DIY cellphone

Here’s an interesting concept. Lets make a kit to build your own super simple cell phone. Thats basically what a group at the MIT media lab is proposing with this prototype. Consisting of an SM5100b GSM module and a 1.8″ 160×128 pixel LCD screen on a very basic board holding some buttons, this thing is pretty bare bones. Barely any features aside from sending/receiving calls. It does have caller ID though. At$150, it isn’t really that competitive compared to the phones you’d get from your provider, but it is just a prototype.

We particularly like the laser cut flex areas for the buttons on the front.

[Thanks Paul]

35 thoughts on “DIY cellphone

      1. I’m not sure how you haven’t heard of Zoolander, but he’s a character in a movie (of the same name), with an absurdly tiny “designer” phone.

        Link to first Google Images result of the character holding said phone:

        Zoolander phone

    1. Honestly don’t know why we haven’t seen uphones in mass market. I suppose most companies have deemed the current size is more than small enough, and any smaller hinders UI.

    2. Awesome build! I wish the build log was easier to follow since it’s entirely in swedish without images. Got a gallery of the build?

  1. Ha! FAIL – In Asia we can buy a non-subsidized GSM phone for $30-$45 over the counter. A prepaid SIM card is another $5 USD and costs as little as $0.75 to top-up with enough pulses for a month of SMS messaging.

    1. It’s not about the price you muppet. Of course there are much cheaper simple phones, but this is about building your own phone from scratch and getting knowledge about how the phone stuff all works.

    2. It’s pretty obvious that the aim of this project wasn’t to make the cheapest phone. I don’t see where the “FAIL” is.

  2. Am I the only one that expects more from MIT than something I or almost any other amateur hacker could throw together in their basement in a couple days?

    1. agreed. i was tempted to get a GSM module from sparkfun off the back of freeday… but you just need to add buttons, speaker and a mic and the phone is pretty much done.
      Didnt seem like too much of a challenge and would of ended up just sitting in my parts bin waiting for a second use.

    2. Me too, it’s not even really bare-bones – call me old fashioned but if it’s got a graphic LCD I don’t call it minimal.

      How’s about opening up or reverse-engineering an obsolete device and using that as a no-frills platform, the Nokia 5110 for example I would consider as an almost perfect example of a very useable basic phone that could probably be replicated today for almost no money, incredibly low power, etc.

    3. Let’s not forget that this isn’t a representation of a degree’s worth of effort… this is just a single project.

      Usually these “Media Lab” projects are more about innovating the design of the product vs. the internals.

      But over all I do agree… this is something you’d see at a high school science fair… “I built my own cell phone”…

  3. I’d love a simple phone that takes regular AA batteries and has a monster antenna. My super-space-phone is great, but pretty useless when the batteries die while travelling, especially when I’m going way up into the cold northern reaches of my beloved state (MI).

    Bonus points if it’s no bigger than a pair of AA batteries.

    1. +1

      All phone projects that use a proprietary baseband processor aren’t really about building a phone, they’re more about building a cheap enveloppe around another phone…

  4. Absolutely cool phone. I can buy a prepaid phone from Tracfone with some minutes loaded for $10. Glad to see that you guys are up to speed .

  5. yes, but for $150 you OWN it, AND its unlocked! AND there are no little water test dots to invalidate your warranty! ;)
    There are a lot of people who would kill verry much like a phone without all the complex gadgetry.

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