Prototyping a New Mobile Phone


In Jan 2014 I decided to take a break from running and growing Ayna, a company I founded 15 years, to decide if I should find VC partners to take it to the next stage or join an existing company and help grow it.

I do not like to be unproductive, so I pulled my personal to-do list, which holds all kinds of projects I would like to engage in, if I ever have time, it has things like: community service, developing (R2RAIN) Robot-to-Robot Artificial Intelligence Network, building my own aircraft and somewhere on the list a mobile phone. BTW if you like to help in any of these, please contact me. And that is where this article is about, prototyping a new mobile phone.

Why a mobile phone you may ask? Well it is a special kind of phone, and maybe changes in technology can help me get this one done now? I have been around aging friends and family members and see them having increasing difficulty using their phones. I want to create a phone that is easy to use and take into account the usability of this growing segment and one day we all will join.  I would like to combine our common knowledge in agile development, UX/UI and software to make a solution that works.

These are the issues that I would like to address:

  • Tactile feedback: Most of new smartphones have lost the tactile feedback that we rely on, so I am looking to utilize buttons instead of touch screens.
  • Vision reduction: Most of the aging population have vision reduction, so they rely on their memory more and more as they grow up to remember how things work, order of things, colors and sounds etc.. I propose a change in the keypad layout, color, size, visual and audio feedback to take advantage of these changes in using our senses.
  • Staying connected: Mobiles are great tools for communication and to focus on those features, connecting to healthcare professionals, emergency calls, family and friends.
  • Power: Battery life and charging modes that are easy.  I hate seeing someone trying to get the mini-usb cable to charge a phone.
  • Few more issues…


Where to start? Well like anything else start with research.  Interesting enough there are few companies out there that do that.  For instance Doro has a line of mobile phones specifically for the elderly, while GreatCall has several phones that are connected to services.  I found a good number of them and very similar in style, but I did not see any innovation yet and none address the issues observed.

Design one then!

Ok so I want to design my own, so where to start? I need software, hardware and a lot more. I need help! I though of pitchig the idea on Quirky but it not clear if they can help, so the next best thing is to look on kickstarter for inspiration, nothing there either but something did popup in the technology section that got me attention Arduino.

What is Arduino?

Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.

Ok Now We are Talking

I love open-source, my company would not have had its chance without open-source and Arduino seems a way for me to get the chance to build a working prototype and stop dreaming about it.

I was amazed on the number of existing hardware component out there. Arduino already has several GSM libraries and supported hardware, so I do not have to start from scratch, and one of my favorite example of creating your own mobile/cell phone also used Arduino.  What was more amazing that I could buy everything I need for few hundred dollars to start prototyping!

I will have to be a little more creative when it comes putting things together and conduct usability test, but I can easily program the phone and functions using C, create plastic molds to test and even use 3D printing to make different shapes.

I will need help, definitely! I can use Facebook and Twitter and blogging to attract individuals with same passion and collaborate to get something we are happy about and when we know what and how much funding we need, then we will go to kickstarter to pitch our idea, model and explain where we are and hope for community to help us make it.


Things are changing constantly, technology and access to funds are changing too. Understanding what is out there and being resourceful is a great asset to get your projects of the ground.

So if you are sitting on an idea that involves interacting with hardware start with Arduino and leverage the community for help and support.

You can contact me via twitter on @ictceo or connect via linkedin



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