Beepberry is a pocket computer designed for instant messaging. It’s also a hackable, customizable device that can be repurposed to do a bunch of other things.
It features a 2.7 inch black and white Sharp memory LCD display and a keyboard that’s literally a spare part from a BlackBerry Classic smartphone. Beepberry is designed to work with a Raspberry Pi Zero W single-board computer and run software that connects to the Beeper messaging service. But you can also bring your own similary-sized single-board computer and software to make the device your own.
Beeper is a multi-platform messaging service that allows you to use a single app to chat with users on 15 different services including WhatsApp, Slack, Google Chat, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Discord, and even iMessage (if you’re willing to leave an Apple device running constantly to act as a “bridge”).
Beeper was founded by Eric Migicovsky, who’s also the founder of the now-defunct ePaper smartwatch company Pebble. He’s also the driving force behind the Small Android Phone initiative. Clearly he has a thing for small, versatile, hacker-friendly gadgets.
At this point Beepberry is more of a dev kit than a product designed for end users. For $79 you can pick up a Beepberry with a 2.7 inch, 400 x 240 pixel display, a backlit keyboard, a printed circuit board and a 2,000 mAh battery.
But the dev kit doesn’t include a case: you’ll have to 3D print or buy your own. You’ll also need to supply your own microSD card for storage and install software yourself. And you’ll have to figure out how to hold the battery in place on your own.
The starting price also doesn’t actually include the computer that powers the Beepberry. You can either pay $99 for a kit that includes a Raspberry Pi Zero W or bring your own single-board computer.
While the Beepberry was designed to be a portable messaging devices that runs a Linux-based operating system and connects to the Beepberry service, it also doesn’t currently have any sort of cellular functionality. You can connect to the internet over WiFi thanks to the wireless capabilities of the Raspberry Pi Zero W. But if you’re planning to use it in places without WiFi access then you may need to bring along a full-function phone or mobile hotspot to share your internet connection.
But according to the Beepberry blog, the makers are considering adding support for a 4G LTE modem, LoRA radio, or other hardware by leveraging the USB ports or GPIO pins.
And since this thing is basically designed to work with small, low-power, Linux-compatible single-board computers, there’s nothing stopping you from using it as a portable terminal, gaming device, or for other applications.
The Beepberry is available for purchase from the SQFMI shop, although supplies are limited: only 50 were in stock when the product was announced yesterday, and it’s unclear if any of those are left. So you might have to wait for the next production run to be completed before you can get your hands on one.