Today’s smartphones put very little emphasis on the actual phone functionality, and are much more optimal for browsing Instagram and texting. Most of us hate the idea of having to speak to someone on a phone call, so we’re perfectly happy with that. But space engineer Justine Haupt wanted a phone that is actually good at being a phone. That’s why she put the effort into designing and building this incredible cellphone that features a rotary dial and a flexible E Ink display.
This probably seems like one of those hipster creations that exists purely out of nostalgia for obsolete technology, but Justine says she actually built this for practical reasons. She even plans to use it as her primary phone. In direct contrast to a fancy new iPhone, her rotary cellphone is designed with phone calls in mind. Surprisingly, the rotary dial is supported by that principle. It’s tactile, but is immune to butt dials. There is a dedicated button for Justine to call her husband and the phone is capable of storing contacts just like a modern phone, so the rotary dial is only necessary for calling new phone numbers. It can also be used as an input for tasks like adjusting the volume.
That rotary dial was salvaged from a Trimline telephone, which was chosen because the dial is set into the handset and is more compact than most others. That is connected to a Microchip ATmega2560V, which has been programmed as an Arduino Mega 2560. Cell service comes from an Adafruit FONA 3G, which has an SMA connector and a substantial antenna that Justine says provides fantastic reception. A flexible E Ink display wraps around the back of the phone, so that a small amount of information can be displayed at the top, pager style, and the rest is on the back. All of that is housed within a nice 3D-printed enclosure, which is still small enough to fit in a pocket.