ZeroPhone - a Raspberry Pi smartphone

Pi Zero-based open-source mobile phone (that you can assemble for 50$ in parts)

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This is a mobile phone that is:

1) As open-source as possible *while also being cheap*
2) Easy to get parts for if you want to assemble one
3) Easy to assemble and repair
4) Free from apps with privacy concerns
5) Easy to write apps for

It costs about 50$ in parts, and all the parts are available on eBay. Most of the phone can be assembled with just a soldering iron. User interface is written using Python, it has an UI framework for easier app development - and it gets better every day.

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Project description and FAQ - January 2019

  • Modern phones are getting more and more complicated and hardware-packed. Unfortunately, that means they're becoming less modifiable and repairable.
  • Phones are getting more and more integrated. Unfortunately, that means more and more possibilities for manufacturers to lock them down without allowing us to modify them.
  • More and more software&hardware is kept closed-sourced. That means it's harder to learn, experiment and customize your phone.

The factors I've listed (integration, complexity and closed-source) are necessary in the world we're living in, with all the advances in engineering, competition between companies, as well as laws in different countries.

However, what if we could have a phone free from those constraints?

We can, and this is the reason ZeroPhone project was born. Nowadays, we can assemble a phone from easily available parts, using available SBCs that run Linux, and we'll be able to adjust it to our needs - unlike with modern phones, when we have to adjust ourselves to suit the workflow the phone offers. With ZeroPhone, hackers can finally have smartphones that are going to work for them, not against them, people with special needs will be able to have to have custom-tailored phones, and people that want to protect their privacy will have a phone that respects it.

Our technical challenges are: developing PCBs that'd be feature-packed, but with components that'd be easy to source and solder, as well as developing mobile phone software that'd be open, high-quality and highly modifiable to suit any needs people might have. However, much bigger challenges are - building a community of people experimenting with ZeroPhone platform, keeping ZeroPhone open-source and independent of any harmful influences, and experimenting with new ways of intergrating smartphones in our lives without selling our lives in the process.


  • Raspberry Pi Zero in a PCB sandwich
  • No proprietary connectors, hard-to-get parts or chips that are tricky to solder
  • All the specifications for making this phone yourself will be available
  • Python as the main language for developing apps (aiming to add other languages later)
  • UI toolkit making development quicker and easier
  • Numeric keypad, 1.3" 128x64 monochrome OLED screen (with screen header supporting other types of screens)
  • 2G modem for phone functions, can be replaced with a 3G modem
  • WiFi (using an ESP8266), HDMI and audio outputs, a free USB host port
  • GPIO expansion headers for customization
  • RGB LED and vibromotor - for notifications
  • Tons of Pi Zero-related hacks that were discovered along the way, that I'll share with you as the project goes =)

ZeroPhone Wiki

Interesting articles:


#pyLCI fork used for ZeroPhone is licensed under Apache License

ZeroPhone PCB files and keypad controller firmware are licensed under GPL v3

ZeroPhone SD card image for alpha prototypes - torrent (665MB)

x-bittorrent - 26.52 kB - 03/06/2017 at 03:38


  • How to actually make money from ZeroPhones? (a.k.a business plan)

    Arsenijsa day ago 0 comments

    So, Hackaday Prize Best Product category requirements require a "business plan" - I have one hour till the deadline when it needs to be published ;-) But, incidentally, profitability is what I've been thinking this year - even though I love working on this, sometimes I still have to get distracted to side projects just to pay bills and buy hardware I need for this project (and there are always some unexpected expenses, like me spilling tea on my laptop last month). Making and selling hardware is the usual way for open-source hardware&software projects to bring some revenue. However, I imagine that with ZeroPhone, it's going to be a little more tricky than that.

    See, ZeroPhone software is open-source, hardware is open-source, parts are really easy to get - there's literally nothing stopping somebody from copying this project if it becomes popular enough, and selling hardware on their own. Furthermore, people are encouraged to assemble their own ZeroPhones - this is kind of the whole point of this project! 

    So, when there's reasearch and development to be funded, there are contests/giveaways/bug bounties to be organized - how to get money for those, when the project's IP is open-source? 

    The most likely starting point for me will be selling ZeroPhone boards with SMD components already on, as well as ZeroPhone kits. For many people, SMD components are still out-of-reach in terms of skill (though, in most cases, it's just that they haven't tried ;-P ). As SMD assembly is much easier for manufacturing, selling PCBs with SMD parts already on would be pretty a low-hanging fruit in business terms. As for kits - this is maybe the most obvious idea, and I might just start first experiments with this one in a couple of weeks =)

    However, as I already mentioned in some worklogs, judging by the survey responses, it seems like most people won't self-assemble ZeroPhones, but instead would like to buy pre-assembled ones. It's perfectly reasonable, and I should have expected this kind of statistic before - though I'm still figuring out how it'll work with the whole "manufacturing" thing. So, that's one source of revenue - ZeroPhone assembly services. While $50 is OK as BOM cost, it certainly doesn't cover assembly and testing, when it's done by somebody else. 

    Then, mod boards. ZeroPhone is extensible, it has extension ports, for which you can develop ZeroPhone add-on boards - for example, my favourite is a SPI flash programming add-on. Of course, you can still use a breadboard and some jumper wires, but just inserting a PCB into a socket is so much quicker and easier. The mod boards are supposed to be open-source, of course, but, in contrast to the ZeroPhone itself, they're not meant to be easy to assemble, or have easy-to-source components - mod boards are not essential to functioning of the phone, after all. So, you can have a mod board with an I2S microphone that absolutely needs reflow soldering with some low-temperature solder, or a mod board with an obscure IR transmitter/receiver, or even some BGA chips, and you are free to sell them to an existing market of ZeroPhone users that want this or that capability for their ZeroPhone - like, an Ethernet socket =)

    Also, there's the "production-optimized ZeroPhones" idea. Basically, a version of ZeroPhone that's optimized for manufacturing instead of self-assembly - and, as a side effect, is smaller, consumes less power, has some additional functionality and might even cost less - but, more importantly, it's much easier to assemble and test those. Granted, they'll be less repairable - but still repairable (being fully open-source), and hardware will likely remain modular, though unlikely in a way that current ZeroPhones are. So, if assembly of ZeroPhones will be too hard of a task for large-scale assembly, this will be the option to pursue.

    Last but not least, there's the "ZeroPhone customization services". While unlikely to be very popular, and also unlikely to be as formal...

    Read more »

  • Developing a simple UPnP/SSDP scan app

    Arsenijs4 days ago 0 comments

    I'm sorry for the lack of code highlighting, especially given that it's crucial in this worklog. It seems to be some kind of glitch - I hope it'll get fixed soon.

    Sometimes, I find interesting articles that explain various network security concepts in a simple way. This week, I've found an article (in Russian, but the part that the snippet is based on is available in English) about UPnP and botnets, with some Python code snippets - and I've decided to build an app around those snippets. As I've built it now, I'm going to describe my app writing workflow - while I still remember it =)

    First, SSH into my ZeroPhone and try this snippet (from the article in Russian):

    #!/usr/bin/env python2
    import socket  
    import sys
    dst = ""  
    if len(sys.argv) > 1:  
        dst = sys.argv[1]
    st = "upnp:rootdevice"  
    if len(sys.argv) > 2:  
        st = sys.argv[2]
    msg = [  
        'M-SEARCH * HTTP/1.1',
        'ST:%s' % (st,),
    s = socket.socket(socket.AF_INET, socket.SOCK_DGRAM, socket.IPPROTO_UDP)  
    s.sendto('\r\n'.join(msg), (dst, 1900) )
    while True:  
            data, addr = s.recvfrom(32*1024)
        except socket.timeout:
        print "[+] %s\n%s" % (addr, data)

     It works and prints stuff! Furthermore, it can be tweaked - the most tweakable value seems to be the timeout value, as that's effectively how long the "scanning" part will be running. Let's convert it into a simple app!

    Read more »

  • Hardware worklog: display problems understood

    Arsenijs07/18/2017 at 03:25 10 comments

    When I was sourcing parts off Taobao, I ordered wrong display breakouts. They looked just like the ones I was supposed to buy, with two small differences - GND was swapped with VCC, and pin header had RST instead of CS. First problem caused me to burned a panel or two, second problem made me waste a week or two of my time. Here's how it goes:

    The ZeroPhone has expansion ports. In particular, there's a 13-pin expansion port on the side, with SPI-0 port on 4 of them. SPI is a really popular communication standard, you can use it to re-program BIOS chips, ATMega/ATTiny/other Atmel chips, show things on LCD/OLED/E-Ink displays, communicate with SD cards, RFID readers, thermocouple amplifiers, GPIO expanders... I have designed two mod boards for this exact headers, and I wanted to include them in the package sent to reviewers and contributors - because I believe it's important to show that ZeroPhone also has tools that make hardware experimentation easier.

    SPI uses the CS pin to signal, which peripheral it currently wants to communicate to. SPI-0 on the Pi has 2 CS lines - one goes to the display header, another goes to the expansion header. If, however, the display doesn't have the CS line exposed, then there's no way to signal to the display that it's not supposed to receive information at this point when, for example, there's an RFID reader on the expansion port. The result will be, at best, garbage shown on the display - at worst, the display might interpret commands sent to RFID reader as commands for the display, and it might even damage the display.

    So, just re-wiring the breakouts, swapping RST with CS, should be easy? After lots of broken panels and wasted time, I understood this wouldn't be the case.

    Read more »

  • Project state - boards to be tested, Hackaday Prize, project plans

    Arsenijs06/21/2017 at 06:31 2 comments

    A new version of ZeroPhone is being in-field tested right now, and the batch of 20 ZeroPhones is almost built - I'll be testing it now.

    Boards in stacks of 5. I ran out of some passives to finish the boards in the bottom left corner, but I'll have them tomorrow.

    The boards pictured are already checked visually, no visible soldering bridges or misplaced components (there were a lot of those). Now they just need some THT stuff attached - that will need lots of human intervention, but I've found some people that can help with it, tomorrow and the day after =) Also, hey, at least I seem to have all the THT parts I need and don't need to run around sourcing them.

    Read more »

  • Project state - assembling ZeroPhones!

    Arsenijs05/28/2017 at 17:20 2 comments

    So, I got the Gamma boards, panelized, 22 front&keypad board panels and 24 back&18650 board panels, all from DirtyPCBs:

    I also got lots of passives and actives, headphone jacks, all that, it seems I have all the parts necessary for ZeroPhone assembly. BTW, if you want to learn to panelize the boards like this, I got a tutorial for you =)

    Read more »

  • On volatility of Chinese breakouts; "production-ready" ZeroPhones

    Arsenijs05/28/2017 at 16:15 1 comment

      As I mentioned earlier, ZeroPhone is basically a PCB sandwich. Now, ZeroPhone consists of three custom boards, a Pi Zero and 5 Chinese breakouts:

      1. ESP-12 board
      2. SIM800-based modem board
      3. 1.3" OLED breakout
      4. Li-Ion charging circuit
      5. Step-up DC-DC board (generates 5V for USB port)

      All of these boards, except (very popular) ESP-12 breakouts, can change. Reasons are - Chinese optimize those breakouts all the time (decreasing BOM count and/or PCB size), want to add features to innovate (consequently, to raise price), and, I think, sometimes just copy the pinouts and board outlines from one another, re-tracing the board.

      For example, here are photos of different Arduino Pro Mini clone PCBs I have:

      Some of them don't look different, but the traces are all routed differently, and some differences are easy to spot from this photo - such as holes changing places. And that's only what I have currently, I've used and seen much more different boards.

      They went through these revisions in a couple of years, and it was mostly moving components around, but pinouts also changed - mostly A4-A7 pins. If you're designing a shield for Pro Minis (for easier assembly and user-friendliness) and it uses I2C, tough luck with sourcing boards.

    Read more »

  • Hardware switches and new discoveries ("paranoia worklog")

    Arsenijs05/24/2017 at 05:07 0 comments

    Let's talk about hardware switches, advertising profiles and side-channel leaks. ZeroPhone is different from many smartphones in that the GSM baseband is separate from the CPU, so there's no proprietary code running on the CPU that comes from the GSM modem manufacturer. The communications happen through UART and are controlled by and directed through open-source software.

    I sometimes got questions about hardware switches. It's a niche but nice feature - not only it's the ultimate power consumption decreasing mechanism, it's also a way to ensure the radio-enabled components can't work when you absolutely don't want them to work - for privacy and safety. ZeroPhone is using off-the-shelf GSM modules - and they have an inner CPU which runs some kind of firmware, and that firmware running on the modem can make it transmit, even though you might not be telling it to transmit. We can implement software kill switches, but maybe the software itself is going to have bugs? The simplest and most powerful "just make sure it's off" hack is cutting the VCC line to the modem, ensuring it doesn't work at all and thus doesn't have the ability to transmit when you want it turned off.

    One more reason for that - what if the GSM modem firmware is malicious? We don't know, SimCom doesn't provide much of source code and SDKs, and one of the modem batches they send out could be programmed with a firmware that's slightly different from the widely-used firmware, with some *extra features*. Can we *trust* the modem? No, not really.

    Read more »

  • Project state - prototype batch will soon be built

    Arsenijs05/10/2017 at 21:46 6 comments

    Components arrived, PCBs ordered

    A week ago I received a box full of goodies:

    Most of the parts pictured are ZeroPhone-specific, and some parts are either extras or parts I ordered for myself =) The bag in the bottom center is full of 18650 holders, all three models pictured. Tape with white squares are the coolest BIOS chip holders ever, that I was trying to find for ages until I finally did find them for very reasonable price on TaoBao. Next to the laptop bag you can see a tape of 50 ESP-12 modules, and the bag next to it is full of Arduino Pro Minis. Ziplock bags in the center, to the left, are full of pushbuttons - the biggest of those bags has 750 buttons, and the plastic tube has 30 MCP23017 ICs. And, of course, there are 25 screens and 20 GSM modules - the latter I didn't have problems with, but screens just keep breaking on me.

    Read more »

  • 4) Publish at least one (1) image illustrating how the project might be used.

    Arsenijs04/30/2017 at 19:34 1 comment

    This may be a sketch, schematic, flow chart, rendering, or other type of image. - from Hackaday Prize rules.

    So, @Radomir Dopieralski drew a sketch:

    And I made a diagram:

    Over these three months, while explaining ZeroPhone to people, I understood one thing - it's a platform, and platforms can be hard to explain because there are so many possible usages. ZeroPhone is a platform for hackers, people not happy with their smartphones, people that want privacy, people that want the power of Linux in their pockets and many more. I hope we'll see a lot of usage examples from all those categories as the project grows =)

  • ZeroPhone software - pyLCI TODO and challenges

    Arsenijs04/30/2017 at 12:20 0 comments


    When I started developing pyLCI, it was meant to be an interface for 2x16 character displays. Therefore, it was optimised for having only two lines of text on the screen and 5 buttons. I'm not aiming to maintain backwards compatibility between pyLCI for character displays and ZeroPhone pyLCI. In fact, the ZeroPhone version of pyLCI might as well be renamed to signify the fact that it's a similar, yet different version of software.

    Right now, ZeroPhone pyLCI is not too far from original pyLCI in terms of capabilites. I'm listing those problems so that there's a list of problems that currently interfere with pyLCI being a good ZeroPhone interface.

    The problems listed are either finished, WIP or still waiting to be solved - I encourage you to help me solve them by either helping me find a good solution, or contributing to the development (I've opened GitHub issues to keep track of problems, they're linked in the titles and sometimes in the text.)


    pyLCI is Python-based Linux Control Interface. However, right now it's becoming ZeroPhone-specific and moving further from pyLCI concept. I'll be thinking of a better name - it obviously has a low priority, but if you have some ideas, please throw them here.

    Read more »

View all 29 project logs

Enjoy this project?



afshaan4 wrote a day ago point

awesome project 

i'm definitely building one for myself

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GNUtoo wrote 2 days ago point

Your project seems to be interesting as:
- As I understand it doesn't use the raspberry pi GPU or
doesn't need to as it uses an SPI display.
- It focus on a minimal and manageable set of functionalities.
- The electronics seem to be assembled in a solid way.

I've some suggestions:
- The Raspberry pi uses a non-free firmware to boot,
but that might be avoidable by using rpi-open-firmware[1]
and adding the missing to make it usable on your hardware.
This will enable privacy conscientious people to use it.
- Make it robust and usable for everybody that have limited
uses cases: not everybody needs a smartphone. Even a
feature phone would work fine.
Also many people would expect or wish to have something
that works out of the box (so non-technical people, or
technical people without much time would be able to use it)
and that works in a robust way(like you don't miss phone calls,
or the phone doesn't break when it rains or travels in your
- Take advantage of the freedom if time permits:
- Make it compatible with Android applications like silence
or Jitsi on GNU/Linux to be able to encrypt calls and SMS.

Robustness suggestions:
- Make a case that is as reliable as the ones on common
- Beware of microSD: According to Andrew 'bunnie' Huang[2]:
"Ultimately, however, every card I’ve encountered
eventually corrupts the filesystem after enough cycles,
it’s just a matter of how long."



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Arsenijs wrote 15 hours ago point

Hi! Great points here, and I've been thinking through them already for quite some time! In a way, this does still use the GPU - it's used by Raspberry Pi in many ways, including pre-Linux bootup, framebuffer, some peripherals IIRC, so it's not as simple as that. Focusing on minimal&manageable set of functionalities is, indeed, what I'm trying to do, at least try to keep myself to it - it's hard to hold back from writing small apps for fun sometimes =) The solidness of electronics is still something I'm currently testing and improving - and it did recently go through 12 days of uptime with no problems, uptime is kind of a "high score" thing for me (but I do have to charge it every night to keep it up).

AFAIK the open-firmware is still lacking quite some peripheral support, but, yes, I've already bookmarked some interesting links about it, and I'm planning to give it a try soon. Maybe there could be a community effort to motivate the developers financially, but then, I'm not sure that the developers consider it to be something they'd be glad to get money for to work on.

Agreed on the robustness. Speaking about it, and cases, a case is going to be developed - there are quite some problems when the phone is out of the case, such as display panel's edges breaking enough to make the image on the display unreadable =( Not to mention that lint from my jeans' pockets is collecting inside the phone by now ;-{

All of the code I'm working with is free, I'm taking advantage of free&open-source software as much as possible at this point - however, I'm sure there are still non-free parts in Raspbian, and I'm not a fan of "not install non-free stuff by default if it's necessary" approach - though I understand it and am moving towards conditions where it's a choice you can make while keeping the user experience the same. Also, unfortunately, it's hard for me to imagine compatibility with Android apps - I perceive it to be quite fundamental of a task, given that ZeroPhone currently runs Raspbian, and the screen doesn't allow for that, either. I'm not saying that the compatibility would be impossible, but I'm sure it'll be tricky. and I'm not well-versed to implement that.

Having encountered SD card corruption myself, I agree. It seems we'll need a good backup app for ZeroPhone - now that gets me thinking... =)

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Arsenijs wrote 07/18/2017 at 03:40 point

Hi! So, I've been testing a ZeroPhone with a Zero W for a month now. Well, it works - I was a little afraid about DC-DC not quite capable of delivering enough juice to everything, but it does seem to work as well as it does on the Zero. The two problems are: the WiFi antenna reception is not that great (could be normal for the Zero W, could be decreased from normal due to all the metal around the antenna - I'll have to put Zero W and Zero-based ZeroPhones next to each other and check), and Bluetooth is not accessible out-of-box - I figure it's because the DT overlay I'm using to remap stable UART back to GSM is not quite enough and there are some configuration files which need changes made (I just didn't have the time to dig further). Other than that, there don't seem to be any problems =)

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elvestal wrote 07/06/2017 at 11:50 point

Can we get this ones with 3G and swedish keyboard? I want 3.. no 5. To start with. Better fire up that emulator and start building a lot of great apps

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Arsenijs wrote 07/16/2017 at 17:27 point

Hi! Damn, no notifications again =( The 3G upgrade is in the works this week. As for the Swedish keyboard - I'll be looking into getting Unicode fonts on the display, then we'll be able to have all kinds of input (and localisation) languages on ZeroPhone =)
If you'll have any questions about app development (like, ways to do things, tips etc.), come to our IRC - #ZeroPhone on freenode,

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elvestal wrote 07/17/2017 at 16:24 point

This is nice, I would love to get the required hardware for building 8-10 phones on our next maker-space meetup, a perfect way to spend a saturday in Sweden

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Arsenijs wrote 07/17/2017 at 23:54 point

This sounds great! It's likely going to run you about 500$ in hardware, and I can walk you through the "ordering parts" process if you'd like me to - I'd be happy to compile a "sourcing parts" page for the Wiki, at last =)

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elvestal wrote 07/18/2017 at 04:26 point

Thank you that would be terrific. I hope we will be able to take it from there, otherwise I guess we'll just have to buy you a ticket. ;)

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Arsenijs wrote 3 days ago point

Sent you a PM, do check =)

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Tindie wrote 06/30/2017 at 21:14 point

We'd love to see this on Tindie :)

  Are you sure? yes | no

Arsenijs wrote 07/18/2017 at 03:43 point

Eventually, I'm going to sell it on Tindie - but this is likely going to be after the crowdfunding =)

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oshpark wrote 06/24/2017 at 19:02 point

Great project!  Are there shared project pages for the boards that were made with us?  Thanks, Drew

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Arsenijs wrote 06/24/2017 at 19:13 point

Hi! Of course, that's the least I could do for you, I'm very thankful for your help when I was working on the beta version! The current version OSHPark shared links can be found in this blog post: , I'll be sharing new versions upon each board release. Once I'll make a ZeroPhone Wiki page on sourcing ZeroPhone components, I'll also add the OSHPark links there.

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oshpark wrote 06/24/2017 at 19:22 point

Great, thanks!

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dj butansky wrote 06/22/2017 at 16:36 point

Looks great.

Since you are in the game could you give an opinion on how hard a POCSAG pager module would be to add to this?  It has been done with RTL-SDR on the N900 but an integrated and low power receiver/decoder makes it an everyday user's option to be radio silent and untracked unless we want to power up the modem and connect to the mobile phone network.  I discussed this with RMS and he would consider finally acquiring a FOSS mobile phone like this if it respected the user's privacy rather than the power of the state and profitability of the mobile network company.

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Arsenijs wrote 06/24/2017 at 10:10 point

Hi! Do you have some specific POGSAC module in mind? It seems some of them use RS232, and we could definitely communicate over that. BTW, I even have 3 or 4 Motorola pagers in my collection of old tech - though when pagers were all the rage, I was too young to have one =) Do you have some info on the RTL-SDR&N900 usage? (seems like it's receive-only)

I think that RMS would be not pleased by the fact that there's still proprietary firmware on the Pi Zero, basically, the whole GPU-that-launches-CPU thing. Once we have a BeagleBone CPU module, however, I think it'll be OK =)

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dj butansky wrote 06/24/2017 at 17:48 point

I am a N900 user still, so obviously not as pure as our prophet.  The RTL-SDR used the regular Linux SDR tools and a customized UI gqrx, I dont recall the decoder for pagers, Morse, etc; but the RTL TV dongle literally ran hot in the fragile USB port, not feasible because of the wasted electricity.  I dont have any pagers anymore in my junk collection but yes when talking to Joerg from the opemnoko/GDC project about a radio-silent but listening pager mode; so he came up with the hacker buss during the design phase for the Neo900, a GTA-4mod for the N900 form factor.  The hacker-buss POCSAG module was never actually designed that I know of but he spoke of there still being RS232 interface easy to PCB hardware around.

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Arsenijs wrote 06/24/2017 at 19:24 point

The RTL-SDR kind of decoding has to use lots of CPU power, too, so the RTL-SDR wouldn't be the only thing running hot.

Check this out: - Products.htm This is literally the first result when searching for "POGSAC module", and I can't find the price but the hardware seems OK. Any info on this?

Also, how do you test the module? Are there still pager networks in some countries? Because I think Latvia has long abandoned the thing - but I can re-check if necessary.

Haven't received a notification about your comment, weird =(

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Arsenijs wrote 3 days ago point

Hi! So, any POGSAC info? I'm trying to understand what the testing setup will look like.

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dj butansky wrote 2 days ago point

For power savings POCSAG pagers use an IC, I played with RTL-SDR but that is like trying to power a hotplate from a USB port.  

FM RX IC->decoder IC->serial out to ???.  
Sadly I do not know the best packaged silicon solutions to suggest to you but below are two good primers on the whole system with amateur radio DIY paging network from start to finish.

if you are an IEEE this should have the design info, I cant read the whole thing though, no login.

here is an example decoder IC datasheet, just add a radio rx IC.

Sadly most info for hacking is for use with RTL-SDR our cheap unexpected RF deus ex machina.
But RTL dongles burn furious power vs a dedicated IC.
I remember getting a month out of my Motorola numeric pager in the 90s, it might be easiest to hot air harvest components from a old pager or cut some traces and patch the PCB to a breadboard, read the datasheets, and plug into the serial lines since you seem to have mastered SM PCB awesomeness.
I can look further for datasheets etc, just let me know; remembering I am a kludge of a hack who only really has the powers of soldering, reading English, and perhaps a principled paranoia against technology enabling a tracking society.

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gir wrote 06/20/2017 at 22:13 point

congrats! I'm _so_ looking forward for this project getting finalized! Arsenijs - you earned your 1k$!

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Arsenijs wrote 06/24/2017 at 10:02 point

Thank you! I hope that you'll continue to make great stuff and inspire others by your great projects, too! =)

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Youlian Troyanov wrote 05/31/2017 at 14:40 point

how long until it's on crowd supply? also could you make it maximally modular? i would like to use parts of your design with a completely different arm board, for example, an allwinner one, like chip. using a different arm board could make the whole thing significantly cheaper.

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Arsenijs wrote 06/24/2017 at 10:00 point

Sorry, for some reason I didn't get an email notification about your comment =( I'm still delayed by the prototype batch, but now I'm building a testing jig to test the parts - then, after fixing all issues found during testing and sending the phones out, the campaign can start =) 

Currently, modularity is more of a side effect, but, due to the fact ZeroPhone consists of separate PCBs, it's indeed possible to re-use them and replace them - for example, you could swap in a different keypad board. However, the processor board is to be stacked with the front and back boards in the current configurations, so unless you want to re-design the front and back boards, you'll need to design a new CPU board with the same pinout and more or less the same form factor as the Pi Zero does. Oh, and you definitely could re-use the schematics =)

I'm curious - which boards do you want to use? I'll be planning for some compatibility with other boards in the next ZeroPhone versions, so knowing about what you want to use would be very helpful because I could plan it in in earlier stages and maybe figure out some problems I wouldn't figure out otherwise,

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Radu Motisan wrote 05/23/2017 at 14:28 point

this was on my todo list as well

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Arsenijs wrote 05/23/2017 at 15:01 point

Hey, join the project if you feel like helping =)

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Andrew Pam wrote 05/04/2017 at 17:12 point

2G mobile has already been switched off in Australia, so this won't be useful without at least a 3G modem.

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Arsenijs wrote 05/14/2017 at 01:24 point

Yes, that's sad. The new version is soon to be in the works, I'm currently consulting people about component choice because a part of the back board needs to be redesigned for a bigger modem.

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Ramon Schepers wrote 04/15/2017 at 21:16 point

i see you are using the pi zero (w), though i wonder why though.
i mean:
1: the pi zero has high power consumption unlike a stm32l4 (for example), so you can use a smaller battery as well
2: if you want to shrink down to a thinner device, you'd need a custom pi zero pcb (including bga package soldering!)
3: the size of a pi zero ain't optimal for a phone-like device.
4: do you really need a pi zero (with it's half gb of ram) for a (dumb?)phone?
5: the pi zero does not have a ADC built in* by default, so if you want the call audio go trough the pi, you'd need to hack a adc in first

note: this is not meant offensively at all, just curious why you did these design choices :)

* = if i am right

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Ramon Schepers wrote 04/15/2017 at 21:17 point

i forgot to mention though: i had a similar idea for quite a while by now :)

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Ricardo Ferro wrote 04/15/2017 at 23:46 point

make one with stm3214 , that thing has ultra low power at 8 nA!

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Arsenijs wrote 04/15/2017 at 22:28 point

Well, it's not "just a DIY phone", and it's not evena  dumbphone, there are enough of those =) It's a Linux-based smartphone, which re-uses all the wonderful software available for Linux, and it's also based on Raspberry Pi - a platform that many people are familiar with. When it comes to "just dumbphones", yes, you can make one with an AVR or an STM, and you'd learn a lot on the way, but it won't have as much potential than a Linux-based phone will - and you'd never out-compete Chinese dumbphones on price!

In general, it's more like a platform for developing whatever you want that could be based on a smartphone. Therefore, it needs to be as much high-level as possible - that's why user-exposed parts are mostly in Python, not a lower-level language =) It's so powerful in terms of capabilities, you can easily use this phone to develop software for itself - and if that means I'd need a bigger battery, I'll just attach a bigger battery. Yes, the size is not the best, the pinouts aren't the best - but then, hardly everything always fits perfectly. Shrinking down would be a problem, but see the #RPi Zero WiFi-Enabled Hardware Password Manager - it's pretty damn small, I have one and I don't see why you'd actually want to make a phone that's even smaller than that =D

*yeah, there's no ADC, but I'm using an ATMega328P on one of the boards, it takes care of all my ADC/PWM needs.

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kunstenaar wrote 04/17/2017 at 18:22 point

Did you have the time to measure, how the Zero W behaves...?

Other options to provide options for lower power consumption? Things like this?: (see also comments there) (you need to scroll down a bit to come to 'Initial Adventures in Power Reduction') (the question what you can achieve with cpufreq, but I do not know its current status on RPi, and if such 'tricks' work) 

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Rishaldy Prisly wrote 04/30/2017 at 20:32 point


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Louis Pearson wrote 04/14/2017 at 05:27 point

I am really intrigued by the possibilities of this project! Definitely interested in getting one when the crowd supply campaign starts :)

In a possible future iteration, might you consider using a EOMA68 ( It isn't quite there yet, but it would make this device even more repairable! Just thought I'd let you know about it.

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Arsenijs wrote 04/15/2017 at 22:10 point

May I interest you in a survey? =D

I'm following their campaign, it seems they're close to having the computer cards manufactured (IIRC last time I got an email update, they were smuggling PCBs and components across the border =D ). Once I'll get through this whole manufacturing thing, and will have enough software (by the end of this year, at least), I'll be looking at making a touchscreen ZeroPhone, or perhaps a tablet, and this is where EOMA68 will be one of my likely picks =) Thank you for the tip!

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Louis Pearson wrote 04/16/2017 at 05:47 point

You're welcome! =) 

I posted this project on the mailing list and the possibility of using an EOMA68 for something like this and lkcl (the creator) seems to like the idea of making a phone using a computer card. He did point out that the EOMA68 might be a little to big to be practical, and actually wants to make a smaller version called EOMA54 for something like that. Here's a link to the concept he has for it:

Looking forward to the crowd supply campaign - I'll try my hardest to support you on there. Looking forward to trying my hand at developing software for the ZeroPhone.

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Arsenijs wrote 05/24/2017 at 03:25 point

If you're interested in ZeroPhone software development and you have some ideas in mind, you can play with the UI emulator already:

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Louis Pearson wrote 05/25/2017 at 04:22 point

Sweet! I'll check that out. Actually, I have a raspberry pi 3 and a oled screen available, so I might try using that for testing. Keep up the good work! :)

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kunstenaar wrote 04/05/2017 at 06:57 point

Update pls... :)

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Arsenijs wrote 04/11/2017 at 21:39 point

Done -! Sorry, had to freelance a bit =)

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Arsenijs wrote 04/30/2017 at 18:37 point

Hi! About your links on power saving - thank you! I've already read through all of them by now, and my power saving plans include assembling a ZeroPhone, cutting its power traces that lead to different components and inserting voltage&current measurement sensors in between, then experimenting with various clock rates, peripheral power saving modes and other software tweaks. I really want to discover new things about Raspberry Pi power saving, since, well, all those available solutions can get you up to some point, but no further, and I don't want to blindly turn features off without actually knowing what causes what level of power consumption and how exactly things could be tweaked for maximum power saving/usability ratio.

EDIT: and no, I didn't yet have the time to measure Zero W power consumption, but that's mainly because I don't expect many surprises, and for now I'm concentrating on other things - but I'll get to it sooner or later =)

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Ember Leona wrote 03/31/2017 at 22:54 point


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alasdair wrote 03/21/2017 at 14:24 point

Really looking forward to your CrowdSupply campaign and the success of this.

Have you had a thought about a permissions system (if required), lets face it the permission system on *droid is bollocks?

Also are there (respected) hardware crypto modules (that are affordable) which could be incorporated - obviously not at the $50 mark you are aiming for?

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Arsenijs wrote 04/11/2017 at 21:50 point

What's wrong with the permission system on Android? I recall two problems - granularity (seems to be improved recently) and the fact that you couldn't just deny the app some of the permissions is asked for (IIRC got fixed in 5.0 and later). I'm not much of an Android guy, so would be interesting to hear your take on this =)

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alasdair wrote 04/11/2017 at 23:21 point

You pretty much hit the nail on the head there however I still noticed issues on 5.0+ (not sure about latest) in that a) not all permissions asked for in the app were toggleable b) some were there that hadnt been asked for. There still seemed to be issues with granularity and inconsistencies with what ws requested upon installation and what you were able to selectively permission once installed (assuming the app had not already abused any of those permissions between installation and toggling). I hope that makes sense. Sorry to hear you needed to take on another project I am sure you will be swamped when you launch the crowdfunding for this.

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adam.klotblixt wrote 03/08/2017 at 16:40 point

A very nice project, looking forward to see the future updates.

One feature I look forward to is WIFI-hotspot, so that this phone could be the ONLY data access point, and all my other commercial pads and smartphones talk through it, with the possibility to REALLY be sure what data comes through. A true portable router of sorts. 3G or better is of course nicer and surely in the path.

Please, make sure the phone audio can be recorded properly, ideally into separated stereo (left: caller, right:callee). Many smartphones are really bad at sound-mixing and audio-paths.

And I also see a great potential to be able to use ANY size battery for this phone! Imagine having a phone that has the potential to dock several size batteries. Mmm...

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Arsenijs wrote 04/11/2017 at 21:48 point

Will keep the audio advice in mind. As of now, GSM audio and Pi Zero are not interconnected, but I'm already adding a way to connect an add-on board to output/input audio data to GSM modem. With the setup that I'm thinking about, recording audio into any combination of channels would be a matter of software.

We'll get to having WiFi hotspot app sooner or later =) Also, I've already experimented with batteries - as long as it's 1s and Li-Ion (the usual kind of chemistry), you should be able to just power it from that without any modifications or addons. I've used a 450mAh battery for a while, then got tired with low battery life (there are no significant optimizations for battery power in ZeroPhone software yet) and upgraded it to 2x18650 in parallel - I figure it now has about 4000mAh of battery, and it does get me through a day of listening to music non-stop =)

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Arsenijs wrote 02/28/2017 at 17:30 point

I ordered two of those, expect my review in a week or two =)

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Craig Hissett wrote 02/15/2017 at 13:17 point

Received my kit buddy - thank you so much!

As soon as my screen arrives I'll get this bad boy assembled and start having some fun!


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Arsenijs wrote 02/15/2017 at 13:20 point

Nice! Thank you for notifying, I will get to preparing the SD card images tomorrow =)

You can actually assemble everything without the display - if you have some free time, the display can easily be soldered last.

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Craig Hissett wrote 02/15/2017 at 13:33 point

Awesome sauce! Thanks mate!

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kunstenaar wrote 02/15/2017 at 12:24 point

Just fyi:

Sounds we getting closer to 'bloblessness'... Have a good read. ;)

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Arsenijs wrote 02/15/2017 at 15:45 point

It was a very educational read, indeed! Wondering if it'll ever get usable - maybe, with all the interest to both this and the ZeroPhone project, it will =)

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