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.