Jun 8, 2016 | By Alec

Tech lovers will doubtlessly remember the work of the Brooklyn-based hacker Nick Lee, who made headlines all over the tech community by hacking an Apple smartwatch to run Windows 95. In an attempt to outrage (or satisfy) more fanboys, Nick has just taken this concept to the next level and has hacked an iPhone to run Android. While the iPhone is everything but easy to hack, Nick achieved this feat by building a custom 3D printed case that holds an Android-running board, and combining that with a special Tendigi app for iOS. By simply placing the functioning iPhone in the case and running the app, the case starts up Android.

Thanks to his previous project, which reached the far corners of the web, Nick gained a reputation for weird and wacky Apple hacks. But as he explains over on the Tendigi blog, this actually grew out of his daily work for Tendigi – a design and development studio that specializes in smartphone solutions for a variety of clients. Among others, the Litely photo editing app was developed by them. Through their work, the Tendigi team is all too familiar with putting strange operating systems onto Apple hardware, and Nick used that knowledge to tackle this newest Android project.

As the hacker explains, he chose Android for one killer feature: the entire operating system is open source, making it a perfect hacking tool. “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,” he says. But this did require a custom Android build, which was made possible through a few extra components found in the Android Open Source Project, which allows it to interact with an iPhone. Among others, its connectivity and communication features allows data to flow between the two operating systems.

This means that the real challenge was in setting up a screen streamer that allows touch input to reach Android, and a hardware setup that lets you combine the two operating systems. For a proof of concept, he actually used an LG Nexus 5 that they had laying around in the office. He also had to port a libimobiledevice (which enables communication with iOS), an usbmuxd and a daemon screenstreamer for Android. This latter tool let Nick transmit Android touch events to the iPhone through the SurfaceFlinger service, creating the appearance of Android running the phone.

The next step was building a hardware setup that actually ran Android. To do so, he chose the HiKey board by Lenovator. This reference board comes with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity options, and – crucially – was small enough 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,” Nick revealed. A 650 mAh lithium-polymer battery and a resistor were also attached to the HiKey.

The next step was fitting all of these components into an enclosure that looked reasonably okay. But as Nick had zero 3D printing or modeling experience, this was a bit of challenge. Fortunately, he mastered some basic SketchUp skills in a matter of hours, and used this iPhone 6 Plus case on Thingiverse as a base. But as 3D printing services were expected to be quite expensive (as he anticipated a lengthy trial-and-error process), Nick actually took the step to buy his own XYZPrinting da Vinci 2.0 Duo 3D printer, which was used for the final 3D printing steps.

Not taking any chances, his original design was rather bulky – looking like a phone that came straight out the 1990s. But as he found that he had plenty of room to spare for all the components, Nick fired up SketchUp again to shed a lot of unnecessary space. “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,” he said.

The 3D printed case thus becomes the core of this Android solution. By simply starting up the Tendigi app and placing the phone into the 3D printed case, Android is fired up. While the Android OS thus technically not replaces iOS, it is a very clever hack and the whole project was completed in just a matter of days. While Android doesn’t look to be running very smoothly, it does perfectly showcase what can be achieved with some clever out-of-the-box thinking. We can’t wait to see what Nick tackles next. A 3D printed iPad running Linux maybe?



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Mr. Android wrote at 6/13/2016 5:42:07 PM:

So where is the iPhone running android exactly? So if I use TeamViewer from my phone to my PC, my phone is running Windows 10?

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