Developer Scotty Allen used to be an engineer in Silicon Valley, but now he’s spending his time traveling the world making things. Allen is currently spending his time in Shenzhen, China, where he made his own like-new iPhone by buying the parts in the markets of Huaqiangbei, where all kinds of cellphone parts are available over-the-counter. Allen wrote about and extensively filmed the process, and he’s a joy to watch.
He was inspired to make an entire iPhone when he was at a barbecue joint in China with people who are interested in electronics like he is, when someone said, “I wonder if you could build your own phone.” When he set out on his quest, he wasn’t sure if merchants would even sell him parts. Eventually, albeit with a few hiccups, he was able to build a completely functional iPhone.
Allen chose to make an iPhone 6S rather than the more-recent iPhone 7 for two reasons — first, he already owned a 6S so it would make for an easier comparison. More important, however, iPhone 7 parts are harder to come by in the markets. Allen suspects this is simply because the iPhone 7 just came out in September of 2016, and since parts tend to come from recycled or broken phones, the market for them hasn’t expanded that much yet.
To make the iPhone, Allen used four basic parts: screen, shell, battery, and logic board. Allen said that the phone itself had parts worth about $300. For comparison, an iPhone 6S from Apple starts at $549.
For the screen, Allen bought a broken screen and had it disassembled and reassembled with new parts. Allen wasn’t able to solder his own logic board, as TouchID will not work if you swap out the sensor, so he just bought a completed board, with a sensor. He also said the battery was easy to find and as cheap as $5 USD.
He bought a rose-colored back that had an Apple logo, “but zero laser markings inside or outside, so I’m pretty sure it’s not from a used phone,” and found several custom unofficial laser-marked Apple backs. Allen’s adventures took him to a dozens of stores and even a cellphone repair school. Allen said he thinks anyone who watches his video and had enough patience can do it as well.
“I never really thought much about what happens when I get rid of a phone,” Allen said in the video. “I think a lot of them end up here, taken apart for parts or turned back into nice working phones.” You can learn more at Allen’s blog, Strange Parts.