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

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.



1. madmikepr

Posts: 138; Member since: Aug 09, 2011

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

3. Shatter

Posts: 2036; Member since: May 29, 2013

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

9. TechBizJP08

Posts: 495; Member since: Mar 25, 2013

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

15. tuminatr

Posts: 1141; Member since: Feb 23, 2009

naa they would just go buy a prepay phone much cheaper

2. SiehSamuel

Posts: 1; Member since: Nov 28, 2013

This can be the begining of project ara

4. mturby unregistered

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

5. apple4never

Posts: 1064; Member since: May 08, 2013

x2 or even buy a optimus g for 200

6. protozeloz

Posts: 5396; Member since: Sep 16, 2010

Moto G Is Not hipster enough tho


Posts: 109; Member since: Mar 18, 2012

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

7. Jurdiales

Posts: 138; Member since: Oct 10, 2012

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

11. TheOldOne

Posts: 196; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

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

8. itsdeepak4u2000

Posts: 3718; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

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

10. DOODpls

Posts: 14; Member since: Sep 08, 2013

Orrr, just buy a $50 phone


Posts: 109; Member since: Mar 18, 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.

12. PBXtech

Posts: 1032; Member since: Oct 21, 2013

Steampunk keeps coming to mind.

16. ramblingal

Posts: 1; Member since: Oct 18, 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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