Are white iPhone parts becoming extinct?

Summary:On Episode 145 of the PowerPage Podcast I mentioned a Web site that was selling authentic white iPhone 4 parts, but the site is now down in an apparent crackdown by Apple.

On Episode 145 of the PowerPage Podcast I mentioned a Web site that was selling authentic white iPhone 4 parts, but the site is now down in an apparent crackdown by Apple.

WhiteiPhone4Now.com was run by 17-year-old Fei Lam ran the site out of New York and promised to make you “one of the first in the world to own the white iPhone 4.” For $299 Lam would ship you a DIY kit to convert your black iPhone 4 into white.

The kit includes:

  • 1 x iPhone 4 Retina Display
  • 1 x White iPhone 4 Front Panel
  • 1 x White iPhone 4 Back Cover
  • 1 x White iPhone 4 Home Button
  • 1 x White iPhone 4 Digitizer (enables touch function)
  • 1 x White iPhone 4 Front Panel Support Frame

Lam was originally charging $229, but he raised prices to $299 for the complete kit after claiming to be losing money on the affair. He also offered either just the front or just the rear white panels, although I'm not sure why anyone would do the job only half way.

In a November 2010 interview Lam told TUAW that he purchased the white iPhone parts directly from Foxconn, Apple's iPhone manufacturing partner in China, and that he had collected more than $130,000 since August. He told the site that he planned to use it to help pay for college.

One can see why Apple would object to the practice and Lam's operation has caught the eye of the legal team in Cupertino. Lam received a letter from a Private Investigator claiming he is selling stolen goods.

They are some kind of anti-counterfeit/trademark firm, which sounds ridiculous, similar to what Apple is bringing up to remove White iPhone 4 Listings on eBay. I don't know how this legal stuff works.

Almost immediately after I heard about the site, I ordered a set of the white iPhone 4 parts for (ahem!) research. I must have got lucky as I received it just before the operation was suddenly shuttered. On Friday, December 13 Lam told Cult of Mac:

We have closed the site, possibly permanently

The site is now down and points to a generic parked domain landing page at his hosting provider.

My package came directly from China via DHL (but sadly I shredded the exterior shipping label before scrutinizing it too closely). The parts themselves were neatly packaged into two boxes, one for the front assembly (LCD) and one for the rear (cover). Also included was a set of tools and a silicone case.

I converted my black iPhone 4 last night and the process isn't trivial -- taking took almost two hours. I followed the excellent iPhone 4 take-apart guide from iFixIt and when they rate it as "difficult" they're not kidding.

Here's the front assembly:

And here's the rear (that's the clear protective film making the bubbles):

The parts are defintely genuine Apple. The ribbon cables are all silkscreened "Apple" and this level of detail would probably be hard to counterfeit. Both the front and the back fit like a glove and the Retina Display is just as bright and sharp as the panel it replaces.

Was it worth it? That depends. A white iPhone 4 is definitely a looker - especially when paired with some of the brighter bumper cases from Apple.

But $300 worth it? Probably not. But when you consider that black front and rear iPhone 4 replacement parts are fetching upwards of $200 on the repair market, your net out of pocket could be under $100 if you re-sell the the black parts.

If there's enough interest I can post a gallery of photos from the process...

Topics: Smartphones, Browser, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility

About

Jason D. O'Grady developed an affinity for Apple computers after using the original Lisa, and this affinity turned into a bona-fide obsession when he got the original 128 KB Macintosh in 1984. He started writing one of the first Web sites about Apple (O'Grady's PowerPage) in 1995 and is considered to be one of the fathers of blogging.... Full Bio

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