If you don't want to buy it at retail price, make it. At least that this man's mantra, and the "man" here refers to the crafty guy who managed to build an iPhone 6s from scratch — a fully functional one, at that.
Scotty Allen, living in Shenzhen, China for over a year now, one day decided to build his own iPhone 6s. To do this, he roamed around the markets of Huaqiangbei in search cellphone parts — the place is a treasure trove of spare parts, offering a diverse array of technical components. Still, finding parts of the iPhone 6s proved laborious.
Though a Shenzhen local helped Allen, the search still had been difficult, as was the actual creation process. Allen found himself attempting and failing to solder a functional logic board, among other things. There was also the sheer awkwardness of having to explain to locals why he wanted to build his own iPhone if perfectly good units are available near the area.
The idea behind the project began when someone mentioned to Allen that it was possible to build an iPhone from scratch by finding the parts throughout Shenzhen. He took on the challenge the following months, trying to realize his vision.
Building An iPhone 6s: The Cost
The process cost Allen $1,000 in total, although much of that was spent on parts that weren't used. All told, Allen estimates that it just cost him $300 to build the final product, which is strikingly cheaper than the retail version, to note. The price also nearly lines up with iFixit's estimate of $236 for the iPhone 6s Plus's direct materials and manufacturing, which it found out via a teardown.
Going back to the building process, Allen had further problems soldering his own logic board. He ended up just purchasing a recycled logic board that came with a Touch ID sensor. This was because of the difficulty with Apple's secure enclave and Touch ID pairing — every iPhone has a unique enclave and Touch ID pairing, presumably for security reasons. Using a separate Touch ID wouldn't have worked.
What The Project Really Was For
The decision to build a 6s also came about because, according to him, the parts for the previous-generation smartphone was easier to find than the parts for Apple's latest iPhone 7 flagship.
"A lot of the parts come from recycled/broken phones, and so it would make sense that there just isn't that much supply yet," Allen said.
Despite the comparably low price of the custom iPhone 6s, Allen says that the project isn't about trying to save money.
"It happens that what I spent in parts is less than what it would cost to buy a phone in the Apple Store, but I'm also taking on a whole lot of risk that a part will break, or isn't up to spec, and I'll have to buy a new one later. It's not about having a phone for less."
He's right, of course. No one in their right mind would fly to China and look for iPhone parts just to build their own iPhone. Many things could go awry, and unless you're as crafty as Allen, the whole thing could be a bust. The project, aside from being a challenge, is an alternative look at the cost of manufacturing when only direct materials are involved, excluding software and development, research, and other factors in the equation.
If you want an in-depth account of the whole process, head on over to Strange Parts and read the whole thing.