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New OS and hardware designs in the works

A project log for Open Source Minimalist Phone

A modern, minimalist device that doesn't break the bank.

Johnny SteneJohnny Stene 05/30/2021 at 01:580 Comments

Hello!

I have just remembered that I have a Hackaday page, so I figured I'd write a bit of an update. I finished making my first true "handheld" prototype, complete with an OS demo. It had lots of problems - I fried all of my custom boards and couldn't get new parts in time, so I ended up cramming an old prototype into the case instead - only the keypad remained from the custom boards. I intended on improving the prototype a bit more before showing it off, but I sent a small video to someone, and it ended up getting shared with others. It ended up being to my advantage, as I got a few recommendations from others about improvements I could make. Among these was the idea to make a QWERTY-style phone with an E-ink display rather than my Candybar phone with an LCD display. Originally, I didn't think it was possible, but I found out the parts needed were much cheaper than I thought.

With the new redesign, the phone has a much more powerful ARM CPU coupled with more RAM and a MicroSD card slot for storage. Software changes are of course needed to be able to take advantage of the more powerful hardware, so I've decided to switch from a dual-threaded RTOS to using the full Linux kernel. With these changes comes more features - there's now enough spare CPU cycles that I can have some nice features like a music player, and possibly even GPS navigation.

For the new screen, I've decided to use Waveshare's 2.7" E-ink panels because of their low cost and their super fast (for an E-ink) 2-3 second response times. The panels are also very easy to obtain, so sourcing replacements if your phone gets damaged shouldn't be a problem. I've thrown together a basic development kit with an old Raspberry Pi 2 and the HAT version of the E-ink panels, so I can work on the OS while I get the new boards designed and fabricated. The new screen also allows for much easier modularity - with the LCDs, a custom board would be needed to make them user-serviceable, and that would have made sourcing replacements basically impossible from anyone except for me.

I hope to get screenshots of the new OS out soon, along with pictures of mockup phones showcasing what the final design could look like. I'll also be launching a Kickstarter campaign and announcing the phone's final name in the coming months, so stay tuned.

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