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I recently disassembled my iPhone X; to straightforwardly ask, is there a way to operate the rear camera of this model? There are all the necessary parts: the display, central processor, the front camera with the TrueDepth sensor, and the rear camera.

I want to operate the camera using an external input device; store the images and recordings taken in an external storage.

Would using Arduino or Raspberry Pi be an option?

Necessary iPhone X parts after disassembly

2 Answers 2

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This is one of the cases where "if you have to ask, you'll never know" is applicable.

There's no published solution for your problem available. In theory it could very well be possible, but in practice no - you cannot do this. Apple does not publish the types of details about their camera units, nor does Arduinos or Raspberry Pis have a compatible connector - not mentioning all the other stuff you'll need (like drivers for instance).

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Yes, you can. How is a very difficult question to answer.

Broadly, as with developing any embedded electronic project, you first have to correctly identify each part, and obtain its technical specification / manual from the manufacturer. This will tell you what each part does and how to assemble and connect them all together. The second part is even more difficult - if the manufacturer doesn't provide a ready made software (or atleast a device driver or template software that you can customize), you will have to write the software / program yourself to use the hardware correctly. (in iPhone, this part is handled by iOS and the camera app.)

So if you are familiar with electronics and embedded technology, and embedded programming, you should be able to do this.

Realistically, it is a very diffult task and will take a lot of time and new skillsets. It would be better to start with a smaller and easier electronic project before trying this.

Go for it if you are interested in patiently learning these skills. Even if you fail, you will still learn a lot. (Take inspiration from Alyssa, a young woman, student and hacker who is progressing on reverse engineering Apple's GPU in its new ARM processors, to create a linux driver for it).

The knowledgeable people at iFixit may be able to help you identify the parts, and even obtain the technical schematics on it. You can also ask for more help and advice from the Electrical Engineering Stack Exchange and Reddit Embedded forum.

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  • You're missing the fact that Apple is the manufacturer and they do not publish technical specifications or manuals for those parts at all. There's no way someone that is just familiar with electronics, embedded technology and embedded programming can do this. I am those things, but I would have no way of doing that. Realistically it would require someone to be an ex-Apple employee with intimate knowledge of those camera units, or a camera unit (in general) expert with lots and lots of time on their hands (months and months).
    – jksoegaard
    Feb 2, 2021 at 3:05
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    Apple doesn't manufacture everything - many of these parts are procured from other companies / vendors. So for example, the RAM maybe from Micron (who are one of Apple's vendors), and the SSD from Samsung etc. So unless Apple has asked for a custom part, once you identify the part and the vendor, you maybe able to obtain the technical specifications by requesting it directly from the manufacturer. I do concede that this reverse engineering project is indeed very difficult, needs lots of skillsets and requires a very patient hacker mindset.
    – sfxedit
    Feb 2, 2021 at 23:18
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    sfxedit: I know that already... it's just that the camera unit, which is the interesting thing here, is a custom Apple part and you cannot get technical specifications for it. The ECC RAM is pretty boring/standard and not relevant to getting the camera unit working.
    – jksoegaard
    Feb 3, 2021 at 9:03
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    @jksoegaard I have emphasised in my answer that it is very difficult and does take a lot of skills, patience and time. There is a young woman hacker now who is slowly working to reverse engineer Apple GPU in their new ARM chips to create a linux driver for it (Dissecting the Apple M1 GPU, part I, Dissecting the Apple M1 GPU, part II) - don't underestimate the determination and patience of a passionate hacker! I stand by what I said - it is very difficult, but not impossible.
    – sfxedit
    Feb 4, 2021 at 11:17
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    @jksoegaard To assuage your concerns, I have updated the answer and highlighted that it is a very difficult task.
    – sfxedit
    Feb 4, 2021 at 11:31

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