Fix Your Nokia’s White Screen Of Death

Today the Nokia brand can be found on a range of well-screwed-together Androind phones and a few feature phones, but as older readers will remember that before their descent into corporate chaos and the Windows Phone wilderness, there was once a time when the Finnish manufacturer dominated the mobile phone landscape and produced some of the most innovative and creative handset designs ever created. It’s for some of these that [Michael Fitzmayer] has done some work providing tools revive the devices from an unfortunate bricking.

The N-Gage was the phone giant’s attempt to produce a handset that doubled as a handheld game console, and though it was a commercial failure at the time it has retained a following among enthusiasts. The flaw comes as its Symbian operating system fills its user partition, at which point the infamous “White Screen Of Death” occurs as the device can no longer reboot. Rewriting the flash chip used to be handled by Nokia service tools, but these can no longer be found. His fix substitutes a “Blue pill” STMF103-based dev board that connects to the Nokia FBus serial port and does its job. It’s possible that it could be used on other Symbian devices, but for now it’s only been tested on the N-Gages.

It’s easy to forget when a smartphone is defined by iOS and Android, that Symbian gave us a smartphone experience for the previous decade. For those of us who still pine for their miniaturised Carl Zeiss Tessar cameras and candybar form factors, it’s good to see them receiving some love.

Thanks [Razvan] for the tip.

16 thoughts on “Fix Your Nokia’s White Screen Of Death

  1. I used to work on these suckers as a game dev, and we bricked a few in this one. One way to brick it would be to simply fill up the entirety of the onboard storage – at that point the device wouldn’t boot and just show a white screen.

    What really got annoying was their QA time rejecting game builds if the game crashed back to the OS if it tried to write and the storage was full – never mind the fact that if some poor unsuspecting sod restarted their phone in that instance they’d be sending it away for a few weeks.

  2. IIRC this will be using NOR Flash and LFFS, and you should be able to do a search for documentation for this stuff (IIRC LFFS became OSS).
    Worth noting that LFFS does wear-levelling, and you are probably destroying all the bad block and write counts on your device, which will need to be re-evaluated (and the number of good blocks left might still be low). This wasn’t a problem on the dev protos, as they were all to be destroyed after a relatively short time anyway.

  3. The 7650 had a similar ‘feature’. If the storage was full then you ended up in a boot loop.

    With a key combination you could start up in safe mode which still boot looped, but the speed in safe mode was painfully slow, slow enough that at the right point of the boot process you could key in the format code, which would eventually get processed, but before whatever caused it to reboot. There was a firmware update to alleviate this but that wasn’t easily done by the user, more a service centre job!

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.