Portable Rotary Phone – pre-review

I’ve been having a lot of fun with the Portable Rotary Phone from Spark Fun Electronics. It’s a GSM cell phone built inside an old rotary phone. You pop your SIM card in, it dials out, rings and acts just like an old fashion phone, but it’s now my full time cell phone. I’ll have a full review of it up soon, and will be using it at Gnomedex this week in Seattle. For now- check out the photos and video I shot so far…

Click here to see the phone in the car in use (QuickTime MOV).

Click here to see the phone in the driveway in use (QuickTime MOV).

The new-old car phone.

Handy to carry.

Taken apart.





Portable Rotary Phone
Fully functional Portable Rotary Phone! Phone comes fully assembled and tested. All you have to do is open the phone, insert your SIM card, and turn the unit on. The unit will utilize your phone number and account minutes. Phone can dial out using the rotary and will ring with the original metal bells with an incoming call.The battery can run the phone for 5-6 hours and is charged by unscrewing two screws on the bottom of the phone, opening it, and attaching the charger.
Phone comes with:

  • Main controller board
  • Ringer module
  • 2000mAh Lithium-Polymer battery
  • Li-Po battery charger (3-prong 110V only)
  • Mini-cellular antenna (compatible with North American Frequencies only)
  • GM862 cellular module

Visit the Spark Fun site for more info and check back later for our full review!

22 thoughts on “Portable Rotary Phone – pre-review

  1. Ha!, that’s cool. I’ve wanted to build one of those since forever-ago, just as a statement about the nasty ergonomics of modern cellphones and the timelessness of good design.

    Those pictures remind me of the old phone phreak days, when I was in highschool, modifying Bell 500 sets and their kin for various functions you couldn’t get in residential service decades ago. Nice thing about the classic phone sets is that they could be modded like crazy and had plenty of space for circuit boards, relays, and suchlike. The 2500 series touchtone sets are still available (Cortelco, made in USA), about $50 each new, or check your local electronics surplus store or flea market for used ones.

  2. SparkFun is a great place for Make type folks – good tutorials and a great source for microcontroller and wireless projects. And as you can see with this phone, they have a good time.

  3. Cell phone manufacturers are trying too hard to win a customer. Some are paying out the bloggers to blog their phones. Some are turning out different looking phones. One commentator said that it is a rotory cellphone. I don’t see why would one buy a rotory cell phone. But I do think everybody would buy a cellphone that could surf a web without having a 802.11b or 802.11n laptop that has to be taken to a wi-fi hot spot. All that has to be done is to redevelop a method of deliverying the internet service so that it is no longer necessary for the server to send the data to a client. In such a case a cellphone, that can send htext messages, can be used as a client. The matter is discussed at the following blog:


  4. Yes. There was nothing better than the big old heavy handset. I am sure they would NOT allow that phone on an airplane.

    It may not have the electronics (pre-upgrade), however someone could be used it effectively as a club. That’s a bad thing. :)

    But I would like one for my car…maybe you could start refurbishing old handsets with modern technology.

    How about turning a Motorola BC-611 Walkie Talkie into a cell phone?

    Motorola BC-611 Walkie Talkie

    Sure, it would be kind of heavy to pack around, but it would look great hanging off your belt.

    I feel better now. Thanks. ;)


  5. Really great! I can’t imagine why you would want to carry around that big thing, but I think it is so cool that you made it a mobiel phone!

  6. Bluetooth – > POTS adapter… Vonage over mobile broadband, etc. etc. etc… Gotta be careful, some of those old POTS adapters don’t understand the pulses from a rotary phone, and may not drive the clapper to ring the bell. Vonage is guaranteed to work while Magic Jack fails.

  7. great project mate! actually I am searching through the internet to find
    a retro mobile phone so I can place it in my home and where I can call
    when I cant reach my wife (oh sorry honney I didn hear it ringing, its
    in my bag…) but no one is offering something similar. How difficult is it to create for an absolute beginner?

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