DIY cellphone kit

From David Mellis at MIT's High-Low Tech, a $150 DIY Cellphone kit prototype. The idea is to let you bash together your own mobile phone and modify/customize it to your heart's content.

An exploration into the possibilities for individual construction and customization of the most ubiquitous of electronic devices, the cellphone. By creating and sharing open-source designs for the phone’s circuit board and case, we hope to encourage a proliferation of personalized and diverse mobile phones. Freed from the constraints of mass production, we plan to explore diverse materials, shapes, and functions. We hope that the project will help us explore and expand the limits of do-it-yourself (DIY) practice. How close can a homemade project come to the design of a cutting edge device? What are the economics of building a high-tech device in small quantities? Which parts are even available to individual consumers? What’s required for people to customize and build their own devices?

The initial prototype combines a custom electronic circuit board with a laser-cut plywood and veneer enclosure. The phone accepts a standard SIM card and works with any GSM provider. Cellular connectivity is provided by the SM5100B GSM Module, available from SparkFun Electronics. The display is a color 1.8″, 160×128 pixel, TFT screen on a breakout board from Adafruit Industries. Flexures in the veneer allow pressing of the buttons beneath. Currently, the software supports voice calls, although SMS and other functionality could be added with the same hardware. The prototype contains about $150 in parts.

High-Low Tech – DIY Cellphone (via Make)


  1. Or you could do what it looks like they did, which is to buy a cheap cell phone, take it apart, cut off the speaker and keypad, then graft on a new one.

  2. So much want. Combine with the polymer clay Mark wrote about earlier, I can envision myself with some Giger-esque monstrosity of a phone.

  3.  What about legality?

    I dont know shit about that thing, but modern phones are supposed to have some kind of id or so, or some kind or control or 1984´s shit, no? 

    1. that is handled by the GSM module and SIM card.

      it would be hard to design a phone network in which you could accept incoming calls, and be billed for outgoing calls without the local phone mast being able to identify your phone.

        1.  i think the issue of how easily the police or government can access that data is a separate issue.

          also there is always the possibility of a backdoor in the phone that can turn the microphone on, and stream it to somewhere, even when you think the phone is off.

          as i learnt from the film ‘four lions’ the best defence is to swallow your SIM card :-)

  4. I use to collect old phone wire for recycling from dumpsters. While stripping the insulation, I would accumulate large piles of multi-colored plastic. If that stuff could be remolded, it would make a neat case-mod.
    A friend remarked that the piles were kind of cool (bright and colorful).


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