Suggestions for improved unPhone 9

First, let my say a heart-felt thanks to Prof. Cunningham, the folks at Pimoroni, et al, for making the unPhone 9 available to the public! When Limor “Lady Ada” Fried mentioned it a few weeks ago on one of her live videos, I took a look at it and realized it’s “just what the doctor ordered” for a project I’ve been thinking about for a while. As soon as they became available (again?) I placed an order, and I’m pretty sure it’ll meet my needs wonderfully.

That being said, I’ll first introduce myself: I’m a retired “Qualified Engineer” (to use the British term), who’s been “doing” electronics for about 60 years and computers for about 55 years. One thing I learned long ago is that “there’s ALWAYS room for improvement!”, so I’ll offer three thoughts for consideration if/when the design is updated:

  1. Consider making the USB capable of doing “host” mode (think plugging in a Human Interface Device, such as a keyboard or mouse, or maybe being able to transfer a fine containing an ID into a sensor module “in the field”).

  2. Add an RTC (Real Time Clock), preferably that can “wake up” the unPhone to do something. My experience with datalogging is that “event driven” logging needs to have a time stamp, and (obviously) “time driven” logging needs periodic “wake up” calls.

  3. Add a Stemma QT/Qwiic connector, preferably one that can be accessed without opening the case. Between Adafruit, Sparkfun, and others there is a plethora of devices that can be added.

1 Like

Hello cj_in_arizona and thanks for your lovely message!

  1. The unPhone uses a direct connection from the MCU to USB and uses the native pins / hardware facilities that the ESP32-S3 provides for this. So you can use things like the tinyUSB stack for host mode etc. Most online guides and tutorials for ESP32-S3 dev boards will work for the unphone as we all take advantage of the native USB facilities of the MCU.
    If you use Arduino environment then these things are options in the Tools menu, in Platformio you would configure this via build_flags (possibly combined with build_unflags) in platormio.ini. Let us know if you need more pointers.

  2. That is a great feature request - it would fit very well with lots of IoT use cases. We’ll certainly consider it for the next revision. Of course you can always fit a RTC featherwing.

  3. Another great suggestion! Although we expose all the Stemma QT pins on the expander, they aren’t in the correct pitch for that connector. It would be a great revision to include a couple of footprints for these connectors in the next expander revision. I considered trying to fit a connector into the endplate near the usb connection but that space is already full!! Naturally you could also use another Adafruit featherwing for this.

Thank you for your suggestions and I hope you have lots of fun / learning with the unPhone!

Kind regards