Cheap smartphones these days are really, really cheap. I recently picked up a bunch of budget phones with some models selling for as little as $20… but the only reason they were quite so cheap is because they’re carried-locked and designed for use with specific pre-paid carriers.

That said, it looks like you can basically assemble your own smartphone from $20 in parts. Well, kind of.

Two things to note before you go any further:

  1. This won’t be a very good phone
  2. You’ll need to spend a bit more than $20 if you want silly things like a case, storage, and battery… or a power supply. Shipping will also cost a few bucks.

That said, you get a bit of versatility from building your own device, including support for Android or GNU/Linux-based operating systems.

So here’s the deal: the maker of the Orange Pi line of single-board computers recently launched a model called the Orange Pi 2G-IoT. It sells for just $10 (plus shipping), and as the name suggests, it has a built-in 2G cellular modem.

Now the company has also released a toucshcreen display that you can connect to the Orange Pi 2G-IoT. It also sells for $10, and comes in two versions: one with black bezels and one with white.

The accessory features a 3.5 inch, 800 x 480 pixel TFT display. Like I said, it’s not very good. But it does basically transform Orange Pi’s little screenless, case-less computer into a functional device with a display and touch input.

The Orange Pi 2G-IoT features a 32-bit ARM Cortex-A5 processor, WiFi, Bluetooth, a microSD card slot, a USB 2.0 port, a mic and speaker, and an LCD connector, as well as a 40-pin header and a few other developer-centric features.

There’s also a micro USB port for power. You can pay a few bucks extra for a model that comes with a power supply or just use your own if you have one handy. Theoretically you could also use a USB battery pack, but there’s also a dedicated battery connector on the board… I’m just not sure that the device maker is selling a compatible battery yet.

Orange Pi provides Android 4.4, Raspbian, Ubuntu Server, and several other operating systems for the little computer. So even if you don’t plan to use it as a phone, you could pick one up for use as a DIY server and use the touchscreen display as a cheap monitor and/or input method.

But mostly I just find it intriguing that it’s not only possible to get a $20 smartphone buy purchasing a carrier-locked version, but also buy picking up a DIY set of tools and assembling your own model that’s capable of running a variety of open source software… even the end result in both cases is a relatively crappy phone.

Just keep in mind, you’ll probably end up spending a bit more than $20 on this particularly crappy phone once you account for things like a microSD card for storage, a battery of some sort, and some sort of case to hold the screen and mainboard together.

via CNX Software

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5 replies on “Assemble your own crappy smartphone with $20 in parts”

    1. Sprint only supports a couple of 4G LTE phones capable of operating their band. This phone is 2G only and ATT&T has already dropped that tech and T-Mobile will too, just apparently not this year. Most of the rest of the world has also stopped offering 2G service, I read some are already announcing service end dates for 3G. Never understood who the target audience for this product was in light of the fact it is obsolete before you buy it.

      1. i was thinking the same thing

        2G will work one more year on T-Mobile but otherwise it is history

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