I’ve spent the past four months in Shenzhen, China, modifying an iPhone 7 to add a fully functional headphone jack. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time anyone has done anything like this. I made a video about my journey.
(If you’d like more info about my previous video about making my own iPhone 6s in China, see the press page for that video.)
I am available for interviews! I’m happy to jump on Skype anytime. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I can also deliver high quality recorded 1080p video of Skype interviews on a short deadline. I can be available for in person interviews in Shenzhen and Hong Kong, and will be in California the week of September 11. Also open to discussing travel to other locations for in person interviews, depending on my availability.
What you’ll find on this page…
I’ve spent the past four months in Shenzhen, China, modifying an iPhone 7 to add a fully functional headphone jack. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time anyone has done anything like this.
In April, I decided to finally upgrade my iPhone 6s to an iPhone7 to get better camera quality for the videos I was shooting when I was out on adventures in the industrial markets and manufacturing world. But I was super annoyed that it doesn’t have a headphone jack! I already have headphones I really liked, and I didn’t like the idea of having to keep track of an adapter just to use them.
So I figured I’d add my own – after all, how hard could it be?
It turns out, really really hard. But possible.
Q: Who are you?
A: I’m Scotty Allen. I’m an American engineer, entrepreneur, and hacker. I’ve worked at Google and several other prominent Silicon Valley startups. I’ve been traveling the world full time for the past 3 years. I’m a nomad, which means I don’t have an apartment or house anywhere that I rent full time.
I’ve spent about half of the past two years in Shenzhen, China, learning about the electronics manufacturing scene – the industrial markets, factories, and back alleys where the world’s electronics are made. I started Strange Parts as a way to start telling stories about my adventures.
Earlier this year, I made my own iPhone 6s from parts I bought in the market.
Q: Where did you get the parts?
A: I bought most of them from the cell phone repair markets in Huaqiangbei in Shenzhen, China. These are public wholesale markets that target cell phone repair businesses all over the world. I also purchased some official Apple headphone adapters from the Apple stores in Shenzhen and Hong Kong.
Q: Couldn’t you just buy a $10 headphone adapter instead?
A: Yes. But that’s less fun.
Q: How much did it cost?
A: I haven’t kept perfect track, but I’ve spent easily thousands of dollars on this project. I’ve bought 3 iPhone 7s to take apart, a handful of new screens, several handfuls of backs I mutilated, and countless other parts I broke. I paid a factory to do 7 manufacturing runs of circuit boards. And oh god the headphone adapters. I bought lots and lots of official Apple headphone adapters to take apart.
Q: Why didn’t you use a chinese copy headphone adapter?
Believe me, I tried. I couldn’t find any that fully worked. Either the buttons on an apple headset wouldn’t work, or they didn’t detect when I unplugged the headphones. Or they just didn’t work at all. But I wish I’d been able to, as it would likely have been much cheaper.
Q: Does this work on iPhone 8?
I don’t know – I haven’t seen one yet! But I’d like to take a closer look at that once they’re available.
Q: Can you charge the phone and listen to music at the same time?
A: Sadly, no, because of the way the circuit is designed. Either the headphone jack is connected to the phone, or the lightning jack is, but never both at the same time. To fix this would require a pretty serious engineering effort, that would require a much deeper understanding of the lightning protocol than I currently have.
Q: Where can I get my own iPhone with a headphone jack?
A: Sadly, this design isn’t quite ready for mass manufacture just yet. It was really hard for me to put together a single working phone without breaking any internal parts. I hope that others build upon my design to make it easier to manufacture, or that Apple brings back the headphone jack into their phones.
However, for the diehard Strange Parts fans, I made some special circuit boards just for them. You can find out more in the _Strange Parts Store_.
Q: I want to manufacture your design. Is that ok?
A: Yes, please do! The design is open source. I hope that you can improve on what I’ve done, and make it available to more people. And if you decide to do this, send me an _email_. I’d love to hear from you!