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.