iPhone Shenzhen: East meets West as innovator makes iPhone from Chinese parts

Meet Scotty Allen, a founder and software engineer who loves travelling all over the world looking for new projects to take part in.

Upon arriving in China’s Silicon Valley, Shenzhen, he was impressed with the innovations there that he immediately thought about making a prototype. He commented and said that his main idea was to get to Shenzhen, where there is easy access to great parts and services and then build anything that he desired. Scotty spent more than  a year and a half shuttling in and out of China, before somebody suggested that he should try and build an iPhone from parts made in China.

iPhone Shenzhen


Let’s build an iPhone

Eventually, when he started the project, he decided to document his progress on YouTube, taking his viewers through every step. He talks about sourcing parts, learning how the iPhone works and navigating the parts markets. The video has more than 8 million views to date, a figure that has surprised many people, Allen included.

There are light moments when he humorously talks about the dead ends he hit, and frustrating moments of the project that aimed at making ‘iPhone Shenzhen’. In one interview, he says that the most difficult part of the project was not working on the phone itself, but the fact that he could not speak Chinese. He had to get some English-speaking Chinese friends and contacts to help bridge the communication gap.

Getting the right parts

Oddly enough, the vendors in the parts market were very honest about the parts that he was requesting. They would tell him when a part was not genuine and offer advice on what he should buy. There were times when he was at pains to tell them that he did not mind the fact that a part was not original and he was okay with that.

Interesting twists and turns

There are aspects that would normally have presented a challenge, but ended up being unexpectedly easy. He says that putting it all together was simpler than he thought. At first he thought that the magic boxes called iPhone would be too much for mere mortals like him, but it turned out to be as easy as the time he built a PC when he was in high school. He reckons that anyone who can patiently figure things out can build an iPhone.

Allen proudly says that he found out that mobile phones were not magical boxes because he happened to build his phone mainly from a repair guide on ifixit.com. The process was so simple that he even doubted whether people would be interested in his video.

He struggled with getting the storyboard down. How far should he have started the video recording? Should he show how he soldered the logic board together? He really needed a video that would be easily understood by mere mortals and still pass the standards expected by hardcore tech geeks. Although there were some negative comments as is expected from YouTube, most of his viewers highly regarded the effort.

chinese iPhone

What does this say about the complexity of mobile phones?

Take apart any of the new mobile gadgets today and you will be surprised at how simple these devices can be. Allen’s video has opened up a perspective into the manufacture of mobile devices. The insides of one of the most popular and revered devices on the planet were displayed for all to see. Allen takes the time to explain every little step in a clear manner, which made the whole process appear to be very simple indeed.

Once all the parts had been bought, and the assembly was complete, most people got the shock of knowing that the whole phone is just one big battery, and the logic board is tucked away tightly into a corner. The fact that Apple engineering put together a phone that could be pulled apart, repaired and then brought together again was laudable. So many aspects of building a mobile phone that have puzzled many, are clearly shown in this video.

Allen still wants to create a new phone from parts sourced from Shenzhen. He will document his next project for the entire world to see. As of now, it is refreshing to know that the so-called cheap parts can be used to make a really expensive iPhone lookalike.

Check out the video below:

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