An EPFL student criticizes Apple's planned obsolescence

An EPFL student criticizes Apple’s planned obsolescence

It wasn’t one night. In October 2021, Ken Billonel announced himself after succeeding Replacing the Lightning port on your iPhone X with a standard USB-C port. The young man, who had just completed his master’s degree in robotics at EPFL, has just completed it again. First managed to fix the AirPods case. Then there he also succeeded in replacing the Lightning port with a USB-C port. This double feat gave him ideas for the future.

This new story begins with an issue Ken Pillonel had with AirPods, Apple’s wireless earbuds: Suddenly, the little charging box no longer worked. The student communicates with the American multinational company. On the phone, the employee simply replies that no type of repair is possible for this case, that there are no spare parts and that the only solution is to buy a new one.

available to everyone

Not enough to inhibit quinine pilonil. He decided to disassemble the case himself, a high-risk process where many parts are glued together. And after a long work, which he detailed in a video posted on YouTube, he achieves his goals. To do this, he replaced the case cover with a new one, which he 3D-printed himself. Incidentally, Ken Pillonel has soldered the Lightning charging port and replaced it with a standard USB-C port – which notably requires putting in a new charge management card.

Ken Bellonel goes even further, by putting his work at the service of all: he has published his project in open source on the GitHub platform, theoretically allowing any handyman to replicate their technical exploit. Does he think his work will be imitated? “I think so and above all, I hope it doesn’t stop at the geeks,” he replies, who called him the time. I designed my spare parts so that the general public could install them. Just be a little curious.”

“Prevent them from selling”

Besides his technical prowess, Ken Bellonel criticizes the planned obsolescence, which goes beyond Apple’s case alone: ​​”I have a strong conviction that devices like AirPods should not be authorized for sale if the battery cannot simply be replaced there… I have recently recognized another environmental disaster: Disposable e-cigarettes. They are single-use electronic devices that end up in combustible trash bags.”

Refer to the Lightning port that Apple uses only. The European Union wants to force all device manufacturers selling products on its territory to offer a USB Type-C connector. As of 2024. For more than ten years, Apple has refused to comply with any court order. What could happen by 2024? “I envision that a wireless solution will be adopted before the deadline set by the European Commission. In the meantime, the Lightning port will still be in production,” Ken Billonel estimates.

new ambitions

what is he doing now? “I just finished my Masters in Robotics at EPFL, about two weeks ago. From now on I’ve decided to focus for the next 12 months on growing my YouTube audience. Then I will reassess my situation. I think I’m in a good dynamic and there are really great revenue coming through Advertisements and different sponsors. The latest modded AirPods status video has already been viewed over a million times on YouTube.” I was starting to get a certain audience, but my viewing expectations were less than a million. This makes me very optimistic about the future,” says Ken Billonel.

His modified iPhone X, equipped with a USB-C port, was sold at an online auction, and a buyer said he was willing to pay 80,000 francs for it. “Unfortunately, the auction was not successful and the phone is still in my possession. I am still positive, and in the end, I am still very satisfied with this auction, because it has boosted my YouTube channel through media frenzy,” positive Ken Billonel, whose work has resonated with Apple since That moment. But also at Samsung: in recent months, the student has integrated the Lightning port in the Samsung Galaxy A51 …

Read also: iPhone modification, EPFL student artwork

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