The smartphone industry is desperate to prompt a change, and is exploring everything from brand-new operating systems to modular smartphone hardware in order to bring one about. We, as consumers, are also always looking for something new, and if the thought of a Jolla phone or the Motorola Ara project just doesn’t pique your interest, how about building your own phone? David Mellis, a PhD student at MIT, has released the plans for you to do just that, and it’s like a retro version of Motorola’s Moto Maker for mad scientists.
Now, before you get too excited, the phone you’ll be making won’t challenge the Galaxy S4 in terms of tech, or the iPhone 5S for looks. In fact, it ‘ll struggle to match a $25 feature phone. It will, though, be something you’ve built yourself. Mellis is better known as one of the co-founders of the Arduino project, an open source electronics platform beloved by geeky tinkerers everywhere, and his DIY phone is built around a GSM phone add-on for it.
Once equipped with the circuit board, you add a screen – either a a basic eight-character red LED, or a monochrome six line LCD from a feature phone – and all the other components, program the device and finally, build a case. In the photos, the DIY phone is shown with a wooden body shell, complete with laser cut keys, and some 3D printed examples. Pop a SIM card inside and you can make and receive calls, send text messages, and potentially access the Internet using a 2G connection.
Mellis said, in an interview during the summer, he was interested in looking at alternatives to mass production for all types of electronic hardware, and the phone is one part of his thesis. He has released the plans for the DIY phone, and calls the project , “Difficult, but potentially do-able.” You’re going to need some specialist tools, be good at fine hand soldering, and have a considerable amount of patience if you’re keen to give it a try.
The final cost of the DIY phone is estimated to be around $200, which doesn’t sound too bad for the amount of satisfaction you’ll have at the end of it. Those of us without the technical know-how to build one, will just enjoy the fact the DIY phone exists at all, and probably pop out to buy a Moto G.