IoT electronics made by Pimoroni and taught at the University of Sheffield

Open Internet of Things for educationalists, makers and developers based on the ESP32 (S3)

unPhone yourself!

Phones. They’re miraculous! But: they use up scarce minerals that are often mined in peril. The server clouds they connect to use thousands of times more energy than bitcoin. And they steal our attention, leak our data, compromise our privacy. Perhaps we don’t need a miracle in our pockets every minute of the day? The unPhone isn’t a phone alternative but it has the potential to replace some of the sledgehammers we currently crack nuts with (and keep more of your data under your own control).

The device makes rapid prototyping of IoT systems easy by providing a best-in-class microcontroller (ESP32S3 with 8MB flash and 8MB PSRAM), pre-integrated touchscreen, LiPo power management, accelerometer, LoRa radio, SD card and etc., with an expansion capability conforming to Adafruit’s FeatherWing standard. An expansion board with three Featherwing slots can attach to the back of the case and is supported by 3D print housings with freely available designs.

The unPhone is open hardware and open source software and comes with a 300 page textbook on the IoT. It supports teaching and prototyping, and is being developed in parallel with a control and monitoring system for aquaponic sustainable agriculture (the WaterElf).

The unPhone has been developed by Hamish Cunningham of the University of Sheffield‘s Department of Computer Science in the Faculty of Engineering, in partnership with Pimoroni Ltd. and Gareth Coleman (of BitFIXit and Reyt Repair).


Developing for the Internet of Things is a bit like trying to change a light bulb in the dark while standing on a three-legged chair with your shoelaces tied together. By the time you’ve configured your development environment, assembled the libraries your hardware demands, fixed the compatibility issues and figured out how to burn new firmware without bricking your circuit board, you’re all ready to discover that the shiny new networking function that you bought the board for in the first place doesn’t actually work with your local wifi access point and that because you now have less memory space than Babbage and Lovelace’s analytical engine you have to program in an antiquated and error-prone systems language.

Hey ho.

The unPhone is an IoT development platform from the University of Sheffield, Pimoroni and BitFIXit that builds on one of the easiest and most popular networked microcontrollers available (the ESP32S3), and adds:

  • an LCD touchscreen for easy debugging and UI creation 
  • LoRaWAN free radio communication (plus the ESP32’s excellent wifi and bluetooth support)
  • LiPo battery management and USB charging
  • a vibration motor for notifications
  • IR LEDs for surreptitiously switching the cafe TV off
  • an accelerometer
  • an SD card reader
  • power and reset buttons
  • a robust case
  • an expander board that supports two Featherwing sockets and a prototyping area 
  • open source firmware compatible with the Arduino IDE, PlatformIO and Espressif’s IDF development framework
  • programming in C++ or CircuitPython
  • LVGL graphics support
  • diverse research links

Untie your shoelaces and let’s get cracking 🙂