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What is the WiPhone?
WiPhone is a unique, minimal phone.
It's designed to enable hackers by making it easy to extend and modify the electronics and software. Something typical phones are not good for.
WiPhone is also a VoIP mobile phone. It uses WIFI to make HD voice calls, for free. This means that there is no required service contract - and it's yours for life.
Yet So Stylish And Sophisticated!
WiPhone Pro with Clear Front Face:
Smartphones Are A Little Too Smart
What's the best platform you can imagine for electronics hacking?
It should probably be adaptable, powerful, and programmable. Small and portable would be nice. Maybe with a durable case? What about a built in user interface with things like an LCD screen and button panel? A battery and built-in charging system? Wireless connectivity?
Hey... we just described a mobile phone!
But why aren't people building more projects based on their smartphones? Well, there are a few issues:
- no electrical connectors to directly connect to the outside world
- no way to easily control the low level hardware, like processor output pins
- opaque development environment and huge IDE
- not designed for easy disassembly, repair, or modification
WiPhone solves these problems and gives hackers, makers, and engineers the tool we all wish our phones could be. Nice package, direct access to I/O, an easy to program ESP32 processor. All the basics are already set up: user interface, power management and on/off circuit, working code.
You can get straight to work building your project, not setting up the boring parts like power management again and again. And once you're done it's durable and looks great. No ratsnest of wires or ugly stack of dev boards just to get the basic functionality.
Modern smartphones are more and more a tool we don't own, but instead one we're only allowed to carry around. One that serves the interests of various tracking networks, corporate boards, and government organizations. You don't own it, it owns you. It tracks you, serves you ads, and sucks away your time with mindless dopamine hits. We want a phone that's back in our control, optimized for our convenience.
Free Calling! No Hacking Required!
WiPhone is different beast from most smartphones these days. WiPhone uses the existing WiFi around you to make HD Voice calls. For free. Buy it once and it's yours.
Works on most broadband WiFi networks (including most home WiFi connections). No service contract required, and you can even upgrade the firmware or expand the hardware to do things it wasn't originally intended for.
What Is This Magical Free Calling You Speak of? Tell me more...
Free calling starts with a SIP account. SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol, and it's a standard way to make call over the internet. VoIP is a related term that you may have heard of. There are commercial services that provide SIP/VoIP accounts, and some of them have free accounts. Most consumers use VoIP apps like Skype and Whatsapp, but we can still use the underlying technology directly. After the campaign we'll spend more time testing services to make our software and instructions work as seamlessly as possible.
Step 1: Get a SIP account (many different ways to do this, but we wrote up a simple how-to that might get you started).
Step 2: Log in on your WiPhone using the credentials from your SIP account (user name, password, and server):
Step 3: Make a Call:
Note: we're still working through compatibility with various SIP providers since many of them implement the standard in various ways. Once the WiPhones ship we'll update our getting started instructions to use the servers we find to be most reliable.
What people are saying about WiPhone:
“This is a great cross over between what people know (phones) and what people really want to do (hack)." -Nathan Seidle, Sparkfun Founder
“The WiPhone is a really rather neatly put together project.” -Alasdair Allan, Hackster.io
“If you want a phone that respects your right to repair, this is the project to look at.” -Brian Benchoff, Hackaday.com
“So excited by this project I tried to make one myself” -Random Guy On Our YouTube Channel
First Class Expansion Capabilities
WiPhone is expandable through daughter boards. The whole back of the phone is a replaceable panel that accepts a standard 1.6mm thickness PCB, which you can use to add whatever functionality you like.
We made a WiPhone into an RC car:
And we also made the coolest way to ever to answer a phone:
The daughterboard headers have power, digital I/O, and all the common embedded busses like SPI, I2C, and UART.
Develop in Arduino/C++ or Python. We'll also provide basic tutorials covering how to write to the screen, connect to the hardware, save data to memory, etc. We'll let you give us feedback on what's most important to you.
Note: Based on the backer survey, we'll prioritize adding a cellular radio (LTE), and secure communications after the campaign. Back now to get first access to the new hardware as it becomes available.
See the relevant Project Update for details.
We have big plans for the WiPhone, but we also need to start off on solid footing. We've set a relatively low funding goal of $40k that will let us cover the costs to finish production of the phones themselves and not much more. That way we can get phones in the hands of people that want them.
But there's a lot of potential waiting to be unlocked. If we reach $100k of phones, we'll have enough of a cushion to thoroughly test the design and ultimately deliver a better product. It will also allow us to start taking on extra work. If we reach $100k we'll start letting backers choose stretch goals.
Some stretch goals would add software features to the WiPhone itself. Others will be to take on design and production of daughterboards and other accessories.
- Wireless Firmware Updates:Wireless firmware updates will allow you to easily upgrade your firmware.
- Integrated Python Interpreter: Currently we'll ship the WiPhone with a separate firmware that allows running MicroPython apps. This stretch goal would allow us to merge the Python interpreter into the main phone firmware to run user apps directly within the phone firmware.
- Remote Desktop: View and control your WiPhone through a webpage.
- Encrypted Communications: Add secure communication to calls and messages
- Threaded Messaging: Add an advanced view to text messages for a more modern chat experience
- Additional Colors: Add some variety to the clear/gray options we have now for face colors.
- Advanced Tutorials: Deeper tutorials than the basic ones we'll ship for the basic campaign. We could go step-by-step through writing a complete app, using the phone to build an entire project, or designing a daughterboard from scratch. We'll let you give us feedback on what's most important to you.
We’ve designed a number of cool accessories that will help you get the most out of WiPhone, from motors to turn your phone into an RC car, to a rugged enclosure for long term installation projects, to a mega battery pack for life’s longer adventures.
Daughterboards are what make the WiPhone so unique. Pre-made designs allow you to swap in functionality as you need it, or you can make your own to easily and quickly prototype new ideas or customize your phone to do the things you need.
The LTE daughterboard will add mobile connectivity for those of you who want to take your WiPhone out away from WiFi. The WiPhone was not designed to use a cellular radio, but after hearing feedback form so many people wanting it, we scratched our heads for a while and figured out a way to make it happen.
Mega Battery Pack
The WiPhone battery should already last a full day, but if you really want to go nuts, the Mega Battery Pack is here to assist you.
LoRa is a radio technology that enables sending short packets of data over a long range (generally kilometers). The LoRa daughter board is designed around the HopeRF RFM95W LoRa-enabled radio module. An onboard 915 MHz PCB antenna makes the board handy and easy to carry anywhere. For users who want more range, add an external antenna using the U.fl connector.
Have you ever wanted a remote control phone that looks vaguely like a tractor? Or maybe your screen addiction has gotten so bad a single colorful glowing rectangle just isn’t enough of a dopamine hit any more? Well, you’re in luck because this RC car daughterboard ticks those boxes and so many more.
To use the car, you’ll need 2 WiPhones since one acts as a controller (or make your own controller using anything that can send UDP packets). The controller phone runs an app that sends commands to the car, and on the RC car side the daughterboard uses a DRV8833 dual H bridge and some micro gearmotors with matching wheels to drive around.
The current version of the RC car is just a prototype. If we make this stretch goal we'll revisit the mechanical parts.
We could go 2 ways with this:
Cheaper/lower resolution, or more expensive/high resolution. Maybe something like 2MP fixed lens, or 5MP with autofocus.
In either case it probably won't be possible to display real time video on the screen due to bandwidth limitations out to the daughterboard and the screen refresh rate.
The Bus Pirate daughter board is based on an open hardware digital prototyping tool developed by Ian Lesnet. The Bus Pirate is a general purpose interface to many common embedded bus protocols, and is particularly useful for troubleshooting and early prototyping.
The Programmable NFC+RFID chip can do tasks such as read and write tags and cards, communicate with phones and NFC tag emulation (Act like a NFC tag). It can work with any other NFC/RFID Type 1 thru 4 tag.
One example of use for this would be to program your phone as a building passkey for RFID based security systems.
The Qwiic Connect System uses the Inter-integrated Circuit (I2C) Protocol while Grove is a modular, standardized connector prototyping system. The Qwiic/Grove daughter board gives you access to use the 100’s of existing Qwiic/Grove boards by simply plugging in the Qwiic/Grove cable to proper connector on daughterboard.
Add a light to the phone with a high power LED.
Normal phones might have 2 or 3 modes available to drive the flash LED, but with this setup you can make it do exactly what you want. Temporary flash? Strobe? Morse Code? All are no problem with simple Arduino programming.
The Weather Monitor daughter board includes sensors to monitor Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), humidity, and temperature.
Build Status and Prototypes
We've made a lot of progress already. VoIP calling works and we've gone through over 5 generations of prototypes. The current phone prototypes look and feel almost like production units.
- The units we have now are durable and look good. Can be carried around in public without any bomb searches :).
- Still need to do some reliability testing to make sure we have the right material for the front screen cover (needs to be scratch resistant), plating for the frame, etc.
- Need to go through and set manufacturing tolerances for everything
- Choose the final keypad material.
- Most major bugs have been dealt with... the power system works and doesn't use excessive power when it shouldn't, the mic and speaker do what they need to without a lot of noise, and the connection to the daughterboards has been used with a variety of daughterboards.
- Need to do more extensive power testing since this is a common area that devices can have problems with.
- Need to build an automated programmer and tester.
- We can make and receive calls.
- Some SIP providers implement different methods for session initiation, calling, etc, and we are currently testing various accounts and working through bugs and adding abilities to use more providers.
- Python apps and OTA firmware updates are yet to be implemented.
Build log also available here: Hackaday.io page
Risks and challenges
WiPhone is a hardware project, which means many, many things have to happen correctly before it's finished. In general, you can expect any new hardware project to have delays.
That said, we design, manufacture, and ship products all the time, so we are confident we can solve any problems that come up.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (21 days)