Folks have been using Raspberry Pi computers to build smartphones and other mobile devices for almost as long as Raspberry Pi hardware has been around. But developer Evan Robinson’s new OURphone is a new build that does an impressive job of balancing features, price, and open source design. It’s kind of chunky though.

The OURphone combines a Raspberry Pi 3 with a 4 inch touchscreen display, a 4G modem, and a case that’s cut from a sheet of plywood. The total cost of parts is around $200, although the designs could be adapted to add a better display, faster processor or other upgrades.

Robinson describes the build process, as well as the goals for the project in a GitHub repository where you’ll also find design files and software that allows you to use the Linux-based Raspbian operating system a bit more like a smartphone OS.

Probably the first thing that jumps out about this build is its rather chunky design. At 160 x 90 x 30mm (6.3″ x 3.5″ x 1.2″) it’s thicker than most modern smartphones (and most modern laptops, for that matter). But the up side to this design is that there’s room to stuff an entire Raspberry Pi Model B inside the case without the need to cut off any ports or make any significant modifications.

Another limiting factor to Robinson’s build is the display. The 4 inch, 800 x 480 pixel resistive touchscreen display feels like something from the earliest days of the smartphone era.

While resistive touch displays aren’t quite as finger-friendly as the capacitive touch displays found on most smartphones released in the past 15 years, they do work nicely with a passive stylus. And that can be handy if you’re using an operating system like Raspbian that was designed for keyboard and mouse input rather than touch, as it can be easier to hit small spots on the screen with a stylus.

That said, Robinson’s roadmap for future improvements already includes a larger touchscreen with capacitive touch support. Also on the roadmap? Either customize Raspbian further so that it’s more touch-friendly or switch to a different operating system (possibly one of the many mobile Linux distributions designed for phones, such as postmarketOS, Mobian, or Ubuntu Touch).

You can find more details about the OURphone, as well as everything you’d need to make your own, at GitHub.

Or you could just buy a PinePhone if you’re looking for a similarly-priced phone that runs Linux-based operating systems, but which fits more easily into your pocket and doesn’t require any assembly.

via LinMOB, HackADay and Hackster

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  1. Just don’t drop it in water…

    But seriously, this seems utterly pointless to me. I’m not knocking them for their creativity and doing it just for the sake of doing it. But I really don’t see a point in such a device.

    I much rather liked that one from a couple years ago where someone repurposed a rotary dial phone, combined with a raspberry pi module, and made a cellular phone out of it that actually worked. That was really cool.

    1. You need to re-contextualize. This is a pocketable PC with always available internet. Just a simple upgrade to a larger 6 inch higher density screen and it would be useful to many people as an internet browser/online media player/remote server access and monitoring/network hacker tool.

      But even staying with the smaller screen, don’t forget about the available LAN port and built-in wifi. What you have is a portable router that can be dropped in place to provide instant internet like those mobile hotspots the phone companies rip you off with. Instead of buying those locked down crap, anyone can build this instead to have full control over their hardware and be able to install more features like a firewall, vpn or tor gateway.

      Further more consider there are many rural areas in less developed countries with only enough funds to get cell towers built. Cable or fiber high speed broadband is currently cost prohibitive to even think about for them. A cheap Pi box like this can easily be deployed by a community or organization to create small networks for each local schools or small business to quickly get online access even if the speed will be slower. But that is better than nothing while waiting for the government to get their act together. Pair the Pi with some solar gear for a very sustainable infrastructure.

      1. this same problem
        2-3h working time
        better way is buy a pinephone or meybe in future pine tablet 2 (not yet because not all works prop. and have still blobs)