The open source rotating cellphone, two years later


We know the pandemic has messed up a lot of people’s sense of time, but we’ve double-checked, and it’s indeed been over two years since the internet first laid eyes on the amazing cell phone. dial set up by [Justine Haupt]. We’re happy to report that not only has it continued to develop and improve the phone since the last time it made the rounds, but kits for this open-source marvel are currently available for pre-order.

A lot has happened since this phone last graced the pages of Hackaday. For one thing, it’s now officially known as Rotary Un-Smartphone. [Justine] also set up a small company for the express purpose of putting these kits into production, which clearly shows how much attention the project has garnered in mainstream circles.

The new rotary mechanism is based on modern components.

In terms of hardware, while the phone may look more or less the same on the outside, [Justine] says that there is not a single component unchanged from the previous version. The 3D printed case has given way to a beautiful injection molded case offered in several retro colors, and the rather incongruous rubber ducky antenna has been replaced with a hinged antenna that doubles as a kickstand.

Speaking of reception, the original 3G cellular modem was upgraded to an LTE-enabled model from uBlox, so it should still receive a signal for about a decade before your carrier kicks it into the network. When ordering the kit, you can choose between a global version using the TOBY-R200 modem or a North American variant with the TOBY-R202.

Even the user interface has been improved – while the previous model featured a simple LED indicator on the front to show when you were on a call, the new version has an OLED display that will show you the number currently dialed. as well as status information such as battery life and signal strength. Some might be disappointed to learn that the genuine Western Electric Model 10A rotary dial has been phased out in favor of a custom designed mechanism that uses all modern components, but we can certainly understand why the change had to be made from the point from a production point of view.

To make assembly as easy as possible, the final kit will require no soldering.

Maybe the only thing that doesn’t changed is the commitment to making the device open source and friendly to hackers. The Rotary Un-Smartphone is still Arduino compatible, and as [Justine] demonstrated in the video below, you can even use AT commands between the microcontroller and the cellular modem if you want to play around with some of the more advanced features of the hardware. Although the links to the source code admittedly point to an upcoming page at the time of this writing, we are confident that [Justine] will deliver the goods. The kind of people who take the time to write a rant about the benefits of open source can usually be trusted to do the right thing.

The original project was a masterclass in building hardware on your own terms, and we’re excited to see that [Justine] has moved forward with this new review so that others can fulfill the dream of owning a cell phone that doesn’t treat you like a commodity.


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