After designing and building a cellphone with a rotary dial and an intentionally limited feature set last year, engineer Justine Haupt started selling a basic kit for under $100 last June, but customers still had to source some parts on their own.

Now Haupt’s company, Sky’s Edge, is taking pre-orders for a full-fledged Rotary Un-Smartphone Kit that comes with everything you need to have a pocket-sized smartphone capable of connecting to cellular networks for phone calls… and not much more than that.

Rotary Un-Smartphone Kit (Sky’s Edge)

A fully assembled Rotary Un-Smartphone features a rotary dialer, a 4G cellular modem (with support for 3G and 2G networks), and a SIM card reader, and a printed circuit board with an AtMega2560 Arduino-compatible microcontroller. There’s a small OLED display on the front of the device for caller ID and an ePaper screen on the back that can display messages indefinitely.

Contact details can be stored on a microSD card for a speed dial function. There’s a built-in mic that can be physically disconnected when you’re not using it, a mechanical bell that rings when a call is coming in, a headphone jack, indicator LED lights, and a USB-C port for charging.

The The Rotary Un-Smartphone comes as a kit with all the hardware you need to assemble the phone as well as a user manual with instructions. Among other things, this allows Sky’s Edge to sell the kit without FCC licensing or providing the level of support customers might expect from a pre-assembled device. So a DIY kit makes it more clear that this is a phone for hardware hackers and/or other enthusiasts.

That said, you don’t need a soldering iron, glue, or cutting tools to assemble the phone. Everything can be put together with basic tools including screwdrivers and tweezers.

Priced at $390, the kit costs less than an iPhone, but it’s not exactly cheap. But this isn’t a mass produced device, so you’re paying for a fairly unique product featuring a specific set of components. If you’d rather build your own from scratch the electrical, mechanical, and firmware files are all open source, but I suspect you’d spend at least as much money (and a lot more time) trying to replicate Haupt’s work.

The Rotary Un-Smartphone went up for pre-order in January, 2021 with an estimated ship date of spring of that year, but due to the global supply chain shortage, it has yet to actually begin shipping. Now Haupt says orders placed now should begin shipping “around November of 2022.”

You can find more details at Sky’s Edge, or see Haupt’s writeup of the original DIY rotary phone to see how it all began.

via CNX Software

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4 replies on “Rotary Un-Smartphone is up for pre-order, ships November, 2022”

  1. I would prefer a physical keypad over the rotary dial which is just an unnecessary inconvenience to use.

  2. This is funny. I worked on one of the world’s first cordless phones at Bell Labs starting in 1963. (see Wikipedia) Since we could not get small reliable TT keypads from our manufacturing division (Western Electric), we designed and built the phones with a small rotary dial.

  3. This is not what we meant when we said we wanted an old-school phone.

    It’s weird in a cool sort of way, but I’m kinda shocked that there’s enough interest to justify production.

    1. Considering that stuff like <a href”=””>this reached production and you can still buy it, it doesn’t surprise me that much.
      I still wonder who might completely forego a smartphone, even a pinephone, in favor of either device though.

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