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]


  1. homelypoet says:

    Was not there a movie set in the near future where the main character printed off a cell phone (ala

    Found it: ultraviolet

  2. Ryo says:

    I wonder what the battery life is like…

  3. victor_passe says:

    Check out my phone instead

    Mine is a bit nicer.

  4. Hirudinea says:

    If they could get the price down you could stick it in one of these little buggers…

  5. Destate9 says:

    Ultimate gangsta swag cell phone

  6. MG says:

    $0 on a 2 year contract with AT&T

  7. Vonskippy says:

    Wow, those MIT lads are oh so clever.


    //go Bears!//

  8. Drone says:

    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.

  9. Anonymous says:

    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?

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s from the MIT Media Lab not from the EE department.

    • steaky says:

      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.

    • John U says:

      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.

    • bemis says:

      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”…

  10. jaromirs says:
  11. Galane says:

    I CDMA phones with RUIM that work on Sprint in the USA.

  12. A. says:

    Nice, it uses LCD board smilar to mine :-)

  13. hospadar says:

    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.

  14. Mike says:

    airport security will LOVE this.

  15. Rooss says:

    I was able to run the GSM open source phone with a Motorola C155 ($10) and a USB-TTL serial adapter ($5) from ebay.

    • grapsus says:


      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…

  16. Derry says:

    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 .

  17. rue_mohr says:

    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.

  18. DerKai says:

    Back to the roots… nice work!

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