At last year’s JavaOne technical keynote, Oracle devs Jasper Potts and Richard Bair got the feeds buzzing when they unveiled DukePad - a clever JavaFX-powered touchscreen tablet which anyone with a bit of know-all and basic kit could weld together at home. If you were one of them, then brace yourself, because there’s a hot new project for Java-ites to slake their gadget lust on: the PiPhone.
At the heart of the operation is a humble Raspberry Pi, which Linux engineer David Hunt has grafted together with an Adafruit touchscreen interface and a Sim900 GSM/GPRS module to create what is, to all intents and purposes, a basic smartphone - albeit not a very portable one. Due to the fact the tightly packed CPU gets rather toasty, Hunt advises against packing it into any kind of casing, which puts a damper on funky accessorising. But when your phone looks this pleasingly retro, that's a small price to pay.
You can get a full 360 degree perspective of the set up in the video here. Once the whole thing is assembled, you can add any standard prepaid SIM Card to the phone and call your fellow devs to show off your new toy (presumably Hunt isn't dialling his normal number in the demo, or if he is, we imagine it won't be for long).
In total, Hunt writes that the full cost of components came to $158, though you’d need to add on a separate headset and mike to give the device full telephonic functionality. If you're looking to curb a Flappy Bird addiction, this may also be a solid choice, given that for now the PiPhone appears to lack any features beyond good-old fashioned chat.
As Hunt says, ultimately the device is very much “a proof of concept” and if it’s an iPhone type device you’re looking for, this probably isn’t it. Moreover, he doesn’t expect the assemblage to stay intact for any considerable length of time.
Other than being a fun and satisfying build, perhaps what the PiPhone does best is illustrate just how much potential there is within the Raspberry Pi with just a bit of ingenuity and some basic equipment. What Hunt has achieved at home is essentially on par with what would have been cutting edge tech two decades ago - and he’s done it all from the comfort of his own home, at a far lower price tag than any $1000 dollar nineties Nokia.