Engineering student made makeshift USB-C iPhone

Pillonel’s C94 card has been retro-designed to fit inside the iPhone. (Photo: Ken Pillonel)
Apple’s friends and haters have pointed out for ages that manufacturers’ iPhones are the only major smartphones that don’t offer USB-C charging. This could change soon, however, as the European Commission announcement a universal USB-C requirement on smartphones last month. Now a novice engineer is showing Apple that it is possible to make the switch.

Ken Pillonel, master’s student at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (also known as EPFL, for the French name of universities), has exhibited on his YouTube channel this week, he created what he considers to be the first USB-C iPhone. He also does not keep his methods a secret; Pillonel launched a blog post in May of this year explaining in detail how he approached the project, then updated it yesterday by announcing that the project had been a success.

Pillonel started by breaking the project down into phases. First, test if a female Type C to female Type C connection worked on a breakout board (which it did, but not backwards). Not to be defeated, Pillonel managed to make reversibility possible by creating a C-type male-female board and soldering it to a Lightning male PCB. He extracted the PCB from a third-party Lightning connector containing an integrated circuit called C94, which Pillonel sees as the cornerstone of his project. This modified C94 card then had to be reverse engineered to fit the iPhonea. Better yet, the makeshift port was able to recharge the phone and transfer data. The engineering student says at the end of his video that he will upload a more detailed process to his channel very soon.

YouTube video

Apple has long resisted the switch to USB-C charging, choosing to continue using its proprietary Lightning connector instead. Like our colleagues at PCMag underline earlier this year, Apple was relatively open that it would like to maintain its Made For iPhone ecosystem (MFi) accessories for brand loyalty and profit reasons. After all, it’s much harder for someone to switch to another brand when they have Apple chargers, Apple CarPlay, Apple smart home devices, etc. The company is also reluctant to switch to USB-C because it has lower waterproof specifications than Lightning, according to Apple analyst who spoke to PCMag.

But those familiar with the USB-C debacle know that could change at any time. The European Commission’s decision to essentially ban non-USB-C charging ports on various portable devices could force Apple’s hand, if it wants to continue selling its phones in the EU, i.e. .

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