Rotary Un-Smartphone kit lets you build a functional throwback

There has been no shortage of attempts to offer people an escape from the smart but sometimes obtrusive modern devices known as smartphones. A lot of them try to take you back to the good old days but nothing says "old-school" better than a phone with a rotary dial. That's what this Rotary "Un-Smartphone" kit is offering interested builders and makers, allowing them to assemble a functional, 4G -capable device that really does nothing much but make call or display messages. That said, it may not be as antiquated as it first sounds.

The Rotary Un-Smartphone is based on a 2020 project by engineer Justine Haupt that does exactly what it says on the label. While much of the project's information, from hardware details to software, is released as open source, those interested still had to look for their own components and materials, not to mention go through the grueling task of soldering and programming just to get something working.

Haupt's company, Sky's Edge, is now offering an easier way in the form of a DIY kit that only requires some assembly using a screwdriver and maybe a tweezer. The $390 package contains everything that's needed for a functional 4G phone, just in pieces that ingeniously allows the company to skip FCC licensing. The device, once fully combined, offers 4G/3G/2G connectivity for calls and SMS, a small back-side ePaper display, and, of course, the rotary dial.

The product page points out that you're not expected to actually dial phone numbers each and every time like in the old days. That dial actually grants access to stored contacts and you can quickly go to the ones that you want. You can even assign two favorite contacts to two dedicated buttons. The display on the back can be used to show numbers or, if preferred, the last SMS received.

Haupt says that, unlike even those fancier Un-Smartphones that use ePaper displays or no displays at all, the Rotary Un-Smartphone can boast of a stronger reception because the antennas are located outside of the electronics. Of course, that also means it's sticking out of the box, potentially snagging on something. Additionally, because of the rotary control, you're unlikely to accidentally butt-dial anyone, not that you'd be able to cram this thing in your pants' pockets anyway.