Teen makes $130,000 selling ''white'' iPhone 4

A 17-year-old from Queens claims to have done what Apple can't - and made $130,000 along the way.

While the black iPhone 4 was released to US customers in June and the rest of the world in the months that followed, the phone's white model won't be in the hands of customers until Spring 2011 after a series of delays.

Not content to wait that long, high school senior Fei Lam cut out the middleman and went straight to Apple parts supplier Foxconn, according to The New York Observer. The result was whiteiphone4now.com, a conversion kit that claims to allow customers to convert a black iPhone 4 to a white model. The site launched in July and at the time, it was unclear if the kits were, as TechCrunch observed, ''simply a bunch of parts from the black iPhone painted white''.

Now, Lam has spoken out for the first time to confirm the authenticity of his products.

"I knew a guy from a few years back that had somewhat of a relationship with folks in Foxconn," he told The Observer by email. He claimed that after initially selling the parts at a loss, attention from tech websites had allowed him to make US$130,000 in profit since August.

Lam is currently selling the full conversion kit, which includes back and front panels, a retina display, supporting frame, front glass, digitizer, home button, back glass and LED diffuser and all necessary tools for US$279 plus shipping.

As many would expect, Lam has claimed his business venture has attracted unwanted attention from those unhappy with his actions.

''I got an email from a private investigator accusing me of selling stolen goods, which I'm 100 percent sure is not the case. 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,'' he said.

It remains to be seen if Apple will take legal action against the teen entrepreneur. Lam said he planned to contact a lawyer, but has no plans to stop selling the white iPhone parts.

Update: Lam has told the Sydney Morning Herald that the $130,000 figure is ''bulll''.

''I made only 30-40k. 100k was income before cost of product. Every time a site picks up the story it changes a little bit,'' he said.

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93 Comments

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This really comes down to the contract between Foxconn and Apple. If Foxconn is allowed to sell the cases to another reseller then there could be no case. Now if Apple does have an exculsive contract with Foxconn (which it probably does) on the cases which they make for Apple then there could be a suit against both the kid and Foxconn.

Clever idea but surely this is breaching copyright? he is essentially selling Apple's original parts via a grey channel. If Apple haven't permitted the sale of these items then they should have rules in to prevent it?

I love the guy for taking it on and doing well out of it, wish I had done it but something like that wouldn't cross my mind based on the fact that I would have thought I'd be closed down in a click!

Guess we can wish that he keeps it going and that he isn't pursued by Apples lawyers.

+ 1 to the guy for the balls to take it on!

If he does a limited edition and sells them as 'art' Apple dont have a leg to stand on under any legal grounds. Thats if they would be dumb enough to try. As we know, the stupidity or tech companies cant be estimated or forecast.

Capitalism at its best. and it seems totally legal to me. The kid doesn't sell iPhone, he sells a 'kit' for iphone, just like many others sell 3rd party iphone cases. Apple can sue Foxconn for selling iphone components to third parties maybe, but not the kid.

joysleeper said,
Capitalism at its best. and it seems totally legal to me. The kid doesn't sell iPhone, he sells a 'kit' for iphone, just like many others sell 3rd party iphone cases. Apple can sue Foxconn for selling iphone components to third parties maybe, but not the kid.

That's true.

What I find more interesting is that there are so many fanboys out there that would be willing to spend that much money just to have a white phone. Does that color make it work better? Nope.
Will that color show more dirt, stains etc? Yes.

It's a unique idea. To those that are wondering why Apple hasn't taken any legal action yet, the answer is quite simple. Although he isn't an "authorized reseller", he's simply selling a product that's manufactured by another company (Foxconn). It's like buying a phone and selling it. Fortunately, he isn't making the product on his own and selling it. I'm sure Apple would have taken legal action already if that was the case.

Anaron said,
It's a unique idea. To those that are wondering why Apple hasn't taken any legal action yet, the answer is quite simple. Although he isn't an "authorized reseller", he's simply selling a product that's manufactured by another company (Foxconn). It's like buying a phone and selling it. Fortunately, he isn't making the product on his own and selling it. I'm sure Apple would have taken legal action already if that was the case.

Finally someone with a little bit of sense !

I say you snooze, then you lose. If a private individual can sell these, and a whole company with thousands of employees can't get a white iPhone sold, then it is their own fault they will lose business. Its the way of "free market".

Just shows how easy it is to make cash these days with a bit of imaginative thinking and the over hype of said product will get any semi rich person spending ridiculous amounts even if it means a colour change. Reminds me of said Kinect.

A lot of people are saying its ugly, who cares the kid is making bank off of it. But sense he is buying the parts directly from a factory that makes genuine parts for the IPhone, how would Apple be able to sue him? The way I see it its like if I put my IPhone on EBAY Apple can't sue me for selling an IPhone I bought it from a legit retailer.

Why is the title "white" its clearly white, no need to pretend like it isn't. It might be unofficial but its still a legit white iPhone.

On a side note, I don't know why people want one so bad. I think the black looks much nicer on the face.

atari800 said,
now those people will get a cover to protect their phone and cover up that $280 white iphone case
idiots
Most cases don't cover the face, which is pretty much what they want the white for.

It does look illegal though, I wonder why Apple hasn't done anything yet. Those cases are clearly designed by Apple to be sold by Apple, I really doubt they'd allow a stranger sell them when they are not even selling it themselves, they for sure have their own reason to not do so. Whether it's just because they want to annoy their customers or serious business.

Lucas said,
It does look illegal though, I wonder why Apple hasn't done anything yet. Those cases are clearly designed by Apple to be sold by Apple, I really doubt they'd allow a stranger sell them when they are not even selling it themselves, they for sure have their own reason to not do so. Whether it's just because they want to annoy their customers or serious business.

This kid reselling a product manufactured by Foxconn.

its clearly more then the case. learn to read

he is also selling it as a repair kit, which may help a bit with legal issuses

jbrooksuk said,

OH NOES DIVIDE BY ZERO.

Remember: You CAN do it!
It will get your maths teacher ready for hospital though, so if you need some more spare time in future (aka free lessons) go for it!

On another note:
pi=3

GS:mac

later today Apple will threaten Foxconn that they will stop using them if they dont stop giving parts to this kid.... seriously how do you get someone as big as Foxconn to just sell you parts like that? Even if you knew someone, you'd think they would make you go through a middle man

I love the black front, but I wouldn't mind for a white back for $25-35.
It's very easy to change the back panel (only 2 screws and it's off), plus it will keep the phone cool in the hot days of summer. Black gets really really under the sun.

Why would anyone be willing to pay that much money to change the color of a device, when you could pay $30 and put a white case on it???

littleneutrino said,
Why would anyone be willing to pay that much money to change the color of a device, when you could pay $30 and put a white case on it???

They already brought the iPhone, what's another $279 to them?

Tempted, Apple want £139 to replace my iPhone 4 due to the front glass being cracked. How much does $299 (inc. shipping) come to?

It's worth me losing the warranty all together if it's going to be white.

How many +1's are on this page!

Good idea, wish I had come up with it. Just shows how desperate people can get. That's where most business succeeds it seems these days.

Julius Caro said,
Who would pay that much to whiten an iphone?

According to the website:
"Not to mention we always have the latest model of parts and all parts in stock ready to ship. That's why FaceBook employees, undisclosed celebrities, accessory makers, and more buy from us."

Jdawg683 said,
good for him, seriously... banking on people's uttery stupidity. how in the world are people so desperate?

It's not so much banking on people who are, as you say, desperate. Rather banking on Apple's incompetence in making the iPhone4 white. I mean seriously, how hard can it be?

Xenosion said,

It's not so much banking on people who are, as you say, desperate. Rather banking on Apple's incompetence in making the iPhone4 white. I mean seriously, how hard can it be?

I would say it's pretty stupid to pay $279 to change the colour of your phone.

"I knew a guy from a few years back that had somewhat of a relationship with folks in Foxconn," he told The Observer by email.


What was he, like 10? Come on....

Tarrant64 said,
"I knew a guy from a few years back that had somewhat of a relationship with folks in Foxconn," he told The Observer by email.

What was he, like 10? Come on....

I don't see where a few years back equals to 7 years.

Anyway, you are one annoying individual, buckhole. I wasn't annoyed with the "+1" until you decided to add hundreds of them.

MrBurrrns said,
470 kits shipped * $279 = $131,130

He can hardly make a 130,000 profit from that...

Well, maybe he started buying the white "cases" in bulk which resulted in a lower cost for him. $279+shipping certainly isn't his cost or he wouldn't be in business.

brolicboy said,

Well, maybe he started buying the white "cases" in bulk which resulted in a lower cost for him. $279+shipping certainly isn't his cost or he wouldn't be in business.

You think he bought the parts and got them shipped to him for $1,130? Bulk does not save you 'that' much.

MrBurrrns said,
470 kits shipped * $279 = $131,130

He can hardly make a 130,000 profit from that...

I think the $130K number mentioned in the article was probably revenue and not profit.

He's up to $139K now though. I would venture to guess that's probably making no less than $200 net from each $279 kit. Apple itself is charging only $30 parts AND labor to replace the back glass panel, so we're not talking about really expensive parts here.

bj55555 said,

I think the $130K number mentioned in the article was probably revenue and not profit.

He's up to $139K now though. I would venture to guess that's probably making no less than $200 net from each $279 kit. Apple itself is charging only $30 parts AND labor to replace the back glass panel, so we're not talking about really expensive parts here.

Well, we are.

"Lam is currently selling the full conversion kit, which includes back and front panels, a retina display, supporting frame, front glass, digitizer, home button, back glass and LED diffuser and all necessary tools for US$279 plus shipping."

So you are actually getting quite a lot for your cash, I can't see him making much profit per kit to be honest.

boo_star said,

Well, we are.

"Lam is currently selling the full conversion kit, which includes back and front panels, a retina display, supporting frame, front glass, digitizer, home button, back glass and LED diffuser and all necessary tools for US$279 plus shipping."

So you are actually getting quite a lot for your cash, I can't see him making much profit per kit to be honest.

He bought all those items directly from the source. All of those items sound expensive, but they're not. The retina display is probably the most expensive item in the kit, but it probably costs no more than $20. The rest of the items cost pennies to manufacture.

bj55555 said,

He bought all those items directly from the source. All of those items sound expensive, but they're not. The retina display is probably the most expensive item in the kit, but it probably costs no more than $20. The rest of the items cost pennies to manufacture.

Well, they may cost pennies to manufacture but its certainly not clear what the kid is paying for each part. He may have a "connection" within Foxconn but I would be fairly surprised if they were selling these parts to him at anything close to the bulk rates. Besides, even if they were, as has been pointed out theres no way he's getting them cheaply enough to turn the profit suggested in the article.

boo_star said,

Well, they may cost pennies to manufacture but its certainly not clear what the kid is paying for each part. He may have a "connection" within Foxconn but I would be fairly surprised if they were selling these parts to him at anything close to the bulk rates. Besides, even if they were, as has been pointed out theres no way he's getting them cheaply enough to turn the profit suggested in the article.

Without knowing how many units he's ACTUALLY sold, speculating about the veracity of the $130K figure is a waste of time.

If the $130K figure is really profit, then he's obviously sold more than 500 units shown on the "statistics" section of his website.

If the "statistics" show the actual running total of what the kid's sold, then it's likely that the $130K figure is the REVENUE and not profit as indicated by the author of that article.

Whatever the case, he's most likely making a sizable profit margin on that $279 given reasonable knowledge of what those components cost to source.

Eddo89 said,
Go him.

I find that illegal as selling a case, which is not illegal at all.

-1

The white iPhone kits have both the Apple logo and iPhone name on them. Apple would have a slam-dunk trademark infringement case against him.

Eddo89 said,
Go him.

I find that illegal as selling a case, which is not illegal at all.


It's probably OK as long as he's an authorized reseller.

Which I doubt he is.

Joey H said,
The white iPhone kits have both the Apple logo and iPhone name on them. Apple would have a slam-dunk trademark infringement case against him.

Yeah, this is where Apple will get him. Shame, since all he is offering is a cosmetic difference. If he can do it this easily then it just shows that Apple are purposefully putting off the sale of the white iPhone 4 until they need to create a new buzz. Unless they plan on adding new features as well as a colour change, but then wouldn't they call it the iPhone 5?

Joey H said,

-1

The white iPhone kits have both the Apple logo and iPhone name on them. Apple would have a slam-dunk trademark infringement case against him.

+1

Though I do think it is pretty cool what he's doing. But Apple has grounds to shut him down.

Eddo89 said,
Go him.

I find that illegal as selling a case, which is not illegal at all.


Agreed, but as we've seen with the iPhone 4 leak, Apple is trying to make free speech illegal.

Kudos to this kid for having a good business idea.

nevann said,
Another entry in the "Damn, I wish I'd thought of that" book

<_> have you ever goten ****ed off at something so much that you punched yourself in the face for it...yea...this is one of those times...a kid my age getting 130g's plus easily.."i wish i had thought of that"