Scotty Allen Builds A USB Drive From An iPhone

What happens when you come across a mysterious, partially populated circuit board in the Huaqiangbei electronics market in Shenzhen? If you’re [Scotty Allen], the only answer is to make your own USB drive from iPhone parts.

[Scotty] made a name for himself through his YouTube channel Strange Parts where he built his own iPhone from scratch, added a headphone jack to an iPhone, and other various exploits involving hot air in Shenzhen. This latest build is no different. It begins with a random PCB [Scotty] found at the electronics market. It has a USB port on one end, it has pads for an iPhone memory chip, and it has an IC that looks like a USB to Flash converter.

The build involved finding a few broken iPhones, desoldering and reballing their Flash chips, and when those didn’t work, finding the correct Flash chips for this tiny little USB adapter board. Here, [Scotty] ran into trouble. The first Flash chip didn’t have the right pins, there was blue smoke, and the toolchain for initializing the USB to Flash IC was a mess.

In the end, [Scotty] managed to create a USB Flash drive after five or six visits to the electronics market, two stencils to reball Flash chips, and finding the OEM software for the USB to Flash chip on this very special PCB. That, itself, required Windows (the horror!), and finding the right version of the software.

Is this technically building a Flash drive purely from disposed iPhone components? We’d quibble. But is it a cool build, regardless? Absolutely. And the real story here is how quickly [Scotty] could iterate on his engineering. When the greatest electronics market is right around the corner, you can do anything with a microscope and a hot air gun.

13 thoughts on “Scotty Allen Builds A USB Drive From An iPhone

  1. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if companies were forced to use standard components with standard interfaces on dedicated boards so that reusing/upcycling would be possible?

    Open smartphone, take out flash storage, use it via micro USB.

    1. Most of eemc flash memories have the same interface as an micro SD cardso you could use one from a dead phone to make an sd card or pendrive as lon you don’t mind sacrificing half of the read/write speed of the chip

    2. yes, that would be great untill two weeks later a new technology is created which is completely crippled by the old interface. Then we have 2 choices, keep using the standard and limit progress in any possible way. Or accept our losses and go for the best new thing.

      But seriously, many companies are using standard components, its the best way of keeping things cheap. While there are some companies out there who deliberately discard widely accepted standards (like connectors) from their devices in order to sell you an overpriced awkward adapter to achieve the same goal, A (in)famous fruit-logo-based company recently did that.

      1. “While there are….” then what?

        Your logic works as long as companies are small enough to have incentives to share development costs by using common parts.
        The reality is that companies have become too big, and they do not have those incentives anymore, quite the contrary, as you point out it one example of many others.

        Battery technology for example has varied very little, and changes much more slowly than silicon components, let alone software.
        Nevertheless, we have a bunch (probably the majority) of smartphone manufacturers that have totally proprietary battery physical formats, that are not even user replaceable. Why? Because they can afford it, and because nobody has put regulation on them.
        The same goes for LCD screens, which are fused to a piece of crystal that, how surprisingly, can (and does) break.
        And the list goes on…

        Charging connectors standardized because of threats of regulation from the EU.
        And the only way you will get “the right to repair” what you OWN is thru regulation.

        1. No, smartphone manufacturers use different sized batteries because people who buy phones have a priority list that looks like:

          1. Physical size/ form factor
          2. Battery life

          572: Replaceable battery

          These companies aren’t maliciously conspiring to prevent repair, they’re responding to market pressure. If you really want to fix the problem, convince people to buy phones with replaceable batteries, even if they’re a little thicker or have a little less capacity.

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