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 =)
- Why do we need Open-Source phones?
- Explaining choices behind the project
- Why not a large display (with a touchscreen)?
- What about the apps?
- Making the phone accessible and using Chinese breakouts
- On volatility of Chinese breakouts; "production-ready" ZeroPhones
- Hardware switches, and audio-based tracking that some companies do