With Google’s Project Ara — an effort to make a completely modular smartphone — on the horizon, it looks like phones will one day be truly customizable. In the meantime, one London-based Kickstarter wants to make basic calling handsets that can be designed and 3D printed at home. The credit card-sized OwnFone contains all the electronic components required to have a conversation over 2G, while allowing owners the opportunity to configure and style the shell of their handset.
Unlike a regular feature phone, the OwnFone can work on pre-programmed numbers rather than a number keypad, and this has been used to good effect in the pre-designed versions of the handset made by the OwnFone team. For instance, the TigerFone, complete with big cat livery, allows children to dial Mom or Dad with a single press. Likewise, the BrailleFone offers quick-dial options in feelable text, and the elderly can use ImageFone to contact family and friends by tapping the corresponding photo. There is also the NumberFone, which offers a more standard configuration, and all of the pre-made models can be customized via OwnFone’s app and website.
The really exciting part of the project, however, is the blank phone known as the Seed. It is available to Kickstarter backers in two forms — kits for 2D and 3D printing. In the case of the former, the basic shell can be customized with stick-on sheets that feature your own design. With the 3D kit, you can design the shell yourself, and printing filaments are provided for the printing process. In both cases, you can then program the Seed’s inputs to provide the desired controls.
The pre-made phones are reasonably priced for Kickstarter backers, ranging from £66 (approx. $100) to £80 ($120), while the single-Seed 2D kit is available for a pledge of £99 ($150), and the 3D starter kit is £119 ($180). The project still needs to find £190,000 ($286,000) in the next ten days in order to come to fruition, so there is still work to be done. The coolness of creating your own custom phone, though, is not in any doubt.
To find out more about OwnFone, see the Kickstarter project page.