Many of us carry a smartphone, but few of us know how it works. Croatian tech startup CircuitMess wants to change that with the MakerPhone, a build-it-yourself mobile phone aimed at makers 11 years of age and up. It won't have the likes of Samsung, Google or Apple worried for their profit margins, but looks like a fun way to learn about electronics and coding.

CircuitMess already has a successful Kickstarter under its belt with the Makerbuino game console, so naturally the popular crowdfunding platform was selected to launch its MakerPhone.

Tinkerers will get a box of parts and access to online tutorials to walk them through the assembly of components and the creation of games and apps using Scratch, MicroPython and Arduino IDE (which is based on C/C++). Along the way, CircuitMess says that makers will learn electronics basics, how to solder, get coding and learn more about what makes a mobile phone tick.

The parts list includes a 1.8-inch, 128 x 160 resolution color LCD display, main circuit board, sound module with dedicated 10-bit DAC and electronic volume controller, RGB LEDs, laser-cut acrylic housing, GSM module, microcomputer with integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and 4 MB of built-in flash memory.

The kit comes supplied with a 128 MB SD card containing some apps, tools and games to get started, and a 600 mAh Li-Pol battery. Makers will need to supply their own microSIM card. And as well as a physical numeric keypad out front, there's a 4-way mechanical joystick and multi-purpose addressable buttons.

Although build time will vary according to skill levels, CircuitMess estimates that the hardware should come together in around seven hours – tools like a soldering iron, pliers and a screwdriver will be needed – and, once the coding's done, the MakerPhone becomes a fully functional mobile phone. That means you'll be able to make calls, send texts, play basic games like Snake or Pong, listen to music (you can even use an MP3 as your ringtone), go online and so on.

And the fun doesn't have to stop when a barebones mobile phone is ready for action, makers can experiment further with the hardware, learn more code, customize the UI, build custom games and apps and more.

The project's Kickstarter campaign has already met its modest funding goal of US$15,000, with about six weeks left on the clock. Pledges start at $89, but if you want CircuitMess to supply you with the tools necessary to build the MakerPhone, you'll need to plump for the $119 pledge level. If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in March 2019. The video below has more.

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