LoRa Messenger In Nokia’s Shell

The arrival of LoRa a few years ago gave us at last an accessible licence-free UHF communication protocol with significant range. It’s closed-source, but there are plenty of modules available so it’s found its way into a variety of projects in our community over the years. Among them we’ve seen a few messaging devices, but none quite so slick as [Trevor Attema]’s converted Nokia E63 BlackBerry-like smartphone. The original motherboard with its cellphone radio and Symbian-running processor have been tossed aside, and in its place is a new motherboard that hooks into the Nokia LCD, keypad, backlighting and speaker. To all intents and purposes from the outside it’s a Nokia phone, but one that has been expertly repurposed as a messenger.

On the PCB alongside a LoRa module is an STM32H7 microcontroller and an ATECC608 secure authentication chip for encrypted messages. It’s designed to form a mesh network, further extending the range across which a group can operate.

We like this project for the quality of the work, but we especially like it for the way it uses the Nokia’s components. We’ve asked in the past why people aren’t hacking smartphones, but maybe we’re asking the wrong question. If the smartphone as a unit isn’t useful, then how about its case, components, and form factor? Perhaps a black-brick Android phone will yield little, but the previous generation such as this Nokia use parts that are easy to interface with and well understood. Let’s hope it encourages more experimentation.

30 thoughts on “LoRa Messenger In Nokia’s Shell

  1. This is awesome … I am thinking about putting something like this together for my sailboat … will let me go to land and still talk to the people on the boat (or as a relay) distance should be nice with an antenna on the mast (fingers cross) … but love the form factor

    1. Meshtastic
      not perfect but works,
      I really like this physicals device approach I’d build one for everyone I know for emergency use. Meshtastic is paring your smart device with another device to use lora for messaging, works, but in practice it’s still two devices. Single emergency device is great idea.

  2. I’ve been waiting for a good lora messenger platform, something cheap, simple and effective, ideally with basic gps functionality. And with deployable repeaters.

  3. A most excellent hack. Add a big solar panel on the back so that you can just charge it by leaving it face down in the sun and you have got a product that a lot of people may be interested it.

    1. +1 For the PCBs and general interest in the project. I’ve been meaning to have a go at something using LoRA and already know FreeRTOS relatively well so this project is a nice way to something that’s packaged will on the hardware front already.

  4. +1 on pcb and build. I’ve been playing with meshtastic, but would prefer single device usage as having to pair to a smart phone introduces more failure points. Having devices that are nodes and capable of messaging is legit a good way to go. Could easily become a emergency prepared product people would love.

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