By Simone Preuss on April 22, 2011

Ten amazing mobile phones, all steampunked using repurposed or recycled materials. You'll want 'em all!

Image: Ivan Mavrovic All images courtesy of the artists and used with permission.

OK, we know: During the age of steam power, portable phones had yet to appear, so unless some time-travel tomfoolery occurred that we're not privy to, the subjects of this article are speculatively fantastic rather than historically grounded.

Image: Arthur Schmitt

The cell phone is an amazing invention, though, and not only do these steampunk gadgets allow you to imagine what the Victorians might have made of modern-day technology, but they are also perfect for putting one’s repurposing pants on!

Image: Ivan Mavrovic

If you have an old watch or some spare typewriter parts at home, together with a well-equipped toolbox, there’s no excuse not to make your own steampunk cell phone. These 10 amazing designs will provide you with some inspiration.

10. Romantic mobile

Image: Ivan Mavrovic

With its leaves, vine design and mother of pearl keys, this cell phone seems perfect for the romantic steampunk fan. The red leather background and copper case provide an interesting color combination and what's especially cool is the little silver ornament for a menu button that looks like a wind-up key. This was Ivan Mavrovic’s very first steampunk cell phone creation, created sometime in 2008 — the first of many.

Image: Ivan Mavrovic

For your own DIY version, sewing pins with round heads would work really well as buttons, as would nice ornamental features from an old mirror or picture frame. Your creativity is the only limit, so what are you waiting for?

9. Steampunk flip cell phone

Image: *Skylanth

This next cell phone is the only flip model in our list, and its creator, *Skylanth, isn't quite sure how to categorize her brainchild. "So it goes," she philosophizes (like any self-respecting fan of sci-fi genius Kurt Vonnegut!).

Image: *Skylanth

To steam-pimp her phone's case, *Skylanth first gave it a coat of silver paint before getting to work sticking on old watch gears, and finally adding some sparkly bits for that feminine touch. And though it may be a bit on the bulky side with all those repurposed clockwork parts, it certainly isn't bad for a first foray into the steampunk genre. Top hats off!

8. "Vamp" mobile

Image: Ivan Mavrovic

“Vamp” is another cell phone model by Mavrovic, who is a bit of a legend in steampunk circles. We’ll be seeing a few of his creations here, so more about him a bit later. “Vamp” is an amazing cell that looks half-fancy-shoe, half-claw — definitely reminiscent of that mixture of the monstrous and the urbane we associate with all things vampish.

Image: Ivan Mavrovic

Image: Ivan Mavrovic

The phone’s color combination and details are just amazing: we’ve got a black, banged-up display cover shaped like a claw at one end, an ornate silver feature studded with a turquoise stone and keys that look like pieces of corn, or maybe teeth.

Image: Ivan Mavrovic

Yet, incredibly, all these different parts come together to make for one very cool steampunk phone, even on close inspection!

7. Steampunk iPhone

Image: TheCopperSmith

Not to be left out, the iPhone has also been steampunked! This cool copper creation may look simpler at first glance than it actually is: the cog parts on top are not mere prints, but the actual workings of an old clock.

Image: TheCopperSmith

The artist carefully selected the flat parts from a reclaimed timepiece so that they wouldn't stick out; this ensures that the iPhone still fits in its holder or sleeve. How cool is that?

Image: TheCopperSmith

For those who are a bit rough with their phones, don’t worry — this cover has been glazed with a thick, clear coat for protection and a uniform, smooth finish. The artist then polished it again with an automotive polymer coat to add even more of a protective covering. Just perfect for today’s gritty urban dweller.

6. STP mobile

Image: Ivan Mavrovic

What's impressive about this steampunk cell phone creation by Mavrovic is the amount of repurposing that went into it: An old watch cover makes up the display cover, while what look like shiny thumbtacks were used as keys.

Image: Ivan Mavrovic

The recycled copper casing, turquoise gem from an old bracelet and brass flower accessory at the top right give this phone its unique look. When you whip it out to take a call, you’re sure to attract envious glances from those around you.

5. Steampunk iPhone clutch

Image: Meggrs

Even in the age of steam power, women had the same problems that they have today: where to keep your change when you’re all dressed up and don’t really want to take a purse. The solution? Extra storage that will not only steampunk the iPhone inside it, but also make some room for other bits and pieces you may want to carry around.

Image: Meggrs

If some parts of this repurposed wooden iPhone case looks familiar, that's no coincidence: the brass edges and the hook were taken from an old picture frame.

Image: Meggrs

Carry your newly dressed steampunk iPhone as a purse, around your neck, or simply communicate with it. The dark wooden exterior, with brass accents, is sure to go with any steampunk outfit and will attract more than a bit of attention. You can even use the hook on top to strap it to your wrist. Clever!

4. M47 Automatic

Image: Ivan Mavrovic

Another amazing design is the M47 Automatic, a Nokia cell phone inside a case made of leather and accessorized with tiny, repurposed metal gears. Cogs, coils and wire — anything in one's toolbox seems to have been used for this cell phone model. Don’t miss the screws for keys! The phone really looks like it needs to be wound up to work, with each gear set carefully in place. The hook on top is no doubt for attaching the phone to your steampunk outfit or to hang it up when not in use.

Image: Ivan Mavrovic

A metal designer by profession, Mavrovic wanted to experiment with different techniques and materials, so tried his hand at the steampunk esthetic. Constantly challenging himself and trying to break new limits with every design — by combining different techniques, styles and materials — is what keeps his work so fresh. And of course, he loves the fact that he can repurpose old things on the verge of being thrown out and so give them a new lease of life.

3. Retro de Luxe

Image: Ivan Mavrovic

Mavrovic lives in Zagreb, Croatia, and steampunks any item that he comes across in his household, including everything from pens and cutlery, to his toothbrush. Every piece is exquisite in its detail — maybe taking inspiration from his steampunk idols, Datamancer, whose steampunk keyboards we've featured before, and Haruo Suekichi, the Japanese master of steampunk timepieces.

Image: Ivan Mavrovic

Whatever the source of his inspiration, it is Mavrovic’s cell phones that are the most spectacular of his designs — and which have appeared quite a bit online lately. This model is called the “Retro de Luxe,” and rather reminds one of a spider sitting on a Nokia 2330.

Image: Ivan Mavrovic

The case is made of old typewriter parts, obtained from a collector friend of Mavrovic’s. All the letters are handwritten, which adds an additional charm to the piece, as does the black onyx stone used as a menu key. Is that an old watch dial cover being repurposed there as well and an old picture frame hook? We're not sure, but we are sure that we will start building our own!

2. Ozone battery

Image: Ivan Mavrovic

The “Ozone Battery” is another one of Mavrovic’s creations, and looks like a cross between a miniature spaceship and a tank. It is made from a typewriter, old clock parts, a fish-eye lens, many screws and other aluminum and steel parts. It looks so cool, we’re actually speechless!

Image: Ivan Mavrovic

Where does Ivan get his inspiration from? He explained that in every thrown-away object lies endless possibility that just needs to be discovered. He usually has a design in mind based on the materials, and then sets to work, with each phone taking him one or two weeks. What he likes about steampunk is that it is possible to “combine technology and tradition into one.”

1. SteamPunch phone

Image: Arthur Schmitt

Paris-based industrial designer Arthur Schmitt created this steampunk-inspired, user-centered mobile phone, which won a competition for “Most Mutated Design.” Made of wood and metal parts, the design is sleek yet simple; the cell phone has no keyboard or screen. But it gets even better: Before using the phone, the user has to activate it by inserting a paper punchcard with binary-encoded information.

Image: Arthur Schmitt

Schmitt says: “The concept reflects the users’ frustration with bloated interfaces, and the desire to be more in touch with the hardware.” No kidding. We love the no-frills yet extremely elegant design and the innovation on show.

Image: Arthur Schmitt

The gilded back looks simply brilliant, and if the speaker looks familiar to you that might be because it used to be an old tea strainer that ended its boring life in Schmitt’s office and has now been immortalized as part of this cell phone.

Bonus: Steam communicator

Image: Urbandon

This slimline phone/communicator works with the latest nano-steam technology! At 6 x 2 inches, it's a sleek device that lies comfortably in one’s palm. We love the fact that this cell phone is completely made out of recycled parts, from the spiral ear piece and bulbous mouth piece to the knob on the bottom.

Image: Urbandon

All the metal parts have been hand-painted to give the phone its antique and weathered look. Though unfortunately not made to work with current cell phone technology, we’re sure the cool 6-inch foldable antenna would pick up some signals.

Image: Urbandon

With so much creative genius in cell phone design, we’re now almost convinced that cell phones were around during the age of steam power. Screws, bolts, nuts, old watch parts, typewriters and the like go a long way if you want to build a steampunk cell phone. And if you do build your own, make sure to let us know!

About the author

Simone is a writer and editor at Environmental Graffiti, an innovative green site currently looking for writers! Imagine having your work seen by up to 10 million people every month, writing for one of the Internet’s most trafficked environmental websites and getting paid for it. Whether it is extreme sports, conservation, art or freaky nature that floats your boat, Environmental Graffiti gives you a platform and a voice to share your knowledge, and meet people like you. You control the news, the news does not control you...

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