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Adding the Strap Mod

If there's one feature that's included in almost every handheld device, it's support for a wrist strap. As many gadget owners have learned, small digital devices do not like to be dropped, and the wrist strap significantly reduces the risk of this happening. Strangely, Apple failed to include this minor feature with the iPhone (or with the iPods, come to think of it...), despite the fact that half the surface of the device is glass! And the phone's streamlined shape makes it very easy to drop and/or to slip out of your pocket. So we decided that our second modification would be the addition of a strap that we could use to keep the iPhone securely attached to our body.

Locating a good spot for the strap proved to be fairly obvious. Since the iPhone is a tightly packed engineering marvel, as Figure 9 illustrates, there's very little spare space available for inserting our modification. In the end, this made it easy to pick the right spot—there were no other options. You can see this spot if you place the iPhone face down and look in the top-right corner. When closed, this empty space is mostly filled in with the headset connector and the vibrator that shakes the iPhone when it rings. But when apart, this little space gives us just enough room to safely alter the case.

Figure 9

Figure 9 Looking for some spare room for the strap

Thanks to Apple's three-layer design, one of the major issues of adding a wrist strap was avoided. Imagine you've just drilled a hole in the middle of the aluminum case and attached a strap. Now imagine the strap getting stuck on a doorknob as you run out through a door. That strap would yank on the phone so hard that the case might just pop off. Not good. So we needed to ensure that the strap would pass through both the main iPhone and the back case.

Fortunately, that top-right corner is the perfect spot. In fact, there is already a screw hole that passes through the metallic ring right into the plastic base. Now, imagine this hole also passing through the outer aluminum case. This gives you a location through which you can pass a lanyard without bypassing any layer of the iPhone. In addition, since the hole goes through the metallic ring, you have the added strength of steel to prevent the phone from being ripped apart.

There are two ways to do this. The first involves drilling in the outer aluminum case a hole that aligns with the screw hole, and then drilling out the screw hole to make it large enough for an anchored thread to be passed through. This option is the easiest and the safest, but it relies upon the strength of the anchor that will keep the lanyard in place. The second option, which we'll use, is to drill out the screw hole and make a matching hole in the outside aluminum, and then drill a second hole through all three pieces, right next to the first hole. This allows us to thread a nylon lanyard through the holes, which can then be connected to a standard lanyard snap that can be connected to a strap of your choice.

To drill each component, get a vice grip and use wooden blocks to hold the phone in place as you tighten the grip. Obviously, you don't want to apply too much pressure or you'll damage the various components. Once the phone is in place, carefully drill out the holes. Be forewarned that the plastic case of the iPhone drills out very quickly—so move slowly. The aluminum drills fairly easily, but it does take some effort, as does the metallic ring.

For the first hole (the existing screw hole), start with the black plastic screw hole and make it a bit wider with the drill.

For the second hole, it's best to work from the outside in. Drill the hole in the aluminum case first; then insert the ring and mark the hold location for the metallic piece. When that hole is drilled, put the ring back on the iPhone; carefully drill through the ring and create the hole in the plastic frame. One more thing: To prevent the destruction of the lanyard, make sure there are no spurs around the edges of the hole.

Figures 10 and 11 show each layer and the results of our drilling efforts. This hole-drilling process does take a bit of time and effort. All in all, we spent about half an hour creating the holes and widening them so that our lanyard would fit through smoothly.

Figure 10

Figure 10 Metal ring and plastic case together

Figure 11

Figure 11 Layout of three layers

When you're done, reseat the iPhone back into the metal ring, put the eight screws back into the metal ring, thread the lanyard through the holes, reconnect the back case circuit, and close up the iPhone. If all went well, you should now have a lanyard poking out through the shell. Our lanyard required us to then slip the thread through the plastic clip and tie it off.

Figure 12 shows you the final results—we now have iBling!

Figure 12

Figure 12 Finished strap mod

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