How I Made My Own iPhone – in China

How I Made My Own iPhone – in China


Where are you from? From USA. USA? Yeah. Very good. I am trying to
make my own iPhone. Very good. [MUSIC PLAYING] I was in a dimly lit
barbecue joint here in China. I was with people
like me, geeks who are fascinated by the
electronics manufacturing scene. And someone said, you
know, see all these cell phone parts in the markets. I wonder if you could
build your own phone. I kept coming and going from
China over the past nine months, and I couldn’t get
rid of this burning question. Could I make my own cell phone? Would people even cell parts
to a Western guy like me who hardly speaks any Chinese? [SPEAKING CHINESE] iPhone 6s. 6s. So I did what any geek would do
and I dove in with both feet. [MUSIC PLAYING] Coming to Shenzhen is
like visiting the future, but it’s this crazy dystopian
Blade Runner esque future. So to make a phone, I
think I need four pieces. I need the metal back, the
shell the phone sits in, I need a screen,
I need a battery, and then I need the
logic board, which is the circuit board that has
the processor and the memory and things like that on it. So we’re in a back alley
behind the [INAUDIBLE] markets. I’m going to take a look
at what’s available here. Sometimes there are phone backs
that are available for sale. So that was interesting. I just went back to
one in the booths and tried to buy one
of the recycled backs, and I was successful, but
it’s pretty dinged up. Now let’s head inside
the main markets and see if I can get
a back that looks new. I’m not going to be able to
film with the big camera inside, but I’ll be able
to use my iPhone. Oh, those are nice. This iPhone 7 [INAUDIBLE]. Yeah. Those are nice. They don’t have a logo. You can maybe get
it for tomorrow. OK, cool. [SPEAKING CHINESE] So that was a big success. Pretty quickly, I was able
to find a back that looks pretty new and pristine to me. It doesn’t have any of the
laser markings inside it like the used one
does, and I need those for aligning some
cables, and there’s a patch where the
antenna sticks. But I think that might be a
place that has a laser that can add those for me. So I’m going to go see
if I can find that. I also found a bunch
of really cool designs and different colors that don’t
look like anything Apple makes. I looked around for
a bit and I finally found this laser engraving booth
tucked in a little cubby hole underneath the stairs. The same original, like
whatever they normally do. So Apple, the standard
thing for USA. USA markings here. [MUSIC PLAYING] I’m outside McDonald’s
and I’m waiting for Frank. So Frank’s a buyer, buys a
bunch of different Apple parts in the markets. He’s going to help me buy
the parts to build a screen. So what I want to build,
I’m building an iPhone 6s. And I want to make the screen
as much from scratch as we can, as much from parts. So if we put together a
screen, what pieces do we need? We need the glass. Digitizer and the LCD, the back. Backlight? Background? Yeah, backlight. Yeah, uh huh. OCA. Yeah, that’s the
optically clear adhesive. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, OK. Isn’t there a touch sensor
for the force touch? [INAUDIBLE] LCD. [INAUDIBLE] It’s part of the LCD. This process needs to
be made without dusty? Without dust. Without dust. Yeah, yeah, so it
has to be very clean. But they can do this here
in the markets, right? There are people
who can do this? We can go to the repair
shop [INAUDIBLE].. So should we buy the parts
ourselves first and bring it to the repair shop
or should we have the repair shop provide it? [INAUDIBLE] Sounds good. [SPEAKING CHINESE] Yeah. Can we buy all of the parts? So we buy phone glass, we buy
the digitizer, we buy the LCD, we buy the backlight. I know that what I
want to do is weird. OK. Yeah? OK, cool. Good. And I can film? [SPEAKING CHINESE] We don’t need [INAUDIBLE]. OK? It’s OK to show their face? Yeah. Yeah, OK. So Frank, they’re
heating it up now. Is that right? Yeah. And it sucks down, it holds
it down, like suction? That’s fast. This is the OCA. Ah, they’re taking
off the OCA here. And then that’s the front
of the digitizer, right? Front of the screen. And now what is he taking off? The polarizer. With a hot soldering
iron slash razor blade. That’s pretty cool. I’ve not seen that tool before. And then another
polarizer on top. OCA. OCA. [SPEAKING CHINESE] He says 10? You know [INAUDIBLE]? I don’t. Yeah, what is this machine? I don’t know the name of it. Press the LCD with
the front glass. Is there heat too? Is it hot? Yeah, it’s hot. It’s a vacuum. Nice. [INAUDIBLE] So now we’re putting it– Bubble. Removing the bubbles. Removing the bubble. Bubble remover. This is bubble remover. OK. So it’ll take out all the air. Remove the bubble from the OCA. And is it heating as well? Yeah. Has heat. Very cool. Is it finished? That looks nice. See, no bubbles. No bubbles. We finished the front. OK. So now we’re going
to do the back. Replace this one. OK. The backlight. This one is the backlight. And so now we’re going
to put backlight back onto the back of the
LCD and digitizer. We need to match this precisely. That’s a very cool
testing phone. Oh, look at that. Good. This one is original. Looks good. Good? Test yourself. I think it’s good. Yeah. Looks good to me. OK. Finished? Yeah. Yeah? Finished screen. Good. Do they want money? Can I pay them on [INAUDIBLE]? Pay on [INAUDIBLE]. It used to be that you bought
everything in the markets with cash. But more and more,
it’s been moving towards WeChat, which is
this messaging app crossed with Facebook and
Twitter and PayPal. It makes it really easy
to send money to someone just by scanning a QR code. How much do I owe them total? [SPEAKING CHINESE] 480. Yeah. OK. [SPEAKING CHINESE] OK, bye bye. [MUSIC PLAYING] I have the exterior
of the phone. Now I need the guts. The most complex part
is the logic board. It’s really the
brains of the phone, but it’s also the part that
intimidates me the most. I just picked up this
used, broken logic board in the markets
for a few dollars. It’s got the
processor right here, and the flash memory
chip’s right there. But it’s also got a
ton of other chips all over it that are super tiny. My understanding is that this
is a panel of four logic boards that don’t have any
components on them. This panel would be fed
into the factory line that does the chip placement. I originally thought I could
solder on all the chips myself. That turned out to be
a huge rabbit hole. I spent weeks going to
the market buying tools. Trying to learn to solder. Squeegee on some of this paste. Trying to buy individual chips. So this is six. I was way over my head. So I went up to this cell
phone repair school up in [INAUDIBLE]
called [INAUDIBLE] and I met with the head
teacher named [INAUDIBLE].. As I told you
earlier, my project is to try and build my
own iPhone from parts that I am buying in the market. Do you think that is possible? This one? Yep. Yeah. I have a board like this. Oh, OK. [SPEAKING CHINESE] This board, [INAUDIBLE]
just two is good. And if you take your time to
[INAUDIBLE] on this board, you maybe work on
one [INAUDIBLE].. It’s not impossible. It’s possible, but
it’s very difficult. If I buy a logic board
from the markets, do you think it’s
possible for me to build my own
phone that works? For sure. If you buy a board that
is OK board and you can buy some screen or battery
and you can be a new phone. It’s OK. It’s for sure. It’s like just a new computer. Make a memory,
make a [INAUDIBLE],, make a battery, and
a screen [INAUDIBLE].. Put them all together and
I’ll have a working phone. OK. So I gave up for now. But I’m going to head of the
markets with my friend Helen, and she’s going to try to
help me find a working logic board, and probably
one that came out of a used phone that’s maybe
been repaired or refurbished. It seems to be very,
I don’t know, active. It’s very active. For all the slow down
of the other markets, this is not feeling it at all. This market’s super chaotic. There’s people pushing
and shoving everywhere. There’s stacks of phones
everywhere you look. And by the counters,
there’s these giant safes to store them. I feel a little bit
uncomfortable here, mostly just because I stick out,
but also because I don’t really know what I’m doing yet. I want to buy a 6s 16 gig. He says it’s just
short of supply right now and probably
after spring festival. And they suggest
us go one floor up. Here’s success. Yeah. How many pieces? Just one. Oh, nice. She said it’s guaranteed. It’s guaranteed. The quality is guaranteed. Yeah, OK. Has this [INAUDIBLE]
been repaired as well? A little repair. I tell you what. Why don’t we look
around some more and just see what our
other options are and we’ll come back. That went Well Yeah, I think so. Yeah. I think that gives
me more confidence that this is going to work. Let’s go that way and get out
of the main crowd right here. She doesn’t have a
phone that we can put this in to test with,
with a display and battery? [SPEAKING CHINESE] Yeah, she doesn’t have the
time to do the testing for us. Well, can we do that
testing with her phone? Yeah, she said no. No, I get it. I’m not going to buy
it without testing it. It’s enough money that I’d
rather get one that works. All right, I think we should go
upstairs and talk to that lady and get her to help us test. Oh, she might not
roll with us now. She’s doing a big deal. Wow, she’s handling
a lot of cash. How much do you
estimate that was? I don’t know, like,
at least 10,000. I mean, more than that. Probably 50,000. [SPEAKING CHINESE] So she cannot do the testing. She said it’s tested guaranteed. And I can bring it back
if it doesn’t work? Yeah. [SPEAKING CHINESE] Within three days
you get the warranty. All right. Puts a timeline on this. She will put a sticker. Oh, her sticker on it. OK, bye bye. All right. So this is the logic
board that Helen and I bought in the market. Now let’s see. We need a battery. Battery in here somewhere. All right. I’ve got a battery. It’s branded Apple. And I have my screen here. Let’s put them together and
see if this puppy works. Battery back on. I hadn’t actually
bought an on button yet, so I’m using the tweezers here
to turn on the logic board. Oh, I got it to work. Check that out. [LAUGHS] All right. See if it boots up. Oh. But I don’t have a home button. That’s problematic. It turns out this logic
board isn’t perfect. Let me show you what I mean. If I go over here to the Compass
app and I turn it around, nothing happens. I’m going to try and
take it back and see if she will give me a new one. That was pretty amazing. I took the bad logic board back
to the woman I bought it from, showed her on my testing setup
that the compass didn’t work. She said OK, come back at 5:00. I asked her for a
refund, and we chatted, we paid me the
money via her phone, and then said still
come back at 5:00 and I’ll give you a new one. So I’m pretty legit. For no receipts, no contracts
in a very gray area, people are very honorable. I went back at 5:00. She had the logic board
fully repaired, ready to go, and I have three more
days to bring it back if I find any more problems. It’s very legit. [MUSIC PLAYING] After a bunch of
days of shopping, I finally have the major pieces. The case, the logic
board, and the screen. But I still need a
bunch of other parts to make a working phone. The battery was pretty easy. There are a bunch of
booths that sell those. But I need a bunch of
other smaller parts. Brackets, screws, cables,
speakers, et cetera. And so I spent an entire
morning making a big shopping list of everything I needed. But I was really dreading
going and finding each individual booth and trying
to describe what I wanted. I need this one and
this one here too. I need the top cable too. I got super lucky. Literally the first
booth I went to. Yeah. I need everything for a phone. So I have screen, battery,
case, board, and I need everything else. So if you help me. They totally hooked me up. So this is the back camera. This is the front camera. This is the bottom
cable assembly that has the lightning doc
and the headphone jack. Whole bunch of brackets. They even included
a little tiny bag of screws that
includes all the screws that I need to build one phone. [MUSIC PLAYING] So today’s the day I’ve been
waiting for for a long time. Today is the day I get to try
and put the other the phone. I think I have
everything I need. I’m not sure. So let’s give it a shot. [MUSIC PLAYING] All right. First set of screws. I know how to do this. [MUSIC PLAYING] How does that work? [MUSIC PLAYING] Boy, those buttons look crappy. Not clicky. [MUSIC PLAYING] [GROANS] I might have to go
back to the markets and put my mercy on one
of the booth vendors and see if they can show
me what I’m missing. I must be missing
something obvious. I bought the cable
from you yesterday. And if you feel, there’s no– does not feel right. [SPEAKING CHINESE] You need this. Oh. What is that? What is this? Where does that go? There’s a little
insert right here. Feel like little metal shims. You can see now
they audibly click. [MUSIC PLAYING] Hey. That is sweet. That is my finished phone. Pretty awesome. Well, it’s been a long
time in the making. I started this, gosh, I don’t
know, a couple months ago. I’ve been in and out of China
while I’ve been working on it. I didn’t know whether
I’d be able to do this. But I also learned
a lot about how the phone ecosystem, the
phone repair and refurbishing ecosystem works
here in Shenzhen. I never really
thought much about what happens when I
get rid of a phone. Recycle it or donate it. I think a lot of
them end up here. Taken apart for parts or turned
back into nice working phones. I’m really impressed
by Apple’s engineering. It’s so easy to repair
and recycle these phones. I’ve got to think that Apple’s
really proud of the fact that their phones don’t
really end up in landfills. But there’s also credit due to
the many thousands of people here that have figured out how
to turn trash like this back into beautiful working phones. Before I started this, I
wasn’t much of a phone guy. Sure, I’m a programmer, and
I’ve dabbled in electronics most of my life, but I really
didn’t know much about phones. And it turns out even a
newbie like me can figure out how to put together a phone. It’s totally doable
if you have access to parts, some basic
tools, and some good advice or instructions on how to do it. In fact, I think
anybody watching this with enough patience
could do it as well. This stuff totally
isn’t rocket science. It’s not a lot different
than putting together your own desktop computer. It’s just a little bit smaller. But wait, there’s
one more thing. I got a box to put it in. I went to the markets
yesterday and I picked up the box with all the bits. Manual, headphones,
charger, charging cable. So just like that. Like that. Just like a new phone. There it is in the box. Done. I owe a huge thanks
to everybody that’s helped me on this project,
Frank and Helen and all of my other friends in China,
and the market sellers. There’s a complete list
in the description. I learned a bunch
of other cool stuff that didn’t make
it into this video, and I have a bunch of other
stories I’d like to tell. If you want to see more
cool phone stuff from China or you want to join me on
other interesting technology adventures all
over the world, you can subscribe to
my YouTube channel, or you can follow me
on Facebook or Twitter. Links are in the
video description.

100 thoughts on “How I Made My Own iPhone – in China

  1. Felicitacitaciones desde Venezuela! Muy buen proyecto! me pareció un documental!Congratulation good job! best documental!

  2. I used to be able to get iPhone copies for £35 from China, different hardware but running the correct software and working with the store.

  3. I am a follower of yours, I would like that iphone you made, in Mexico it is difficult to buy one for the cost, it was interesting to me how you built it.

  4. Hey, awesome video. I just built an iPhone too and currently I’m stock with few parts! can you please recommend a good source such as a link or by any chance if you know direct contact that would chip me parts of iPhone. And specifically a mother board, and that’s where I’m stock lol

  5. Yo también lo hice con un Samsung s9 duré meses en consiguir todos los conponentes lo termine y me sobraron piezas nosé como funciona

  6. you dont show how to attach them. you just do fast forward. can you please make a video which will show building a phone part by part slowly?

  7. I've always known this process and in reality the Chinese are literally some of the most intelligent people in the world

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