Learn How the Community Created a PocketC.H.I.P. Cell Phone

Tony using a PocketC.H.I.P. cell phone that Dave built

Tony using a PocketC.H.I.P. cell phone that Dave built

Pocketeers Juve021 and Rob Baruch figured out how to turn PocketC.H.I.P. into a portable cellular device, and they wrote two great tutorials explaining how you too can build the project.

While we love creating PocketC.H.I.P. projects in-house like Jose’s speaker hack, PockulusC.H.I.P., and emulating Apple’s System 7, it’s extra exciting to see community members developing and sharing what they’ve done.

A great place to share your projects and ideas is in our forums. You’ll find daily posts, discussions, and tips on how to get the most out of your C.H.I.P. and PocketC.H.I.P.. And if you’re at a loss for what your first PocketC.H.I.P. project should be, it’s a goldmine for inspiration and full of friendly folks happy to help out. It’s a resource not to be missed!

PocketC.H.I.P. & Adafruit’s FONA 808 Cellular Module


Working independently, juve021 and Rob Baruch successfully configured PocketC.H.I.P. to work with the popular Adafruit FONA 808 cellular module. They were both able to make phone calls, send SMS, and Baruch even got celluar data (GPRS) working!

The FONA 808 module is an easy to solder breakout board that has an excellent tutorial and tons of documentation. Though the tutorial examples use an Arduino, much of it is still applicable to PocketC.H.I.P., especially when you combine it with what juve021 and Baruch have written.

Just make sure when you order an 808 you get a SIM card with your purchase. You’ll need one to connect to a cellular network.

Hardware Setup

Another shot of the FONA 808 wired to PocketC.H.I.P.

A view of the FONA 808 wired to PocketC.H.I.P.

Juve021 soldered the cellular module directly to the exposed headers on PocketC.H.I.P. with short strands of wire. Check out his forum post for details. Or if you don’t want to solder to PocketC.H.I.P., you can use a USB-to-Serial cable like Baruch’s approach. Either approach will work.

Software Setup

Using PocketC.H.I.P. to send AT commands to the FONA 808

Using PocketC.H.I.P. to send AT commands to the FONA 808

On the software side of the project, both juve021 and Baruch used the command-line program screen to send AT commands between PocketC.H.I.P. and the cell module. These commands dictate to the module what tasks it should perform and what numbers to call or send data to.

In the image above, you can see that juve021 used the AT+CSQ command to check the signal strength of the cellular connection and the AT+CMGS=”PHONE_NUMBER” command to send an SMS to a specific phone number.

Voice calls are made in a similar way. Type in the appropriate AT command to start a call, chat with your friend, and then type a few more commands when you want to end the call. The commands are a bit cryptic, but you can find out the specifics in Juve021’s forum post. And get excited, he’s working on a python script to automate much of the AT command input.

Cellular Data Setup

Rob Baruch took cellular a step further by figuring out how to use cellular data with the FONA 808. This is a bit more challenging to configure, since you’ll need to recompile the Linux kernel with support for Point to Point Protocol (PPP). Helpfully, Baruch has written a tutorial on how to enable PPP in the kernel and then connect the FONA 808 to a cellular data network.

If you’re new to compiling and deploying the Linux kernel, read over the instructions a few times so you’re familiar with the process. If you’re unsure of the process, consult the kernel compiling thread in the forums and post any lingering questions.

When using a custom kernel, it’s always a good idea to backup any important files you have on PocketC.H.I.P.. Using a compression tool to reduce the size of your backup is another good idea. A compressed archive will be faster to transfer to another computer since it’s smaller. To get the archive from PocketC.H.I.P. to your laptop, use SCP or a similar file transfer utility. Then, roll up your sleeves for some Linux fun!

And, if anything does go wrong, you can always use the online flasher to get your PocketC.H.I.P. back to the stock software image.


How do you plan to use a cellular connected PocketC.H.I.P.? Let us know in the forums, Facebook, Twitter, or the comments below. And while you’re at it, make sure to share what else you’re working on!

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