Back in March 2020 when Corellium presented Project Sandcastle to boot Android on the Apple iPhone 7 using the checkra1n jailbreak, it sparked hopes about the potential of OS-level aftermarket development on legacy iPhone models. Barring hardware failure, many of these devices may still have years of use ahead of them if power users can install any regular GNU/Linux distribution on them. In fact, a recent development has been brought to our attention which will help pave the way for the prolonged life of these old iPhone devices.
One developer by the name of “newhacker1746” on Reddit is taking the challenge of turning the iPhone 7 into a Linux-powered smartphone. Besides booting the ARM64 build of Ubuntu 20.04 LTS on an iPhone 7, the developer also managed to run the full-fledged graphical shell of the GNOME desktop environment on the device.
Keep in mind that the developer didn’t replace the contents of the internal NAND but rather managed to network boot the Ubuntu instance using a custom Linux kernel from Project Sandcastle. The developer has shared a very elaborate guide about how to make your own “iPhone 7 Ubuntu Edition”, and you can even follow the tutorial without worrying about jailbreaking the device. However, trying to get your iPhone 7 running on Ubuntu might not be a very gratifying experience for inexperienced users, since you still need to manually compile the kernel beforehand and access the pongoOS pre-boot execution environment using checkra1n.
A modder attempting to get Ubuntu running on an Apple iPhone 7 isn’t all too surprising, since this particular series is no stranger to the Linux kernel. The postmarketOS project comes to mind, which brought Linux to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. While installing a GNU/Linux distribution like Ubuntu on an iPhone won’t give you the same experience as just running iOS outright, it would be immensely useful to squeeze decent performance out of an old device until it physically breaks. Remember, in the spirit of the legendary HTC HD2, it’s not about actually running the software, it’s about proving it can be done.