needed to wed his Turkish fiancée. A mysterious team of 15 men flew in from Saudi Arabia and entered the consulate a few hours before Khashoggi went in.

Now both Saudi Arabia and Turkey are investigating. The investigators hope that Khashoggi’s Apple Watch can be connected to the phone he left outside the consulate, or to some other device.

About the author

Fast Company Senior Writer Mark Sullivan covers emerging technology, politics, artificial intelligence, large tech companies, and misinformation. An award-winning San Francisco-based journalist, Sullivan's work has appeared in Wired, Al Jazeera, CNN, ABC News, CNET, and many others.

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