You can now build your own USB-C iPhone thanks to this open source mod

nanoguy

Posts: 1,046   +15
Staff member
Forward-looking: If you’ve been waiting for an iPhone with a USB-C port instead of a Lightning connector, it’s unlikely that you’ll get one from Apple. However, what you can do is mod an existing iPhone using detailed instructions from a passionate engineering student that spent several months developing the process.

Last month, we learned that an engineering student from Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, EPFL, had successfully modded an iPhone X to change the charging port from Lightning to USB-C. This was a great accomplishment, since the USB-C port was fully functional for both charging and data transfers.

Ken Pillonel, who developed the mod, promised to come up with a more in-depth video about his project, and now we have one. Not only does Pillonel explain in great detail what it took to make the world’s first USB-C iPhone a reality, but he’s also created a GitHub repository containing all the instructions needed to machine the iPhone chassis and build the custom PCB for the USB-C port.

In the 14-minute video, Pillonel explains the mod required some reverse engineering and creative thinking to mimic a proper USB-C port. Specifically, he had to figure out how to map the power and data lines between the Lightning connection on the iPhone motherboard and the USB-C port, as well as reverse engineer Apple’s C94 chip. Then he had to figure out how to produce a flexible PCB that fits inside the iPhone X and a support structure that would hold the USB-C port in place.

Suffice to say, not many people possess the skills and the tools required to make this mod, but at least you don’t have to go through the same difficult journey as Pillonel thanks to his decision to open-source the documentation behind the final version he worked so hard to create.

If you’re interested in purchasing this unique USB-C iPhone X, Pillonel is auctioning it on eBay where the bidding has already reached $4,950 at the time of writing. However, keep in mind that this won’t be useful as a daily driver, and Pillonel notes you shouldn’t restore, update, or erase it either.

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zulu53

Posts: 80   +33
The skills and equipment required are not that difficult to obtain: many people have them, just ask your local cellphone tech guy. But, of course, be aware that the liability is all yours when the mod does work. Apple, the company and all of its employees (147,000 in 2020) will totally disown you and your phone; you and your phone will be "persona non grata" at any of their facilities (they do reserve the right to deny entry at any time to anyone if you read their contracts with you for the virtual facilities and if you look above the door on the physical ones; and watch the Security escort you out). The large profit they make on every phone allows them to hire many people to ensure that you and your phone do not contaminate their business model.
 

hahahanoobs

Posts: 4,018   +2,025
This is far from a win. Like zulu53 said, Apple will crush you. They also chose lightning, because Apple knows what's best for you. Going against that will be a waste of time. Just wait for the EU ruling on USB-C.
I'm also wondering if it can be detected or disabled with a future iOS update.
 

p51d007

Posts: 2,947   +2,329
Apple will keep the lightning connector as long as they can. That way they can overcharge for cables etc.
 

mbrowne5061

Posts: 1,958   +1,144
The skills and equipment required are not that difficult to obtain: many people have them, just ask your local cellphone tech guy.

Your local 'cellphone tech guy' probably lacks the skills the reverse engineer the processors or the mainboard. They might be able to order the parts from suppliers, using what this student posted, but they probably could not have reverse engineered it.