Making a CUSTOM iPhone – in Shenzhen, China


Enough of these boring
looking iPhones? It’s time to kick
things up a notch. What’s up, guys? Scotty from Strange Parts here. As you can tell,
I’m back in China, and it’s time to mess
around with some phones. It’s been about nine months
since I made that first video about building my own iPhone. If you haven’t seen
that, definitely go check it out before
you watch this one. There’s a cart up here in
the corner you can click on. When I was making that video,
and I was I was first deciding, OK what model of phone
am I going to make? I also needed to decide– am I going to make a
totally stock phone that looks like the one
that Apple makes, or am I going to make something
that’s a little more creative? And for a couple of
reasons I decided that I would make a
totally stock iPhone. There’s more parts available. There’s more information
available online. And I already had a
stock iPhone that I bought in an Apple
store, that I can use for comparison and reference. But, to be honest,
it’s a little boring. And frankly, rose gold,
not really my color. So shortly after I released that
video I set off on a project to make a totally
custom iPhone 6s. But I got sidetracked by
that headphone jack video that I made. You can check that out up here
if you haven’t already seen it. And that project to
make my custom iPhone, it just sat abandoned until now. I decided since coming
back to Shenzhen, I want to do more
technology projects. I’m going pick that project
up and see where it takes us. Now, there’s one thing
and you guys to know, which is that some
of this footage was shot like nine months ago. So it’s why I’m still Messing
around with iPhone 6s’s, it’s why red backs are so
popular in the markets. Well, you guys will see. Let’s just jump into it. I want to find the craziest
aftermarket stuff I can, and build a really
awesome phone. There’s tons of
nonstandard backs, and of all different shapes,
colors, and varieties. There’s ones with crazy gold
inlay and diamonds and Dragons and mother of pearl. And it’s all kind of gaudy. It’s very much a
Chinese aesthetic that just doesn’t appeal to
my Western sensibilities. I know it’s all considered
very hip and cool here in China, and I– it just doesn’t
ring a bell with me. So. So I’m having to dig a little
deeper to find something that I’m really into. So, I looked at all this, and
like have a couple criteria for the back I want to buy. I want a nonstandard color. I want a back with no texture
on it, so just the normal apple texture. Because I want to
be able to laser engrave my own design on it. And then I don’t
want an Apple logo, because I don’t want that to
get in the way of the design I want to do. It’s time to pimp this phone. I’m headed off to the markets. [MUSIC PLAYING] [SPEAKING CHINESE] That’s nice. That’s nice. [SPEAKING CHINESE] That could be cool. [SPEAKING CHINESE] I don’t know. [SPEAKING CHINESE] Oh, no no. No, no. [SPEAKING CHINESE] The really interesting
thing out of everything was the fact that red
backs are everywhere. So Apple just released this
new red color for iPhone 7s last week, and
everybody in the market is selling them, but not
just for 7s– for 6s, for 5s, for everything. [SPEAKING CHINESE] No logo. No laser. That’s pretty. 7. 7. That’s cool. That’s really cool. Probably not quite what
I’m looking for, though. That’s pretty cool, too. It’s just painted. It’s got square corners on it. That’s unexpected. [SPEAKING CHINESE] Really? [SPEAKING CHINESE] OK. She said this back was 650
kuai, which is about $100. This is multiple times more
than any other back I’ve seen. It’s cool, but not that cool. [SPEAKING CHINESE] Seems like a black box there. [SPEAKING CHINESE] Thank you. Thank you. OK. Bye-bye. Picked up a back. I did end up getting a red one. I know I said I wanted to
get a non-standard color, but they’re too cool. Here it is. I think it’s pretty
cool looking. No logo. No laser markings anywhere. One of the other things I found
interesting about this back that I bought is how
smooth it is inside. It’s gotten almost no
like machining marks. Which a lot of the
other backs do. A used one that I have, I
think is original from Apple, and it’s got like all these
machining marks on it. So I’m impressed by
how smooth this is. And I don’t quite know why you’d
spend all the time to do that. But, it looks
really high quality, so I’m hoping that
it turns out this is high quality when we
got to laser engrave it, because it does make
kind of a difference. The other thing
that’s interesting, and I’m starting to learn this,
is that all of these backs have a piece of plastic that
runs on the top and bottom here. And some of them, like this
one, have two lines there. And this one just has one,
and it’s pretty subtle. But what I originally
thought was, I’ll just get one that’s
totally red with no plastic because some of them
are pretty noticeable. This rose back here has these
pretty noticeable lines. And I had thought, because
I got this black back, it doesn’t obviously
have any lines. But it turns out it’s got
some really subtle plastic on the corners here. Anyway, I looked
around a whole bunch, and I couldn’t find
any red backs that didn’t have plastic in them. And so finally I
ended up just getting one that has red plastic here. And it’s not too bad. It’s pretty subtle. It’s on the corner. So I’m not too worried about it. I started wondering, why
is that plastic there? And I think it’s
because of antennas. So I think the three pieces– so
you’ve got one big piece here. Then you’ve got
another piece up here. And then you got
another piece down here. And I think they all need
to be electrically isolated from each other, because
there’s three separate antennas. So now I need to design what
I want laser engraved on this. The laser engraving booth
will do a full back design, I just need to give
them a design file. I’m going to use
Inkscape because that’s what I’m familiar with. But they’re going to use
Corel Draw, because that is the program of choice
here in all print shops and engraving shops
here in China. Before I get going in
Inkscape, though, I need to know the
dimensions of the back. So I’m going to measure that
out with some calipers here. [MUSIC PLAYING] So I’m going to
dive into Inkscape and see what I can put together. [MUSIC PLAYING] All right, so let’s
get my logo out here. That looks pretty good. I’m going to make a design. I want to do something
with triangles. This thing is based off
of a logo generator. I’ve gone online. So it had triangles like this,
which believe are equilateral. So let’s play around with it. All right. So I have a pretty
good grid, now. I wonder what this looks like? I’m not getting
this design to look exactly the way I
was hoping, so I’m gonna take a break for tonight. I have to think about
some more ideas here. I did find this
processing sketch, which maybe will be easier to
prove that what I wanted to do it doesn’t actually
look very good. So. I’m gonna have to come
up with another idea. I’m gonna get some late
dinner and a beer, here. [MUSIC PLAYING] I gave up on the
triangles design. It just wasn’t working out. So I came back with a
fresh head this morning. I said, I wonder if I
can put a photo on here. And I started
working through that. And I’ve come up with a
design I think to really like. It’s based on one of the
photos I took in Hong Kong. I’m going to try something
new with the laser, but I think it might be
possible, but I’m not sure. Going to have to ask. I have seen them
do white and black. And the way that
works is, the white is where they etch off the
entire top of the anodization. And then you see just
the raw aluminium underneath that oxidizes. The black is where
I think they’re just burning the anodization. So they’re using less
power for the black, more power for the white. I am hoping that they
can do gray as well. I watched someone had
some black engraving done, and I think they can
just do it lighter. So I’m hoping I can get
three colors out of this. And so I took the
photograph I have, and I’ve posterized it
down to three colors. White, gray, and black. And so I’m going to put
together a file here, put it on USB stick, and head
over to the laser engraver. And see if my limited Chinese
can explain what I want. [SPEAKING CHINESE] No, no, no. [SPEAKING CHINESE] OK JPG? [SPEAKING CHINESE] Yeah, to– to here. Here. Yeah, OK. Because [SPEAKING CHINESE]. Black and white, OK. Oh, gray, no. [SPEAKING CHINESE] He didn’t really
want to do gray. But I finally convinced
him by telling him it was an experiment. And I didn’t really care if
it didn’t come out perfectly. One thing I didn’t factor
in is that this is slow. Super slow because
it’s rasterizing, and it’s the full back. It’s just taking forever. I’m ready to do like
three or four passes. As you can see behind
me, it’s pouring rain. Hanging out with
the guys, they’re smoking cigarettes and watching
League of Legends videos. And I’m taking videos of the
laser engraver periodically. Another afternoon here in China. So now we’re on
to the black one. The big problem now is
the black and the gray are pretty similar. It’s only gone up
4% the power, so. I asked him if he can
make it even darker, and it sounds like he can. So, I don’t know. We’ll see. I think we’re going to have
to pass on the black, though. To see if we can make it darker. I should have said,
they were watching League of Legends videos. Now the Apprentice
is laser engraving the inside of a whole bunch
of red backs they just got in. He’s got probably a
staff of 20 or 30 here. He’s doing all the
inside adjustment lines and moving the anodization
for the antenna. The speed with which the
market has adopted red backs is astonishing. The laser was burning the edge
of the plastic in this corner. So he was trying to use
a chopstick to mask it. It’s pretty sweet. I couldn’t really tell how
into this grand, multi-hour experiment this boss really was. He seemed pretty bored. But sure enough,
we got to the end, and he wanted to take a picture. And by the time I got
back to my apartment he’d posted it to WeChat with an
advertisement for his services. [MUSIC PLAYING] That ended up taking way
longer than I thought, but it was totally worth it. He did a really nice job. Took a long time. We had like six passes,
something like that and I didn’t realize how long
the passes were going to take. It took a really long time. The lasering ended up costing
me more than the back did. But he totally earned it. So let’s take a
look at this thing. Here it is. The finished version. I’m really happy with how the
gray and the black turned out. The gray and the
black turned out more subtle than I
thought they would. I was hoping that the at least
the black would be darker. And the white I knew it was
going to be super bright, so. But I like it overall,
particularly sort of under the right conditions. Lighting conditions. I think it looks really cool. You know. Grand experiment. There were a couple of problems
with it being misaligned. None of the file formats
that I gave him he could open, except for
a PNG, and even then he really wanted a JPEG. So I ended up giving him
three JPEGs, one for white one for black and one for
gray, with the part that I wanted colored
that color in black. Which makes little
sense unless you’re dealing with laser software. The problem was that he then
had to manually size that JPEG, and there were just
not enough references. So up at the top, look, it
didn’t come quite far enough over to the right, and it is
off a little bit at the top. I did cut out the circles
where the holes are. And those don’t
look quite right. But it’s not that bad. I think it’s really good
for a first shot at this. I’m pretty happy with
how it turned out. Well, that about does
it for this time guys. I’ve got one more thing
I want to do this back that I think will
make it really pop, but it’s going to have to
wait until the next video. As always, I’m Scotty
from Strange Parts. If you haven’t already,
hit that subscribe button down below if you’d like to
see more videos like this one. There’s one more thing, guys. I need your help. A bunch of you been
asking how can you help me with the stories
that I’m working on? And honestly the
biggest problem I’m having right now is research. It’s just getting information
about the weird things I want to go make and the
out-of-the-way places that I want to go see. I would love your
help in answering some of these bizarre questions. And if you happen
to live in a city that I’m going to,
to film a story, I’d love your help on
the ground as well. So the best way
you can offer help is to just follow me on Twitter. This is my Twitter
handle right here. I’ll be sending out periodic
questions and requests for help. Thank you guys. I appreciate all of
the offers of help that I’ve gotten thus
far, even if I haven’t had a chance to respond to you yet. Stay tuned for more adventures. I’ll see you next time. [MUSIC PLAYING]

About the Author: Michael Flood

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *