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Hidden Lightning connector found in Apple TV 4K ethernet port

A closer inspection of Apple TV 4K's internals reveals Apple's streaming box includes what appears to be Lightning connector terminals hidden in its ethernet port, potentially providing a direct path to critical system hardware.

In a review of iFixit's 2017 teardown of Apple TV 4K, Apple TV hardware and tvOS specialist Kevin Bradley on Thursday spotted solder joints on the device's logic board that correspond to Apple's Lightning connector protocol.

Bradley, better known by his Twitter handle nitoTV, suggests the Lightning port might be used to gain access to Apple TV 4K firmware, a route that could lead to a jailbreak.

"[N]one of us looked THAT closely to the hardware of the AppleTV 4K [sic] and the magic locked in the ethernet port until fairly recently. its [sic] going to take time to figure out what is possible and how," Bradley said in a tweet.

A subsequent tweet from self-described "maker" Steven Barker reveals Apple slyly disguised external access to the Lightning contacts with sliding slat at the back of the ethernet port. Shifting the door up exposes the set of pins, but it appears that a specialized connector is required to interface with the terminal.

Developer Steven Troughton-Smith believes the Lightning pins are used by Apple for hardware debugging. The company has a history of incorporating similar "hidden" connectivity elements in its hardware for internal purposes.

For example, Apple secreted away an Apple Watch data port in a groove designed to accept watch straps. The company has since utilized the port for diagnostics and connection to an interactive pedestal previously used to display the device in Apple stores.

What, if anything, can be accomplished by accessing the Apple TV 4K terminal is at this point unknown, but the presence of Lightning is an interesting find considering the device was released more than two years ago.