A completely open-source mobile phone that you can assemble for 50$

You care about your privacy?

You do not trust the manufacturers of smartphones and the backdoors that can be inserted into the firmware?

You fear being intercepted?

With just $50 you can build your personal open-source smartphone, based on Raspberry PI Zero, Linux and Python.

Of course, it is not beautiful and not even a performance monster, but it’s all ‘homemade’!

You can find the project on hackaday.io:

What can it be used for?

  • Calling and SMS — this is the first functionality to be implemented, and will be considered crucial in the development.
  • All the basic apps — alarm clock, calendar, calculator, phonebook, file browser, web browser and music player.
  • Your own apps — SDK will be provided and it will be developer-friendly. The laand I’ll personally expect, if not at least aid with, social media apps — for a good start, since those are the apps people spend most time in.
  • Running Linux software — since it’s a computer after all, you can run ARM compatible (thus, almost all) Linux programs on it. A Raspberry Pi can give you a desktop with a monitor, keyboard and a mouse? This phone can, too! You like to use SSH, like me? It’s going to be available!
  • Pentesting — lots of fun, a nice hobby for many and well-paying work for some, this phone can do it too.
  • Security and privacy — one of the features that isn’t typically provided but can mean anything from something simply bringing peace of mind to a matter of life and death.
  • Experimenting — there’ll be a sensor port available for connecting anything you think could add useful functions to your phone. Want to wake up when the sun rises? Add a light sensor! An additional display for notifications? Easy, connect and write code! A Geiger counter? Can have it, too!

But, why?

Arsenijs explains it in this post:

Why develop something new when there are dumbphones and rootable smartphones available?

Three main factors are accessibility, innovation and openness of both hardware and software. It’s that much easier to tinker with mobile phones and write all kinds of apps when you have a phone that’s as modifiable as possible and is cheap. Besides, I have problems with the OS that seems obvious for open-source — Android (explained below).

For me, this project is a huge undertaking that, if done right, will influence the way we perceive mobile phones, help us in solving the privacy and security concerns we’re currently facing, as well as allow us to develop better open-source GSM technology and power our mobile phone hacks. I believe this can change the world for the better — by enabling people to experiment with things that have become inseparable from us but are so far away from being open to experiments.

Besides, this is an open-source Linux-powered phone you can independently assemble for <50$ — that’s pretty cool and alone deserves being brought to life!