Hackaday Prize Entry: Retrofit A Nokia

The Nokia 3210 is the greatest cell phone ever made. The battery lasted for days, custom color covers were available at every mall kiosk, it had the Snake game, and the chassis for this phone was finely crafted out of the crust of neutron stars. It was indestructible; it is the reason we now appreciate technology over more impermanent concepts like relationships and love.

For his Hackaday Prize entry, [Bastian] is bringing the Nokia 3210 into this century. He’s designing a circuit board with the same footprint, the same button layout, and a better screen that drops right into the lovely plastic enclosure of the 3210.

Also known as, ‘a fun time’

The current BOM for the upgraded 3210 includes an STM32 F7 microcontroller, which is more or less the current top of the line ARM micro you can get. For wireless, [Bastian] is using an A7 GSM/GPRS module and an ESP8266 for a little bit of WiFi. For a dumbphone, this is ludicrously overpowered. Provided [Bastian] gets a prototype up and running, there will be some interesting applications for a device this powerful in a package this indestructible.

One of the things [Bastian] has been butting his head against with this project is KiCad. Microvias don’t work like they should in KiCad — they’re restricted to the outer layers only. This is a problem for routing a complex board like this, so [Bastian] wrote a patch that gives KiCad an ‘I know what I’m doing mode’ for microvias everywhere.

This is truly the spirit of The Hackaday Prize: not only is [Bastian] building something ridiculous, he’s also creating the tools to do it.

41 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: Retrofit A Nokia

    1. Did an experiment with adroid on a cheap Huawei Y5. Custom cyanogenmod and everything switched off no google apps or google store framework, so no running programs when sleeping besides the cell modem. A charge lasted 14 to 16 days with ten minutes talk a day and the occasional SMS. It still had a browser and some apps, but they were carefully selected versions with no background activities. Apps were installed by downloading the installer files (.APK) and running them. A lot of the power use in android is from wifi localisation and wifi roaming, switching that of completely, which requires killing anything Google on your phone, made the biggest difference.

      1. N.B. when getting into the documentation on Android it becomes apparent that it is very much still a complete linux distro. You select proper hardware drivers, compile your kernel and run the installer. Base Android has all the software needed so getting rid of Huawei skins and custom apps and keyboard app and other bloatware, including a dormant version of Baidu (chinese FB) that did absolutely nothing but collect user data and uploading it to somewhere in China, not kidding, this was a phone bought in a store in Europe. Of the original 4GB of storage 2GB was used. After my cleanup the OS took up only 150MB and the phone was noticeably faster.

      2. I’d imagine using a seperate processor (esp8266) for wifi would take down the power overhead & increase battery life. One could write custom wifi power management protocols that could say, shut down wifi when the phone is not in use, slip into monitor mode, run updates and watchdogs when the main processor is off, the list goes on!

        1. Sure you could, or put more correctly, Google have chosen to use wifi to argument their world mapping effort and earn ad revenue. Android was invented, not by Google, but by volunteers over ad XDAdevelopers. Google took it and made their own fork and made part of it closed source. Several open versions exists and are maintained, so buying a phone, is just like buying a PC; getting rid of Windows and installing your favorite version of Linux. The wi-fi in a phone in sleep mode uses very little power so it is not a hardware or driver issue, but the Google implementation that is to blame. A modern android smartphone uses even less power in sleep than an old Nokia.

          1. Im sorry guys, Google discovered Android and uses it as anyone else is in their right to do. Multiple devellopers at XDAdevellopers was putting it together around 2003-4. A lot of the guys doing Symbian development, mostly for the Nokia N-gage, started to make a scratch linux for phones with ARM processors as this was a chance to make a truely independent os. Google didnt even know about it back then. The forum posts must still exist. I didnt take part in it as I was mostly doing drivers for pocketPC, but was amazed on how many people got involved in this very fast. Google android is a non free distro, Google is not Android neither in any historical or legal sense.
            My spelling sucks as this is written on “Das Keyboard”

        1. you are clicking placebo button, like andarb said Google controls your Wifi and wont let you turn it off, it makes them money by generating lucrative data (your precise location, location of access points in the world etc)

      3. That’s amazing.
        I don’t want all that bloat stuff on my phone, nor do I want it to be big. It needs to play music, take good pictures, and in an emergency allow me to check train times in the interwebs.
        One of the reasons I still have a symbian run Nokia 808, which ticks all my boxes. That phone also has a battery life of a few days. Not so good as you describe though.
        Funnily enough, now when friends see my phone they’re like “wow, it’s so small!”.

  1. >The Nokia 3210 is the greatest cell phone ever made. The battery lasted for days

    This one is better. It’s the same phone as the 3210 / 3310 with more durable covers, bigger battery and lower power consumption, and a flashlight. I had one with a BL-6C instead of the stock BL-5C, that would last a month on a charge.

    1. You got people make jokes that you can hammer nails with a Nokia – if you took the 1100 in your hand, it actually felt like you could actually do it, and it was dust and waterproof as well. I had it for about 9 years before the battery wore out.

  2. Any half decent project requires you not only to build something, but also create tools to do so. That’s often the most time consuming part.

    The fun part is that you can infinitely nest this. Building a tool, to aid the building of a tool that builds the project and so forth. Rabbit holes, you ask?

    1. …because we want a phone that’s durable and Just Works?

      Seriously, I’m keeping an eye on this one, if the GSM module can be swapped for a 3G one (2G is useless here in Australia) I’d ditch my present Android device for this in a heartbeat! Doubly so if the 3G module accepts dual-antennas and so I could rig up an SMA connector for an external one.

      Any “apps” I have could run on a cheap tablet tethered over WiFi. They don’t need to run on the phone itself.

  3. I want to see someone do this for a Motorola StarTAC. Make it so it can use original NiCd and NiMH batteries by putting the contacts for LiPo in a different location. Cover the inside face of both halves almost completely with touchscreens. Could eliminate the pull out antenna.

    Was the StarTAC antenna fake like on the MicroTAC?

  4. I like to see this. I use a Motorola V60s that I’ve had to rebuild about 6 times now. I keep buying them from ebay and replacing the screens and any external part that wears out. The original board keeps on working. The phone has been dropped many times on accident, but it’s the only phone I’ve ever had that I can hear over a running radial arm saw. It’s got great audio and with the extra long life battery, if I turn it off at night, it will last a good solid 5 days on stand-by per charge. I keep spare batteries charged up for it and just swap ’em out as needed as the original charging port was kind of crappo to start with. I love the little flip phone and as long as it keeps on working, I’ll keep on using it. It’s about 16 years old now.

    1. Congratulations, here’s your prize. People will be talking about the day CMH62 identified one of Brian’s posts for *decades* to come. Little children will run up to you and ask how they can grow up to be as good as you are at this skill.

  5. “It was indestructible; it is the reason we now appreciate technology over more impermanent concepts like relationships and love.”

    Cracked up at that one, hilarious stuff. XD

    I wonder when 3G/4G chips will become more readily accessible; pretty sure GSM’s gone in Aus. </3

    1. You can get 3G/4G modules similar to the A7 module, but they cost between 30-70eur a piece.

      My dormant cellphone project uses a C.H.I.P Pro and a Sierra Wireless 3G mini-PCIe card that also has GPS. Connects over usb to the the CHIP, audio is independently routed to the module. And using a socketed module leaves me an upgrade path to 4G and beyond.
      SPI screen and debian should make it usable with it’s 256mb of ram.
      It is inspired by tghe “ZipPhone” idea from the Zipit hackers.

  6. I was exercising my google-fu just this past week trying to wrap my mind around just this kind of project…well done Bastian! I’ll be keeping an eye on it. My interest started actually wondering how to just get the nokia version of snake running as a standalone handheld game…but you know how derailed our trains of thought can get. I’m curious to see yours in getting this far into the project.

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