DIY iPhone memory upgrade is possible, but not worth it

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upgrade iPhone memory
A new video shows that upgrading iPhone memory is major job, and an expensive one.
Photo: Strange Parts

Ever wondered what it would take to give your iPhone more storage? Apple charges a lot for additional room; maybe you could save a bundle by buying a low capacity version and upgrade the iPhone memory yourself.

A hobbyist successfully took his iPhone from 16GB to 128GB. But as he showed in a video detailing the process, it was a heck of a lot of work.

The video was produced by Scotty from Strange Parts, who some might recognize as the guy who managed to put a working headphone jack in an iPhone 7.

Step 1: Getting the chip and the chip reader

Upgrading the memory in the phone is theoretically a straightforward process. Just take out the low-capacity chip and replace it with a larger one.

But the contents of the original chip need to be copied onto the new one. For that Scotty bought a chip programmer. In his first complication, he also had to buy a Windows computer because the programmer doesn’t work with Mac.

Then, he needed to remove the memory chip from the iPhone. Fortunately, he bought several iPhone logic boards from broken devices to practice on because his first attempts resulted in significant damage to other, nearby components. Working through that required buying another holder for the logic board. With it was able to remove a practice chip. He needed a binocular microscope to see what he was doing, though.

Step 2: Tinker with solder

The challenge he ran into next was putting an array of tiny solder balls on the new flash chip so it would communicate with the iPhone. That required a jig, and a lot of practice.  And the microscope.

Even when he was finished placing the chip, Scotty had no way to be sure it was seated correctly, as he can’t see through it. It’s possible the solder on the bottom had not made a good connection, or created a short.

The Strange Parts video includes at least a dozen practice runs removing a chip then replacing it from other nonfunctional iPhone logic boards before trying to do the upgrade on his real iPhone.

During one of these trial runs, he accidentally tore the cable that connects his iPhone’s screen to the device. That required buying a new display.

Step 3: Success!

After multiple successful practice runs removing and replacing the storage chip, Scotty started on his iPhone. He removed the chip and put it in the chip reader. 

After a bit of tinkering, he was able to transfer the info. Then he placed the memory chip in the device, just as he’d practiced so many times.

The iPhone booted up and worked perfectly. It had been upgraded to 128GB.

Was it worth it?

Apple charges $150 for an additional 192GB of storage. Scotty was able to buy his 128GB chip for about $25. So it would seem this is something lots of people should consider.

Of course, that ignores how much time it took. Scotty admitted at the end of his video that, “This took me way longer than I expected. It’s taken me weeks.”

The cost of the tools and equipment also needs to be factored in. That total wasn’t given, but the Strange Parts video surely included hundreds of dollars in purchases, from a new holder for the iPhone logic board to a binocular microscope.

And Scotty has a special advantage: he lives in Shenzhen China, near where the iPhone is assembled. That means it’s far quicker and easier for him to get components and tools than it would be for someone in the U.S.