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.

Step 1: Ordering the circuit board and components.

You can order the circuit board (PCB) from OSH Park. It costs about $60 and you get three copies of the board.

The components for the board come from three companies: Digi-Key, SparkFun, and Arduino. The full list is available in this PDF. The total cost is about $135 plus shipping.

To assemble the circuit, you'll need a pretty good soldering setup: a soldering iron (e.g. the WES51) with a good tip, fine-pitch solder, desolder wick, tweezers, etc. To program the microcontroller, you'll need an AVR in-system programmer (like the AVRISP mkII) and a 3.3V FTDI Cable (or equivalent breakout board). To charge the battery, you'll need a mini-USB cable. If you don't already have these and aren't interested in setting up your own electronics lab, you might try looking for a local hacker space, maker space or fab lab. Most of them should have the tools you'll need. (And, if not, this would be a good reason to convince them to get them!)

For the laser cut enclosure, you'll need:
  • A sheet of 1/4" / 6 mm plywood, like this craft plywood from Midwest Products available at many art supply stores. (Avoid the micro-lite aircraft plywood from Midwest Products or other plywood with dark adhesive layers as they tend to burn in the laser-cutter.)
  • A sheet of wood veneer, preferably with adhesive backing.
  • Six M0, 5/8", pan-head machine screws (e.g. this 100 pack from McMaster-Carr)
  • Six M0 nuts (e.g. this 50 pack from McMaster-Carr)
Or, try making a difference enclosure (e.g. with 3D-printing or by milling a mold).

You'll also need a full-size SIM card from any GSM provider. I've been using T-Mobile in the United States but the phone has also been tested with AT&T; and in India, China, and Europe.

The PCB and GSM module may take a couple of weeks to arrive. You might try practicing your soldering in the meantime!
<p>How can I program the phone? I have a MacBook air that doesn't take CD.</p>
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<p>Does anyone have the dimensions of the case? I want to try get it 3D printed</p>
<p>Can I take a display fram a calculator??</p>
<p>I think it is very difficult to do that</p>
<p>Is there any guarantee that it will work in Nigeria?</p>
<p>I think so...</p><p>but you need to check</p>
<p>i made it and it is soooo mint</p>
<p>love it its so amzing</p>
<p>So, it connects to AT&amp;T and T-Mobile in the US, but what about the UK? Not everybody is American... Sorry if I sounded rude.</p>
The GSM module is quad-band, so I think it will work with any GSM network, unless they restrict access to specific kinds of phones.
<p>I wonder if this will work in my old, broken Motorola dynatac</p>
<p>I'm planning to make this cell phone for my project. But is there any way it would say it loud while I dial the numbers ?.</p>
Is this more or less private/secure than the average consumer cell phone. I am assuming it is not.
Can a Cdma phone be made
<p><a href="http://makezine.com/2014/01/09/make-your-own-cellphone/" rel="nofollow">http://makezine.com/2014/01/09/make-your-own-cellp...</a> </p><p>This guy made it better</p>
<p>actually the LED version is the improvement. The LCD version in your link had a tendency to die after few months.</p>
Both the guys are the same guy.
<p>LOL same guy.</p>
<p>So I built this and as far as I call tell my circuits are good. However, the AVRISP mkii has been obsoleted and the chinese clone I got wont seem to do the trick for flashing the bootloader. so now im stuck and im not sure what to do... anyone been successful and have advice?</p>
<p>does anyone know if its possible to create something from 3 phone cameras? and if so what do i need? any specific circuit boards?</p>
<p>Or better, mod into the handset of an old car/bag phone?</p>
<p>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 &quot;The Brick&quot;?</p>
Don't know if this will work on AT&amp;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)
<p>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).</p>
What about a phone number<br><br>Will we be arrested for linking to mobile networks
<p>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&amp;T and T-Mobile here in the States).</p>
He helpedin the foundation of arduino
<p>FYI... That's called a &quot;mini&quot; SIM card. A &quot;full-size&quot; 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.</p>
<p>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</p>
Would this phone work in Australia? Has anyone tried?
That depends on the sim card accessibility in your area.
<p>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).</p><p>A VFD display would be even cooler.</p>
<p>Can you play games on it</p>
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
<p>nice tutorial</p><p>add a trimmer to it. and a laser sword... like star wars LOL</p>
<p>This is taking hipster to the next level. </p>
<p>That comment is taking stupidity to the next level. You obviously mix up technology enthusiasts and dumb mass consumers.</p>
So can or can't you text ?????
You can text.
Oh my Gosh this is so my next phone but could you try to make it text? I would so make it then!!!!!!
<p>but can it play battle field 4</p>
<p>no, It only supports battle field 3 and yet it lags</p>
<p>Be pro. Add flashlight!</p>
<p>I have access to a 3d printer, and I was wondering whether that would work as an alternative to the laser-cut wooden case?</p>
<p>Pretty cool, but can it play games like Crysis 3, GTA V, or the new Battlefield? </p>
<p>Oh hell yea this is pretty impressive</p>

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a PhD student at the MIT Media Lab and a co-founder of the Arduino electronics prototyping platform.
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