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You too can build your very own cell phone from scratch for just $200

Posted: , by Maxwell R.

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You too can build your very own cell phone from scratch for just $200
If you have a couple blocks of wood, or access to a 3D-printer, the rest of the parts come together nicely in this most basic of basic phones.

David Mellis, who occupies his time at MIT’s Media Lab, has provided all the plans needed for someone to build their very own cell phone. Notice that we are talking an actual mobile phone, like the type you make phone calls with, not a smartphone that does everything else.

The plans allow for either an LCD display or LED matrix display (a-la old-school Motorola flip phones from the early 1990s). The plans also allow for charging the battery via mini-USB, probably a cost consideration, though enterprising individuals will likely be able to adopt a micro-USB if they want.

The circuit board can be printed via OSH Park, where $60 gets you three copies (which could come in handy if you mess up and melt something). The case materials are up to your imagination, wood, plastic, whatever you can create that will enclose the other parts. Using a laser cutter for the wood is not a bad idea. You will also need to be able to handle a fair amount of hand-soldering. All told, to cover the basics, it should cost about $200-ish out of pocket.

Once you are done, pop in a standard sized (now mini) SIM card from either AT&T or T-Mobile (it has also been tested in Europe, India and China), and you have an honest to goodness cell phone. If any of you decide to build one, send us your progress, pictures and tell us the story of how it all came together, and most importantly, that it works.


sources: MIT Media Lab via The Verge

photos: Copyright of David Mellis, republished under the Creative Commons license. The images have been cropped.

16 Comments
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posted on 28 Nov 2013, 17:28 7

1. madmikepr (Posts: 125; Member since: 09 Aug 2011)


this is the start of the PhoneBloks or project Ara maybe ??

posted on 28 Nov 2013, 18:04 6

3. Shatter (Posts: 2031; Member since: 29 May 2013)


They don't want phone blocks to become a reality because it means they lose a ton of $.

posted on 29 Nov 2013, 00:53

9. TechBizJP08 (Posts: 495; Member since: 25 Mar 2013)


another cellphone trigger for those crazy bomber.
Not good at all.

posted on 29 Nov 2013, 15:10 1

15. tuminatr (Posts: 693; Member since: 23 Feb 2009)


naa they would just go buy a prepay phone much cheaper

posted on 28 Nov 2013, 17:34

2. SiehSamuel (Posts: 1; Member since: 28 Nov 2013)


This can be the begining of project ara

posted on 28 Nov 2013, 18:30 8

4. mturby (unregistered)


build this for $200 or buy a Moto G for the same price.

posted on 28 Nov 2013, 19:12 2

5. apple4never (Posts: 974; Member since: 08 May 2013)


x2 or even buy a optimus g for 200

posted on 28 Nov 2013, 19:33 2

6. protozeloz (Posts: 5381; Member since: 16 Sep 2010)


Moto G Is Not hipster enough tho

posted on 29 Nov 2013, 09:06

13. DAMONORIBELLO (Posts: 95; Member since: 18 Mar 2012)


Keep buying what they're selling, monkey. ; )

posted on 28 Nov 2013, 19:44

7. Jurdiales (Posts: 121; Member since: 10 Oct 2012)


What if we put an EB40 battery on that piece of wood? (The EB40 is the Droid RAZR MAXX battery - 3300 MAh!)

posted on 29 Nov 2013, 06:36

11. TheOldOne (Posts: 105; Member since: 29 Mar 2012)


no need, you can have a wire going into your backpack, where you will keeping the (really huge) battery ;)

posted on 28 Nov 2013, 23:48

8. itsdeepak4u2000 (Posts: 2866; Member since: 03 Nov 2012)


Phonebloks! by Dave Hakkens may be a start for the project Ara or something similar.

posted on 29 Nov 2013, 04:36 2

10. DOODpls (Posts: 11; Member since: 08 Sep 2013)


Orrr, just buy a $50 phone

posted on 29 Nov 2013, 09:10

14. DAMONORIBELLO (Posts: 95; Member since: 18 Mar 2012)


But what if you can learn to build a phone yourself? Then one day as the parts become less expensive, your new design is the next big hit. If we continue to just buy these things, eventually no one is left to invent.

posted on 29 Nov 2013, 07:01 1

12. PBXtech (Posts: 984; Member since: 21 Oct 2013)


Steampunk keeps coming to mind.

posted on 18 Oct 2014, 04:12

16. ramblingal (Posts: 1; Member since: 18 Oct 2014)


Where in the usa can I find circuit boards half that size? or flexi-boards? I have a design idea and sure could use help sourcing the components.

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