The world's first USB-C iPhone isn't made by Apple

iPhone USB-C concept
(Image credit: Ken Pillonel)

Those looking to void their new iPhone 13’s warranty in a creative way could follow the example of Ken Pillonel: a robotics engineering student who has created the "world’s first USB-C iPhone," before the European Union may force Apple to.

In something that should almost certainly come with a “don’t try this at home” advisory attached, Pillonel has managed to replace an iPhone X’s Lightning charger with a fully working USB-C port. The foreign connector works for both charging and data transfer. 

This is a project that’s been in the works for some time, with an early video showing a prototype that’s simply far too big to fit in any phone made in the past decade. But five months later the miniaturization process is complete, and it looks pretty seamless in the short clip seen here. 

Details are light in the triumphant clip, but Pillonel says that he’s currently in the process of editing a full video explaining the process. Judging by an earlier blog post, the process involved reverse engineering Apple’s custom C94 connector and creating a flexible PCB design that manages to fit alongside everything else within the iPhone X.

Before you prepare your toolbox and prep the handset for surgery, you should bear in mind that Pillonel is likely more qualified in this sort of thing than you, seeing as he’s in the process of working on a master's degree in robotics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, EPFL. 

USB-C: Will Apple follow suit? 

Of course, nobody was disputing that it was impossible for an iPhone to be built with USB-C, but while Apple has adopted the port for its recent MacBooks and iPads, it has stubbornly refused to move on the iPhone. 

Indeed, when the EU first made noises about forcing companies to adopt the same connector in a move to reduce e-waste, Apple pushed back quite hard, arguing that with so many Lightning cables knocking about, the move could actually backfire and create more landfill fodder. 

Assuming the rule is passed into law, Apple will likely adopt USB-C in all regions, as it would be unnecessarily costly to introduce it just for European models. 

But there is a potential loophole: because the EU law doesn’t cover devices that only charge wirelessly (it would be mad to force a smartwatch to include a USB-C port for no reason), Apple could just progress with plans to create a portless iPhone — something which the company has reportedly been working on for some time. 

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.