With the RePhone, you can turn anything into a cellphone. Are you sick of Apple and Samsung’s ever-slimmer offerings, when all you want is a simple cellphone with a giant, one-week battery? Make it. Want to add a GPS to your dog? No problem. Whatever you can think of, you can almost certainly do it with the RePhone.
Billed as “an open source and modular phone kit,” the RePhone consists of several sections that can be combined to make the device of your nerdy dreams. The core module contains a 3G radio for connecting to cellular Internet, plus connections for audio in and out. Then you connect various add-ons, including a small, square touch screen, a GPS unit, an audio module, NFC (for reading smart-cards and so on), a sensor pack (accelerometer, temperature, and light sensors), and an LED light grid.
It’s pretty comprehensive, and it can all be hooked together to make one phone-like device or used in smaller groups.
That’s the electronics part, but the “maker” part also features big in this Kickstarter campaign. For instance, there are downloadable, printable templates so you can fold paper-craft cases for your creations. But my favorite part is the conductive sewing thread, which lets you weave your devices into clothing. One example is the aforementioned dog-collar with GPS, but other applications could be a hoody with built-in bluetooth headphones or shoes that flash every time you walk a mile in them.
This last idea would be achieved by the RePhone’s connection to the IFTTT network. IFTTT (If This Then That) is a kind of web glue that allows lots of different services to talk to each other. It does basic stuff like saving your Instagram favorites to your Dropbox, or sending you phone notifications when your sports team scores. But IFTTT also works with Internet-connected hardware, allowing you to have, say, your Phillips Hue lightbulbs flash red whenever you get an email from your boss.
RePhone taps into this service and can send signals to IFTTT based on its detectors: movement, light, and temperature, for instance. You could have it work as an alarm that triggers based on GPS, or on movement (turn on a light when you open a door). The RePhone’s brain can also be programmed using common programming languages.
In fact, you really can make this thing do almost anything you can think of. It’s like you were allowed to take your regular smartphone to pieces and split them up, only the parts still work perfectly and talk to each other. The design means that the difficulty level scales, making it good for kids as well as hardcore tinkerers.
The core module retails for $19 (you can get better prices on kits if you pitch on RePhone’s Kickstarter). At those prices, you’re in Lego territory. It’s worth buying some parts just to play around with them.