In a move to earn the trust of the developer’s community while also securing their flagship product, the iPhone, Apple is giving out free ‘Special iPhones’ under its “SRD(Special Research Device) program” to developers who are to report bugs, security vulnerabilities and help Apple create an even more secure iPhone.

The first batch of eligible researchers have already been notified that their research iPhones are in the mail and they will receive it shortly. Apparently a handful of lucky people are going to get an unexpected Christmas present!

The program, known as the “Apple Security Research Device Program”, features an iPhone provided to each eligible programmer for a period of 12 months(Apple can extend the time limit if it sees fit). Although resembling and functioning like how a normal iPhone would, these research iPhones also come with a custom-built iOS that enables its users root shell access, the ability to run custom commands, etc. 

The developers who would come under this SRD program can run debugging tools on these special iPhones that will make it easier for them to run their code and look through the hood to identify vulnerabilities. The developers are encouraged to report as many vulnerabilities as they can by Apple with its incentivizing “Bounty Hunt” program. 

Under the bounty program, developers are encouraged to privately submit security issues they were able to identify for Apple engineers to fix. In return, Apple pays these developers on a sliding scale based on how severe the vulnerabilities they found were with rewards as high as $1.5 million. 

Don’t expect to see these special iPhones out in the wild. Apple is clear they aren’t meant to be used like a normal iPhone. Instead, they will most likely remain on a researcher’s desk being bombarded with attempts to hack the security and earn both the kudos and cash that comes with each discovery.