My fascination with electronics led me to an ambitious question: could I build my own iPhone? This curiosity took me on a nine-month journey to Shenzhen, China, a city known for its bustling electronics markets. My goal was to assemble an iPhone 6s from parts sourced directly from these markets. This story captures the highs and lows of my adventure.

The Beginning of the Quest

The idea took root during a casual conversation in a dimly lit barbecue joint with fellow tech enthusiasts. We were intrigued by the array of cell phone parts available in Shenzhen’s markets. Could a regular person, especially a foreigner like me who spoke little Chinese, source these parts and build a working phone? Determined to find out, I dove headfirst into the challenge.

Navigating Shenzhen’s Markets

Shenzhen felt like a futuristic city straight out of Blade Runner, with its vibrant and chaotic markets. My first mission was to gather the four essential components for an iPhone: the metal back, screen, battery, and logic board. I began by exploring back alleys and main markets to find these parts.

In the markets, I quickly learned the ropes. I initially bought a used and dinged-up metal back, but soon found a pristine one. The next task was to get the necessary laser markings for aligning cables and antennas. I found a laser engraving booth that could add these markings.

Building the Screen

The screen was one of the most complex parts. I teamed up with Frank, a buyer who knew the markets well, to source the components: glass, digitizer, LCD, backlight, and OCA (optically clear adhesive). We visited a repair shop where skilled technicians assembled the screen in a dust-free environment using specialized tools like hot soldering irons and vacuum bubble removers. Watching the process was fascinating, and the final product was flawless.

Tackling the Logic Board

The logic board, or the brain of the phone, was the most intimidating component. My initial attempt to solder chips onto a blank logic board was a disaster. Realizing I was out of my depth, I sought help from a cell phone repair school. The head teacher confirmed that building a logic board from scratch was possible but extremely difficult.

I then focused on finding a working logic board in the markets. With the help of Helen, another local friend, I navigated through chaotic stalls to find a refurbished board. After some negotiation and testing, I secured a functioning logic board.

Assembling the Phone

With the major components in hand, I needed various smaller parts: brackets, screws, cables, and speakers. I was lucky to find a vendor who provided everything I needed in one go. Excitedly, I began assembling the phone. It wasn’t without challenges—some parts didn’t fit perfectly, and I had to seek advice from market vendors to resolve issues. For instance, the volume buttons felt off until a vendor pointed out I needed tiny metal shims to make them click correctly.

The Final Product

After weeks of effort, I finally had a fully assembled iPhone. The sense of accomplishment was immense. I tested the phone, and it worked perfectly. To top it off, I bought a box with all the accessories, making it look just like a new iPhone.

Reflections

This project was a deep dive into the electronics ecosystem in Shenzhen. I learned how the city’s markets play a crucial role in recycling and refurbishing old phones, turning discarded parts into functional devices. Apple’s engineering marvels were evident, but so was the ingenuity of countless technicians in Shenzhen.

Building my own iPhone showed me that with access to parts, tools, and some guidance, even a novice like me could assemble a complex device. It’s not rocket science—just a smaller, more intricate version of building a desktop computer.

This adventure was made possible by the help and advice of many friends and market vendors in China. If you’re interested in more tech adventures, feel free to subscribe to my YouTube channel or follow me on social media.

In the end, this journey was more than just building a phone; it was about understanding and appreciating the intricate web of technology and human effort that makes our devices possible.

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Shop no. 20 A kensington village shopping center, 8 sovereigns ave, Bray Park QLD 4500

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gadget.kings.prs@gmail.com

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