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Picture of Make your own cellphone from scratch.
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The DIY Cellphone is a working (albeit basic) cellphone that you can make yourself. It can make and receive phone calls and text messages, store names and phone numbers, display the time, and serve as an alarm clock. It connects to GSM networks (like AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S.) using a regular (full-size) SIM card. It builds on the hardware and software in the Arduino GSM Shield but extends it with a full interface, including display, buttons, speaker, microphone, etc. The phone is made up of a custom electronic printed circuit board (PCB), about 60 electronic components, and a laser-cut enclosure. Its hardware and software are open-source and available on GitHub (hardware, software).

Part of my motivation for making the phone -- and helping others to do the same -- is the fact that while cellphones are ubiquitous in our society, most of us have little idea what they're made of or how they work. In fact, you can make a cellphone in much the same way you'd make anything else: find the right parts, figure out how to connect them together, and try to do it in a way that's attractive and robust. Because of the ubiquity of cellphones, there are companies making the components they're made of; with some digging, I was able to find versions of these parts that are possible to buy in small quantities and that are possible to assemble by hand. This wasn't necessarily easy, but it's a very different problem than trying to learn the physics needed to understand how a cellphone tower works. 

I've been using various versions of this phone as my primary device for almost a year and have taught workshops in which others have made the phone for themselves. It doesn't require any specific knowledge of electronics, but it does involve configuring software, soldering a lot of small components, and laser-cutting, all of which can be difficult if you haven't done them before. I'd only recommend this project if you already have some experience with Arduino and soldering, or can find someone to help you out. You'll also need to get access to a laser-cutter, or find an alternative way to make the enclosure for the phone.
 
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Or better, mod into the handset of an old car/bag phone?

Inquiry: Does the kit come with schematics and/or diagrams that can be used to custom make a board that can be adapted and used to retro fit something like a Motorola MicroTac, or even "The Brick"?

sschoemann1 year ago
Don't know if this will work on AT&T any more... I had to upgrade from my basic dinosaur (don't recall if it was officially 1g or 2g) cell phone since they were updating the network and it would lose functionality per a notice I received from them. ( I use pay as you go... ten bucks a month)

It uses the GSM technology that you had to upgrade to. The basic dinosaur used either AMPS or D-AMPS (basically original touch-tone enabled analog network, and it's digital sister).

What about a phone number

Will we be arrested for linking to mobile networks

No. The electronics inside are FCC authorized for use in the US, and CE for use in Canada. As long as the carrier network matches the frequencies, and you have a legitamatly purchased sim card, you can use this on the GSM networks (AT&T and T-Mobile here in the States).

He helpedin the foundation of arduino
Elitecmidget5 months ago
Both the guys are the same guy.

LOL same guy.

iticory1 month ago

FYI... That's called a "mini" SIM card. A "full-size" SIM is actually the size of a credit card. Back in the 90s there actually were phones that took full size SIM cards that slid into the bottom of the phone. :) The new smaller SIM sizes are called micro and nano.

derickson85 months ago

dang all these big words were not coverd when getting my G.E.D. but this is a very intresting post well done Mr. Mellis

roboguy881 year ago
Would this phone work in Australia? Has anyone tried?
That depends on the sim card accessibility in your area.
mattcintosh5 months ago

Wow. $40 for that LED display. Thats pretty much the same display used in some mid 90's Motorola MicroTAC phones (it will greenish yellow).

A VFD display would be even cooler.

noryc6 months ago

Can you play games on it

It depends on the software if it's a software you invented it you have to make your own games
It depends on the software if it's a software you invented it you have to make your own games
It depends on the software if it's a software you invented it you have to make your own games
NikhilM36 months ago

nice tutorial

add a trimmer to it. and a laser sword... like star wars LOL

This is taking hipster to the next level.

That comment is taking stupidity to the next level. You obviously mix up technology enthusiasts and dumb mass consumers.

How
So can or can't you text ?????
mellis (author)  Hephaestus engineer7 months ago
You can text.
robotman98 months ago
Oh my Gosh this is so my next phone but could you try to make it text? I would so make it then!!!!!!
BenT19 months ago

but can it play battle field 4

AsterixR BenT18 months ago

no, It only supports battle field 3 and yet it lags

Be pro. Add flashlight!

JohanS19 months ago

I have access to a 3d printer, and I was wondering whether that would work as an alternative to the laser-cut wooden case?

BrianH39 months ago

Pretty cool, but can it play games like Crysis 3, GTA V, or the new Battlefield?

quintinm10 months ago

Oh hell yea this is pretty impressive

kedwa3011 months ago

This is great! I'm wondering how I might modify this design to include a full qwerty keyboard. My mom and dad mostly text and they want a full qwerty keyboard that is larger than, say, the Pantech P6020. I haven't been able to find one, so now I'm actually considering building it myself. If all it does is text and basic phone then that is great. I particularly don't want internet. The handset can have a cord to a SLA battery, since my mom would keep it in her purse. It is important to have a clam shell design so as to completely avoid pocket/purse dialing. The phone might be locked with a key combination, but then when a text comes in, the touch screen on my P6020 becomes active and does all sorts of mischief in my pocket. I definitely do not want a touch screen on my next phone. So basically if I can figure out how to modify this to use a full QWERTY and to have a clamshell cover, it will be perfect for my mom, my dad, and myself.

BR10422611 months ago

This is is Awesome!

nfarrow1 year ago

This is really cool could you make a waterproof cell?

stangeman1 year ago

Have you done any power measurements while transmitting/receiving and while idle? I'm interested in knowing how low power can go on this module.

From the Quectel Datasheet below, but wondering what power your system actually requires:


Compliant to GSM Phase 2/2+

Class 4 (2W @ 850/ 900 MHz)

Class 1(1W @ 1800/1900MHz)




Supply Voltage Range

3.3~4.6V 4.0V nominal



Low Power Consumption

1.3mA @ DRX=5

1.2mA @ DRX=9
momsnacher1 year ago
are you going to knock him because he didnt make the battry out of lemons or something. this looks like a fun weekend project as most of them on this site are. i like the wood case too. you could go to a flooring place and pick up a few hardwood samples for free to make a fancier case next time.
kelseymh1 year ago
What a cool project! Every few months, we've been getting somebody posting "how can I build my own cell phone?" and now we can point them toward an answer :-)

From Step 1, it sounds like the whole device costs about $200 in parts; is that accurate? If so, it seems to me this is a good demonstration of one of the pitfalls of DIY fabrication of otherwise consumer goods: there is no economy of scale.

I know from my own work (experimental particle physics), that the setup cost to have PCBs fabricated is quite high -- a run of 200 sometimes costs less than a run of 5 because the company charges a premium for the teardown time. The big components are also pricier in lots of 1 than they are (per unit) in lots of 1,000.

Do you think that something like this, made in larger volumes as a kit, could compete with basic cell phones in cost? I'm picturing the case being either vacuum formed or injection molded plastic. The components could still be soldered on by the end user (rather than a prefab board). I wonder if skipping the assembly process, while keeping the economy of bulk purchase of components, could beat out the factories.
Boards cost less in bulk if you are having your own design made. Here's why.
Setup / tooling cost is lets say $75.
Lets say each board then costs about $2 each to produce.
1 board costs $78
10 boards costs $95, or $9.50 each
100 boards costs $275, or $2.75 each
As quantities go up, the price will approach but never reach $2 each.

If some bright bulb with the cash to finance it in the first place were to buy up 100 or 1000 of everything needed to make complete kits, I am sure the cost would be quite reasonable and profitable for the seller (eventually).
I think if Radio Shack or The Source were to put a "build your own cell phone" kit on the shelves, it would be quite the hot ticket item!
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