Introduction: Connecting a Telephone Handset to Your Cell Phone

Picture of Connecting a Telephone Handset to Your Cell Phone

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Note - You will need basic electronic skills to build the project in this tutorial. You will also need to do some research to verify whether or not it will work with your phone and what connectors you will need. Use this information at your own risk; do not complain if it doesn't work for you. Only use as prescribed. Your mileage will certainly vary.

Let me state it again since some folks have ignored it in the comments. I am NOT providing a specific schematic, details on the connector for any particular phone, or more details on how to hook this up. It is an extremely simple circuit if you've got the right skills and knowledge and the ability to use a search engine to look up the details for your particular phone and verify that it'll work with whatever handset you can get your hands on. DO NOT ASK!

Here’s an interesting retrohack which is actually more practical than it seems at first glance – connecting an old telephone handset to your cell phone.

It’s been done before, primarily with Bluetooth. Many of the mods just repackage a Bluetooth headset by removing the handset’s original microphone and speaker and putting the Bluetooth mike and speaker into their locations with whatever extra wiring is required. A few use the original handset’s mike and speaker and connect the wires to a Bluetooth module. But this version is non-invasive (doesn’t change the handset) and is corded.

Step 1: Why a Corded Handset

Picture of Why a Corded Handset

Why corded? Partially because it’s cheaper, partially because it’s interesting looking, and also because, at least to my ears, the sound quality is better.

Bluetooth and cell phones are a marvel of miniaturization. Remember what cell phones looked like a decade ago? They were almost as large as the communicators from the original “Star Trek” series (which ironically was set in the 23rd century.) Miniaturization results in compromises. The current technology for tiny speakers and microphones is pretty amazing, but the quality sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. When I use my cell phone at home I usually hook it up to a repurposed pair of computer speakers to make it easier to understand conversations. So using an old corded handset with your cell phone may result in better voice quality.

In addition Bell Labs put a lot of research into design ergonomics for telephones. They’re designed to be comfortable (within the technology limitations of the time and given that they had to be produced for a reasonable price). Some people actually prefer using a standard phone handset instead of holding a cell phone up to the ear, having a Bluetooth unit stuck inside the ear, or wearing a headset. Unfortunately ergonomics design seems to have been forgotten in today’s cell phones. (What in the heck was Samsung thinking when they placed the far too low volume speaker on the back of my phone facing away from my ear?)

The specific description in this tutorial is for a phone with a four conductor (TRRS) 3.5 mm. mini jack which is used for stereo audio output and mono mike input, commonly found on many iPhones and Androids. If you want to build this adapter it’s your responsibility to make sure that this is the correct connector for your phone, or what plug is required and its pinouts and wiring diagram for your particular phone.

For example, here’s how somebody wired an older cell phone which uses a 2.5 mm (micro mini plug) with three conductors instead of four.

In addition telephone handsets have evolved over time. The original carbon microphones have been replaced with electret mikes. In some cases telephone handsets are not interchangable because the manufacturer used a special microphone in the handset and the circuit in the phone which encodes the voice is designed to work with that microphone.

Step 2: Parts

Picture of Parts

You will need a plain ordinary telephone handset. On most phones after the 1970s it will have a detachable curly cord with a 4P4C (a/k/a RJ-9) modular connectors which are slightly smaller than the RJ-11 jacks used to plug the phone into the wall. On even older phones the handset cords are permanently attached and you’ll have to slice off the cord at the end which connects into the phone. A phone where all of the electronics are in the handset will not work – it must be a “dumb” handset which either has a detachable cord or a permanent handset cord which can be sliced off. I’m only familiar with American telephone handsets, there may be differences in different countries.

Optional, but I like it, is a female headset jack. This is a modular jack (slightly smaller version than the RJ-11), which the headset plugs into on the phone. This makes it possible to make this circuit a non-invasive modification, no need to damage the handset cord. If you want to use this on a regular basis I would recommend getting a handset cord (they’re cheap), slicing off one connector and wiring the handset cord directly to the plug which will plug into your cell phone.

If you’re using a modern cell phone with a 3.5 mm jack for a stereo headset you will need a 3.5 mm. TRRS 4 conductor solderable mini-plug. Every word in that sentence after “will need a” is extremely important.

3.5 mm.” is the diameter of the plug.

TRRS 4 conductor” indicates that this isn’t the ordinary mono or stereo plugs you grew up with, it has an additional conductor. T = Tip, R = Ring, S = Sleeve. A mono plug is designated TS (Tip sleeve), a stereo plug is TRS (Tip Ring Sleeve). The reason a modern cell phone needs four wires is you have two wires for stereo audio out, one for microphone into the phone, and a ground wire. Earlier cell phones with mono sound used TRS 3 conductor jacks which *look* like ordinary stereo plugs, but they didn’t have a second sound channel coming out of the phone but did have a microphone signal going into the phone.

solderable” just means it’s designed so you can solder wires (as opposed to crimp which is a mechanical method of squeezing wires into a connector).

mini-plug” is another way of saying “3.5 mm. plug”. Plug indicates it’s the male end that inserts into the female jack.

Step 3:

Picture of
The wiring diagram is simple, but non-intuitive. The jack in your cell phone has four conductors and there are four conductors in the handset but they aren’t one-for-one. The handset is mono but has two grounds (one each for the mike and speaker). The cell phone is stereo and has one ground.

This table shows the pinouts for my phone and headset. Note that the mikes and speakers in telephone handsets don’t care about polarity. Make sure they correspond to yours, or make the appropriate changes before warming up your soldering iron.

T 1 Left
R 2 Right
R 3 Ground
S 4 Mike

Black 1 Mike
Red 2 Speaker
Green 3 Speaker
Yellow 4 Mike

With these two connectors and my phone I need to wire the black and green wires from the headset (ground) to pin 3 (the second ring) on the TRRS plug.

The red wire goes to pin 1 (the tip) of the TRRS plug for left audio (since the handset’s mono we’re just going to ignore the right audio channel).

Finally the yellow wire goes to pin 4 (the sleeve) of the TRRS plug for the microphone.

There is no connection to the first ring on the TRRS plug (right audio).

Step 4: Finishing Up and Using It

Picture of Finishing Up and Using It

As always check all of your connections and use a voltmeter to verify that everything’s hooked up correctly.

When you plug the cable into your cell phone you should get an indication that a headset has been attached. Obviously there’s no hook to put the handset on to end your call; that’s still controlled by your cell phone.

When I tested this setup in public my cell phone was concealed in my pocket. The only thing visible was the coiled headset cord coming out of my pocket and my handset. I was walking through a busy shopping mall and getting the strangest looks from folks wondering how I was using an old fashioned phone handset which appeared to be attached to nothing. At my destination I handed the headset to a friend and said “It’s for you” and he was astonished to hear the mutual friend I was talking to before I entered the shop.


mmmishra (author)2017-01-22

Hi. I want to connect my mobile phone to landline headset socket. How do I go around.

nodoubtman (author)2016-02-28

Hi. but i can't hear anything, i can only speak... :-(

is it possible to hear something, what are the connections?



mir bagerH (author)2015-04-29

میتوان باهاش راحت صحبت کرد اما یک سوال،اینکه کیفیت صدا خوب هست یا نه؟

slappy26 (author)2012-09-22

This is great instructables, I'm attempting to do the same thing but i'd like not to rip off one working handsfree headset, so i'm looking for the 3.5" jack with 4 poles for now with no luck at all.
So my question is: because the old fashioned headset is not stereo (is it?!) can i use a 3 poles jack excluding one of the two line out and make it mono instead of stereo?

Isaac Laserman (author)2012-03-18

what would happen if you attached this to a usb cable and plugged it in

philip42 (author)Isaac Laserman2012-03-23

It would probably explode and the sun would go supernova. I wouldn't recommend doing it.

anallie0 (author)2012-03-22

Attention, not all mobile phones have the same connection.

The links can be found here.

dantistus (author)2012-03-04

This is great stuff. I myself would gladly use such thing. I would look like a cool guy :) Can you please give a more detailed schematics of all the wire connections???

philip42 (author)dantistus2012-03-04

See my response to a previous comment for why I am not including more detailed schematics. If you want to build it - you've got to do the research for your phone.

dantistus (author)philip422012-03-05

Thank you!

jiri.svoboda.2002 (author)2012-03-05

Old phones use Carbon microphone.
You have to add battery and resistor to make this working...
| |
| | Resistor

arunpothencode (author)2012-03-04

brothers plz give me the details about HEADSET MODULAR it has any circuit diagram..?

philip42 (author)arunpothencode2012-03-04

See my response to a previous comment for why I am not including more detailed schematics. If you want to build it - you've got to do the research for your phone.

peltierd (author)2012-03-04

is the signal strength of the typical cell phone headset output strong enough to drive the speaker on the handset? seems like it would be somewhat quiet.

philip42 (author)peltierd2012-03-04

What's a typical cell phone headset?

On my old Nokia 5320 the volume level was excellent. On the crappy (expletive deleted) Samsung Android shown in the photos it wasn't so hot. The Nokia had excellent volume and voice quality to begin with, the Samsung had rotten voice quality. So I suspect it depends on how decent your audio from your cell phone sounds to begin with since it's driving the speaker.

Applebohn (author)2012-03-04

I love it!

porcupinemamma (author)2012-03-04

I am a ludite ;0) I like it :0)!

arunpothencode (author)2012-03-04

plz give the circuit diagram of headset modular jack........

ilpug (author)2012-02-29

Oh man, this is awesome. Maybe a close-up picture of where you attached the wires would clear up any question about how tuff gets attached. I was slightly confused until I re-read the instructions a few times. I really want to expand this into something more....

philip42 (author)ilpug2012-03-02

I intentionally left out a closeup photo of the connections for my particular phone because I didn't want somebody to think that it was how they should wire their own phone. There are *lots* of variations and as I noted in the introduction anybody who wants to make one is responsible for doing their research.

ilpug (author)philip422012-03-03

Ok, duly noted.

spike3579 (author)2012-03-02

I love this. I've seen commercial versions but it's so much cooler to make your own. Best yet is talking to your pocket in the mall. Nice.

Winged Fist (author)2012-03-01

What a great idea! I've been thinking about doing something like this with an old-school headset with microphone... This has some great potential for Steampunk/Dieselpunk cellphone accessories... If the star rating feature was working, I'd give you 5 stars!;-)

MitkasBarone (author)2012-03-01

Truly a hipsters dream!
That's quite creative, sir.

About This Instructable




Bio: Writer, engineer, techie. I've been using computers since the original Apple II in 1978 and have always been interested in technical topics. Check out ... More »
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