Earlier this year, I got myself a new smartphone. Not an iPhone or an Android device but a phone built the same way that my father did it back in the early 1990s: piece by piece with parts sourced from a number of different manufacturers. For my 2022 device, the touchscreen came from Samsung, the main logic board from Apple, the headphone circuitry from the (now defunct) smartphone division of LG and the speakers from Sony — because everyone knows that Sony makes the best smartphone speakers.
Sourcing the right microphones to handle voice calls was a bit of a challenge. I needed mics that could be inset along the top and bottom rims that wrap around the smartphone’s outer edge but because my rim wrap of choice came from Google (they make the most attractive in my book), I had to do some extra work to position the mics without disturbing the rear camera mount – a DIY kit from Sony. Alas, that kit only gives me photos with resolutions of up to 3 megapixels as the drivers for the smartphone’s open-source operating system need to be rewritten. The Linux-based OS isn’t as polished as Android or iOS but it gets the job done, albeit with some compatibility issues and the occasional crash, Best of all, it’s free.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that my new smartphone is quite a bit bulkier than those sold off the shelf. It’s not what you’d necessarily call attractive and it certainly isn’t as sleek looking as an all-in-one smartphone. Getting the measuring tape out, my handbuilt phone is five times thicker than a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra but if I drop my belt buckle back one loop, I can just about squeeze it into a front trouser pocket; I just have to be very careful not to dislodge smartphone’s backplate. It’s attached with two screws to a jig that I had 3-D printed in order to properly route all of the internal wiring behind the rear camera. I’ve had to forego the front-facing camera due to my own lack of engineering know-how but I hear that Huwaei has a DIY front camera kit coming soon. I just hope that it’ll be compatible with my Samsung screen when it launches.
When you build your own smartphone, you can’t expect it to look as polished as an iPhone, be as functional as a Googe Pixel or look as slim as a Motorola. That’s not the point. If my DIY smartphone’s screen breaks, I don’t have to send the entire unit in to be repaired. I can just swap it out for a new one. And even though the operating system can’t yet AI-process photos, run the latest messaging apps like WhatsApp and Signal or talk to the logic board’s Bluetooth radio (another driver issue apparently), at least I’m not beholden to Apple and Google’s artificial product life cycles.
How much did it cost me to build my own smartphone? US$2700. You just can’t put a price on flexibility and the ability to upgrade individual components whenever one chooses.
👉🏻 As mentioned in this podcast…
Naim Uniti Atom
Moon by Simaudio NEO Ace
Cambridge Audio EVO 150
KEF LS50 Wireless II
DALI Calisto w/ Soundhub
SVS Prime Wireless Pro
Bang & Olufsen
Room Perfect / Lyngdorf
Dynaudio Focus 2022