April 30, 2014

Engineer Constructs Smartphone From Raspberry Pi

Enid Burns for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

The list of components may be more worthy of a hobbyist's drawer of random parts than MacGyver's toolbox, but a Linux engineer just made a smartphone for $158 using a Raspberry Pi to power the device.

Parts for the "PiPhone" include a Raspberry Pi minicomputer; a battery pack; a small touchscreen TFT module; a DC-DC boost converter and a GSM/GPRS modem with antenna, Fierce CIO reports. The engineer was able to construct the smartphone without soldering pieces together.

The PiPhone was built by David Hunt of David Hunt Photography from Limerick, Ireland. The PiPhone is functional enough to make calls, send text messages and data. "It’s more of a proof of concept to see what could be done with a relatively small form factor with off-the-shelf (cheap) components. I don’t expect everyone to be rushing out to build this one, but I had great fun in doing it, as it builds quite nicely on my previous projects, especially the Lapse Pi, a touchscreen time-lapse controller, and uses most of the same hardware," wrote David Hunt, on his blog.

While the device has a SIM900 GSM/GPRS module radio, it does require a SIM card from a commercial carrier such as Verizon or AT&T for service.

The PiPhone isn't going to be picked up by any carriers, at least not in its current form of exposed boards and parts. However, the $158 cost of the device does serve as an example that it is possible to make an inexpensive smartphone. While many phones cost less when paired with a two-year contract, those handsets are often subsidized. The full cost of some smartphones is well over $500.

"Though the project wasn't particularly innovative, it does show how common components that are required for computing and Internet access are now highly affordable. This means that hackers could conceivably put together custom hacking tools that may not look like your typical computing device," wrote Fierce Wireless reporter Paul Mah.

"The Wi-Fi Pineapple, for example, is a $99 hardware that can run Linux and the open-source Karma Wi-Fi attack program. Wired to a battery, it becomes a highly portable hacking tool that can be used to break into Wi-Fi networks," Mah added.

The PiPhone project does help encourage students and young engineers to think of the different uses for the Raspberry Pi and other mini computers available, the Telegraph reports.

"Raspberry Pi was created with the intention of promoting the teaching of basic computer science in schools. The £30 single-board computer consists of a circuit board, sockets for a keyboard, monitor and Ethernet cable, and an all-in-one “system on a chip” to do all the number crunching, graphics and memory work," wrote Sophie Curtis of the Telegraph UK.

The $35 Raspberry Pi reached two million units in sales after two years of availability last fall. In the time it has been available, several innovative projects have been completed using the tiny computer. A 12-year old built a time-lapse camera, and many Raspberry Pi units have been used to build media centers and DVRs to record and view television and other video content.