Open hardware / plug'n'play


I’m a polyglot programmer with 15+ years of experience in Python, Java, C/C++ and a dozen or so programming languages used in backend (server-side) environments. I’m also an open-source person deeply involved in several projects.

I also believe open-source is the natural order of things in many circumstances so naturally I can only praise the idea of Fairphone as regards its ethical aspects.

As it happens, I don’t know almost anything about electronics, and some time ago I thought I could teach myself some of it by doing what I am used to do in software - by looking at internals of a few things and drawing conclusions backed by a fair amount of theory.

To my dismay, it appears that hardware is a completely different world and picking a mobile phone apart gives one a few unlabelled components without any public specs in the Internet short of personal blogs working out pinouts through trial and error. I realize now how naive it was for me to suspect anything else but like I said, I do not specialize in electronics.

At any rate, this was a shock, I honestly thought sciences and markets had been progressing more or less in parallel and what I took for granted in open-source software applied to hardware as well. Now I know this is not the case so obviously the idea of Fairphone appeals to me.

However, one thing that I am not sure about is whether components that one can purchase over at are all available with concrete specifications and can be essentially treated as building blocks for custom phones if one feels like doing it from scratch?

For instance, I understand that even if not for personal preferences then at least from the mass market’s perspective you must offer a touchscreen interface whereas I find this idea completely alien and prefer tactile sensations of using an actual keyboard.

Thus I figured that for my own purposes I could put together parts linked to above with a physical keyboard. However, this hinges on the availability of documentation and willingness to support such undertakings by making specs open to anyone.

Which brings me to the end question of whether you think Fairphone components can be treated in such a manner or are they rather replacement parts not really meant to be tinkered with?

I’m not thinking about the complexity of such works nor about what sort of customizations software would need since this is something I know I can deal with, I’m really only worried about hardware itself, this is something that was a bummer previously for me.



Yes, I believe that’s it.

For tinkering you have the expansion port. One could e.g. create a hardware keyboard-cover connected to the phone via that port. For more ideas check here and here.


Wow, a keyboard would be so great! I believe, if you get in contact with them via their business channel, you might get some more info. They should have the specifications after all, but not in a form that can be published on a website.

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To attach a keyboard, I see 2 easy and documented ways :

  • Bluetooth.
  • USB OTG, from either micro plug or backcover pins.

I’m not sure what you are up to, but if you’d like to hack with hardware, I would suggest you to have a look at Arduino or Raspberry platforms, though you might already know them. They are much more the kind of things that would appeal to you for your kind of ideas.

Though, if you can manage to use some FP modules with them, that would be cool hacking. For example, top module gives you : ear speaker, jack plug, microphone, RGB led, light sensor, proximity sensor and camera.

Thank you for the input, everyone, it’s greatly appreciated!