Build your own smartphone with a Raspberry Pi

A Raspberry Pi is a useful piece of hardware, and the various models available allow for a wide variety of projects.

While many projects rely on the powerful specifications of the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, other models like the Pi Zero W are more suited for certain builds.

Whichever of the mini-computers you choose to experiment with, there will always be something interesting to build – especially when you add logic boards or mechanical components.

One of the more interesting concepts for a Raspberry Pi project is a DIY smartphone, which is not as difficult as it sounds to build.

Because the Raspberry Pi is already a computer, all it needs is a cellular data component to function as a smartphone.


The central component of a Pi-powered smartphone is the Pi, and the model you choose depends on your design and performance requirements.

A popular example of a DIY smartphone is David Hunt’s PiPhone, which uses a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B.

Other designs like the ZeroPhone project focus on form factor instead of full-screen touch functionality, but the essential components are similar.

The basic hardware required for the PiPhone is:

  • Raspberry Pi
  • Lithium-ion battery
  • 5V DC-DC converter
  • TFT touchscreen
  • GPRS/GSM module with antenna
  • Electrical power switch
  • Speaker/headphones and microphone
  • SIM card

You will also need to connect all the components together for assembly.

Foam separators and cable ties, or a 3D-printed chassis and dedicated mounts can be used for the phone.

While the Raspberry Pi device range is not especially expensive in South Africa, some of the other components required for this project might be – such as the cellular module and touchscreen.

For example, a 2G GPRS board with with GPS is priced at R952 and would have to be imported, while Adafruit’s PiTFT touchscreen is available locally for R806.

Certain projects, like the ZeroPhone, include specific PCB layouts for custom hardware which fits the form factor of the smartphone’s design.

Sim808 GPRs

Building the device

Once you have the components, it is simply a matter of connecting the logic boards and power circuit correctly and setting up your chosen software.

The setup of the breakout boards and other parts would depend on what you purchased, although it is recommended you choose a cellular network module which uses AT commands to establish data connections – as this is the same type of command used by the device in the PiPhone project.

Many of the components, such as the GSM/GPRS modem board and the TFT display will have their own documentation available from their manufacturers, which will allow you to set them up to interact with the Raspberry Pi correctly.

Additionally, project pages for the ZeroPhone and PiPhone include instructions on how to download and install the software used to make these devices work correctly after the components are installed.

The projects all include step-by-step guides, but the nature of a Raspberry Pi’s Linux-based operating system will allow you to set up your DIY smartphone in any way you choose.

You can install other applications on the device, set up retro arcade games, or include a video player and onboard storage.

If you have some programming knowledge, you could even write your own applications to send and receive SMSs, make and receive calls, and more.

There are a number of resources available online regarding the setup of a DIY Raspberry Pi smartphone, with links to two of the most popular projects below:

  • Raspberry Pi Zero smartphone – ZeroPhone
  • Raspberry Pi 3 Model B smartphone – PiPhone

This project will require basic programming knowledge and research into the setup information for your chosen components.

Now read: Windows 10 can now run on a Raspberry Pi

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Build your own smartphone with a Raspberry Pi