Awesome Stuff: A Modular Phone For Makers

from the tiny-and-simple dept

We've talked before about the buzz around the possibly-coming modular phones of the future, but this week we're looking at an entirely different animal: RePhone, an open-source modular phone kit for makers and tinkerers.

The Good

The basic idea of RePhone is that you can build your own mobile phone. At its heart is a core GSM module, to which you can attach a mini touchscreen, basic sensors, an NFC antenna, and other combinations of the various tiny attachment modules. They can be connected easily with FPC cables, attached to a breadboard, or soldered. Then you can take the assembled guts and build them into any kind of case you like, from a fold-up kraft paper shell made using special templates to something fancier like a custom 3D-printed casing.

Once it's built, the RePhone can integrate with IFTTT (as many things do these days) and also has software libraries that hook into Arduino IDE, Lua and Javascript, and a high-level SDK for developing apps for the RePhone itself — all designed with a focus on learning, so novice coders can try their hand as readily as expert developers.

The Bad

While RePhone seems like an absolute treat for makers and hackers, I'm more dubious about the attempts to make it look appealing to average users who want a unique phone. Apart from the ability to print custom designs on the kraft paper casing template, which is neat but hardly a game-changer, I don't think there's much to attract regular people to the RePhone, and it won't be replacing anyone's iPhones or Galaxies anytime soon, nor should that be the expectation. But for those who want to get inside the guts of a smartphone and tinker around, it's perfect.

The Things

But perhaps the most exciting aspect of RePhone is that it by no means has to be all about phones. The tiny, modular kit makes it really easy to give anything else cellular capabilities, and start building your own additions to the internet of things. That's exciting, because as we see the internet of things grow, it's vital that we keep enabling people to build things for it — otherwise it will evolve into nothing more than a network of locked-down, proprietary products from various gadget-makers. The interoperability with Arduino (and also Pebble watches) makes RePhone right at home in the new world of mobile makers, who will help define what the internet looks like as it continues to break free from traditional devices.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2015 @ 10:07am

    Not sure about the main module having a gsm inbuilt.....should be its own module at least, one that can be disconnected, not something that should be relied upon, for other modules that dont need it to operate

    i hope ara aint like that

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Christopher (profile), 3 Oct 2015 @ 1:48pm

    Been sayin' this for years, 'bout time it got built.

    GSM, or any radio, should be part of the modularity. You get a phone that by virtue of the module, works on any carrier. You need a new screen, swap it out. Memory? Go for it. My gosh, someone can bring back keyboards!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      lfroen (profile), 4 Oct 2015 @ 1:27am

      Re: Been sayin' this for years, 'bout time it got built.

      Yea, just don't forget a backpack to carry this modularity with you.
      Modern phones have surface-mounted chips for a reason. That "new screen" of yours will need new screen controller; where do you put it? On breadboard? Yes, that will totally work.
      Such "modular" project are nice for classroom demonstration, nothing more.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    charliebrown (profile), 4 Oct 2015 @ 6:20pm

    For Home Use Only

    Any person caught with this device in a public place (such as a school, church or airport) will be accused of making a bomb.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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