New Smartphone Case Brings Back Old Smartphone Features

We all remember the good ol’ days when smartphones were just getting started. Realizing that we could take a fully functional computer and shove it into something the size of a phone was pretty revolutionary. Some of the early phones like the original Motorola Droid had some features that just aren’t very common today, and [liviu] set out to fix this situation by adding a sliding QWERTY keyboard to his modern smartphone.

The build started with a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and two cases: one for the phone and one for the keyboard. [liviu] found a small phone-sized bluetooth keyboard and removed all of the unnecessary bits before shoehorning it into the case. He then built the sliding mechanism from parts out of a PC power supply and two old flip phones and then was able to piece the two halves together. Using the two flip phone hinges gave this case the additional feature of being able to flip up after sliding out. The result is a modern smartphone with a fantastic and classic smartphone twist that looks very useful.

We’ve featured projects that give new life to old smartphones, but this might be the first to give old life to a new smartphone. We wouldn’t mind seeing more flagship phones that come with these features, but [liviu] has done a great job of making up for the manufacturers’ shortcomings!

42 thoughts on “New Smartphone Case Brings Back Old Smartphone Features

  1. I want a combo slide keyboard case back battery that snaps onto the back of a Galaxy S4 in place of the stock back cover and battery. Thus it would only need a single charger. Communication between the phone and keyboard could be done with bluetooth or if it wouldn’t have to be unplugged to charge, with USB OTG.

    1. It wouldn’t have to be unplugged to charge. You could simply wire the 5V from the USB inlet of your battery pack-keyboard combo and it would charge both your phone and your thing in parallel. Also if it’s a Bluetooth keyboard, you could wire the data lines too, since your thing isn’t going to use them, and you’ll never have to unplug it again.

      1. Oh, I just now realised. If you enable OTG by pulling pin 5 down (?), the phone starts to supply 5V and does not charge. Sorry, my comment is moot then. Maybe it can be solved by a transistor – or if you decide to build a keyboard from scratch with a MCU or PIC or something, you can use it to manage power too.

        1. Certain versions of the Galaxy line had a special resistor value that allowed the phone to be OTG and also charge. That resistor (680ohm? Can’t remember) put the phone in dock mode and is how Samsungs docks worked. Can’t remember if the S4 was one, but I think it was. They removed it in the S5.

          But you can also just use the connectors under the cover. The S4 has power connectors and I think the S5 has power + USB (there’s five on the S5).

    2. A custom add-on would involve a flexible ribbon cable, negating the need for a second battery and a Bluetooth (or whatever) connection. Adding a ribbon cable connector option requires the cooperation of the phone manufacturers (are you listening, Samsung?)
      Other points: my wife uses Thai font to text, and my favorite app is a scientific calculator. Both would benefit from custom, interchangeable keyboards. Aside from the connector issue, custom labels on keypad buttons are mighty hard to find.

    1. We should have had pocket sized PCs that are also phones years ago. Seriously, what would it have taken to stick a GSM modem in a Zaurus?

      I think the carriers and device manufacturers are in bed together to make sure that never happens. The carriers don’t want it because we would use and demand more data. The manufacturers are making money hand over fist promoting the ‘slim and simple is sexy’ BS. They have no reason to challenge the status quo.

      Consumers for the most part just have no imagination to realize what there devices SHOULD be able to do. The few of us that don’t like the slim appliance trend just don’t have enough numbers to matter.

      1. What a crock of shit. Your conspiracy nonsense is contradicted with your last sentence and you don’t even realise. Besides, we’re using more data than ever before because every man and his dog wants to upload and view their vertical videos.

  2. I got a keyboard the same size as my original Note, in an attempt to mimic my old beloved Sharp Zaurus clamshell. It would have worked too if the keyboards weren’t ZX81 levels of rubber awfulness.

  3. I’ve seen it done before – there was a keyboard case for the iPhone that was sold by way of ThinkGeek for at least one year. The TK-421 for the iPhone 4. Of course, that was four or five years ago.

    1. By the time camera phones could take recognisable photos bluetooth file transfer was fairly common so I don’t remember a lot of IR file transfer going on, I don’t remember many phones supporting it even if they had the hardware.

      The best bit about IR on phones was putting it next to your laptop and getting really expensive dial up at 28kbps!

      1. IrDa could push a few Mbps, but I doubt it ever got that fast in phones. Bluetooth was a much better way of sending data since it required no line of sight. Modern bluetooth if pretty fast, if you have compatible phones(there still seems to be a lot of junk around and phones from different brands transfer super slow between them).
        But the thing is…nobody seems to use bluetooth for transferring stuff anymore.

        1. Android beam ustill uses bluetooth with NFC to simplify the setup. Just open a photo, put the phones close together, tap the screen when the phone buzzes. Works surprisingly well as long as both phones have NFC enabled.

          I found it interesting how some recent phones started shipping with IR again and an app to control your TV and around the same time TVs started shipping with WiFi and apps to use your phone as a remote over WiFi.

          1. Note 4 IR blaster works very well. Change the channel at your local bar or access the service menu on your LG TV. Bluetooth files transfer for large pictures is as slow as IR transfer was for the smaller files of yesteryear.

  4. Reminds me of the Xperia X1, or the HTC touch Pro (2). Shows that we haven’t come far in phone design recently when a 7 year old phone would still look modern if released today.

  5. > Realizing that we could take a fully functional computer and shove it into something the size of a phone was pretty revolutionary.

    I’d love a “fully functional computer” the size of a phone. Do you have a link to this marvelous device? (Hopefully that link works on my portable media consumption device.)

    1. Same here with my GSM-hacked Motorola Droid (Milestone) 3. I really need to upgrade though, it’s getting worn out and long in the tooth, but there’s no modern equivalent on the market.

  6. Manufacturers need to take note, people want hardware keyboards on their smartphones, they should also bring back the trackball/optical trackball… They really need to stop the trend of impossibly thin smartphones being the #1 goal, I’d give up the 6-9mm thick smartphones with no keyboard for a well built, aluminum 13-16mm thick smartphone with a slide out hardware keyboard with optical trackball, better battery, better camera, micro SD slot, dual SIM slots, capacitive home back and menu buttons, and IR blaster in a heartbeat, and I’m quite certain I’m not alone… Also, displays are getting ridiculously huge, I’d love for manufacturers to go back to 4.3″ displays (with thin bezels), but make them 1080P (which they can do easily considering we have 5.2″ 2560×1440 displays already)… The first manufacturer that comes out with such a phone (with modern, high end hardware/specs) will have my money in a heartbeat, I’d easily pay more than the usual cost of flagship smartphones…

    1. I agree for the most part, but keep the big screens especially if you are going to be doing “PC work” with it. Also the addition of a hard switch for the flashlight is indispensable. Try unlocking the screen and hitting the flashlight icon with dirty hands or when you are fumbling for immediate light, not easy.

  7. let them build phones as thin as posible. In this way we can add keyboards with ease without increasing the thickness of the phone too much.
    You have to think like this: They are now making only a half of the phone, the other half (the keyboard) is up to us to make.

  8. What a great hack. Very nice keyboard for the purpose.

    I can’t help but imagine how people would freak out if you could take this back to the 1980’s and show people then. I expect it would cause anyerisms!

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