The notorious hacker from Brooklyn named Nick Lee rose to fame when he configured an Apple smartwatch to run Windows 95. Lee is out to toy with yet another gadget of Apple and this time, his victim is an iPhone. Lee hacked an iPhone to run Android using a customized 3D printed case.
Even if the difficulty involved in hacking an iPhone is disregarded, the mere fact that he employed a self-designed 3D printed case fitted with an Android-running board and merged it with Tendigi app for iOS speaks volumes about his skills. All you need is to place the iPhone in the case, run the app and you iPhone will be driven by the Android OS.
Lee took to the Tendigi blog to explain that he pulled off this latest feat in the course of his daily work for the design and development studio that caters smartphone solutions to its vast array of clients.
Lee’s platform of choice, i.e. Android, had one major attraction: the open-source nature of the OS makes it a perfect tool for the hackers. As he explains in the video:
“For a platform of its scale, it’s surprisingly easy to clone it out and build it on your local machine. From scratch, I was able to develop an efficient [Android Open Source Project] workflow in about two days,”
Some additional features and tools in the Android Open Source Project allow the developers to tinker with it so that it may be interfaced with an iPhone. The customized Android OS developed by Lee allows the flow of data between the iOS and Android.
Even though the software part of the project was quite trivial, it was the design of the hardware for this project that was more ambitious. Lee had to set up a screen streamer that allowed the touch input to be transferred to the Android OS and a hardware system to seamlessly interface the two operating systems.
A LG Nexus 5 served as the tool for the proof of concept. Lee transferred a lib Mobil device to enable the communication with iOS) and a usbmuxd. Lee also had to port daemon screen streamer for Android, which allowed him to use the SurfaceFlinger service to relay the Android touch events to the iPhone. This created an illusion of the iPhone being driven by the Android OS.
To build an actual hardware assembly to run Android, Lee opted for Lenovator’s HiKey board. The most crucial design aspect of the board of choice was its small size, making it easier to fit into a slim case.
“Most of the HiKey’s necessary components are included directly in the AOSP source tree (a lifesaver). That said, getting my custom AOSP build to run successfully was still a tall order, requiring me to (among other things) recompile the kernel with performance-oriented tweaks to the USB driver,”
The HiKey board came with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity was fitted with a 650 mAh lithium-polymer battery. Lee then faced the challenge of fitting this hardware assembly in a module that will not appear garish. He was at a slight disadvantage as he had no 3D printing experience; he brushed up on his basic SketchUp skills by going through the tutorials worth a few hours while using his iPhone 6 Plus case on Thingiverse as a base. Considering the high costs associated with the 3D printing systems, Lee bought a personal XYZPrinting da Vinci 2.0 Duo 3D printer to 3D print the final product.
Albeit a bulky design, resembling a phone straight out of the 90s, Lee was not deterred and set out to refine his design.
“Once I had a clear idea of component size and layout, I scaled the 3D model to a more reasonable size and added openings for the SD card, HDMI and USB ports. It’s not too much thicker than the average battery case,”
The customized 3D printed case thus serves as the backbone for this Android-driven iPhone. The users need to place the iPhone into the 3D printed case and start running the Tendigi app to use their iPhone as an Android driven handset.
Lee completed this project only in a few days, and his clever hack indicates what possibilities can be explored with a few genuinely innovative ideas.
Watch the iPhone being driven by the Android OS in this video: