DIY educational mobile phone

Do you love programming and inventing? Then you will definitely love the MAKERphone DIY kit, from which you can assemble a real mobile phone and program its stuffing on Arduino, Python or Scratch.

MAKERphone - DIY educational mobile phone

Yes, yes – with this mobile phone you can make calls, exchange messages, use the clock and alarm, play MP3, access the Internet via Wi-Fi or 4G mobile Internet, connect Bluetooth devices, run MAKERbuino games (MAKERbuino is the first project of the same developers) or program your own games and applications. There is a color screen, there are 8 RGB LEDs on the case, and the color of the top panel can match your mood.

The developers of this smartphone (see photo below), led by 20-year-old enthusiast from Croatia Albert Gaishak, claim that with the MAKERphone kit you will learn what resistors are, get basic knowledge of electronics, learn how to solder, understand how it works smartphone, as well as practice programming with Scratch, Python and Arduino (based on C/C++). The main goal of the project is to turn the consumer into a creator.

Makerphone Developers

When you buy this set, you get the phone disassembled (although there is also an assembled version). To assemble it, you will need a regular soldering iron, solder, pliers, a screwdriver and electrical tape. If you are into electronics, then you should already have all this. And if you are just starting out, then the listed tools will be inexpensive.

Soldering MAKERphone

The set is designed for adults and children over 11 years of age. True, children may need help. Estimated assembly time is 7 hours. However, depending on experience, this time may vary. And when the gadget is assembled, you will have wide opportunities for its use.

The kit contains the following components:

    1. The main board that connects all other components into a single device;
    2. Body – several sheets of acrylic cut with a laser cutter;
    3. Color TFT-display with a resolution of 128×160;
    4. GSM module responsible for calls and text messages;
    5. A microcomputer module that includes a dual-core processor with built-in Wi-Fi, BLE, and charging circuitry;
    6. Sound module – a board with a DAC chip (digital-to-analog converter) and a headphone jack for playing music (responsible for ringtones, alarms, sound effects in games);
    7. Amplifier module for creating loud sounds;
    8. Antenna, for excellent phone signal;
    9. Package with electronic components such as buttons, colored button covers, SD memory card with pre-installed games and applications.

MAKERphone set

The tools needed to assemble the phone, if you need them, are also collected in a separate set:

    1. USB soldering iron (lightweight and portable);
    2. Metal stand for soldering iron;
    3. USB cable for soldering iron;
    4. Screwdriver;
    5. Power adapter for soldering iron;
    6. Solder;
    7. Pliers with needle noses;
    8. Side cutters.

MAKERphone assembly tools

After assembling the phone, you will be able to program in Python, or rather in its special version called MicroPython, or in Scratch using the Whitecat IDE. In addition, MAKERphone is based on the Arduino-compatible ESP32 microcontroller and can be programmed in the Arduino IDE. By the way, MAKERphone is compatible with many of the Arduino-related examples of interfacing with various hardware and software components, as well as with most of the Arduino libraries available on the Internet, and will work with many Arduino boards and modules with little or no changes to the library code.

Programming for MAKERphone in Arduino IDE

As already mentioned above, the set includes an SD card with many pre-installed applications, tools and games. There are applications familiar to mobile phones, such as contacts, SMS, dialer, music player, as well as a collection of games inspired by GameBoy games.

Apps and games in MAKERphone

And if you make your own program or game using Python, Scratch or Arduino IDE, compile it into an executable file and put it on an SD card, then your program or game will be available from the “applications” menu item.

MAKER phone menu

The list of games and applications will look like this:

List of additional games and applications in MAKERphone

For MAKERphone, a library has been developed that contains commands that allow you to easily:

      • Add menus and other graphic elements built into applications;
      • Create and play sound effects and music;
      • Draw and make animation on the screen;
      • Control the MAKERphone hardware, such as making calls, reading files from the SD card, flashing LEDs.

The MAKERphone user interface can be customized to suit your mood, using settings, or by editing the settings file on the SD card:

Themes on the MAKERphone screen

MAKERphone can play music or video and show photos. There is support for MP3 files and you can set your favorite ringtone music.

MP3 playback on MAKERphone

8 individually controllable RGB LEDs with a 60FPS refresh rate will make your MAKERphone shine in a unique way.

Smooth color change of MAKERphone LEDs

In games, LEDs can achieve special effects in games, such as making the MAKERphone red when you’re low on health, or making flashes when shooting.

Controlling LEDs in MAKERphone

You can also use the LEDs as a powerful flashlight or as a giant notification indicator.

By the way, you can choose the look of your MAKERphone with panels of different colors, materials and transparency.

Changeable appearance of MAKERphone

Now some technical information:

      • MCU with Xtensa LX6 dual-core 32-bit microprocessor running at 160 MHz and executing up to 600 DMIPS, 4 MB onboard flash + 520 KB SRAM, I2c, i2s, UART, PWM interfaces;
      • Color display 1.8 inches, 160×128 dots (RGB 16bit), default refresh rate 25FPS, increases to 50FPS, backlight level controllable.
      • Battery LiPo 3.7V 600mAh, charged via micro USB B port, enough for about 3 days of normal use;
      • Sound: 10-bit DAC (PCM5102), MP3 multi-channel playback, 2W class D audio amplifier, 3.5mm audio jack, 1W speaker, dedicated EVC (electronic volume control – PT2257);
      • Rear 8 independent and controllable RGB LEDs for lighting effects;
      • Buttons: 4-way mechanical joystick, 12-button numeric keypad, A (confirm), B (back), 4 multipurpose address buttons (C, D, E, F);
      • Micro SD card slot compatible with FAT and FAT32;
      • RTC (real time clock): DS3231 – I²C integrated extremely accurate temperature compensated clock;
      • Feedback: a motor with a rotating eccentric that vibrates the phone;
      • Network: built-in Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth v4.2 BR/EDR and BLE, SIM800L GSM chipset supporting 850/900/1800/1900 MHz bands, Micro SIM card slot.

MAKERphone software and hardware schematics are completely open and available to everyone. This means you can use the documentation to experiment with hardware and software, and create your own MAKERphone-compatible boards and modules.

If you like the project, you can support it by ordering one of the following kits on Kickstarter: Standard Kit for $94, Standard Kit with Tools for $119, or Pre-Assembled Phone for $99 (price does not include shipping). In the same place you can find sets with other equipment. The expected delivery date for paid pre-orders is March 2019.

For more information about MAKERphone, see the Kickstarter website.

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