Finding Digital Solace In An Old Nokia Phone

We don’t have to tell you that the current mobile phone market is a bit bleak for folks who value things like privacy, security, and open source. While there have been a few notable attempts to change things up, from phone-optimized versions of popular Linux distributions to the promise of modular handsets — we still find ourselves left with largely identical slabs released by a handful of companies which often seem to treat the customer as a product.

Instead of waiting for technological relief that may never come, [vrhelmutt] has decided to take matters into their own hands by looking to the past. Specifically, by embracing the relatively uncommon Nokia Asha 210. Released in 2013, this so-called “feature phone” offers a full QWERTY keyboard, Nokia’s Series 40 operating system, WiFi, Bluetooth, and a removable BL-4U battery. Unfortunately, with 2G cellular networks quickly being shut down, it’s not likely to get a signal for much longer (if at all, depending on where you live).

So why would you want to use some weird old Nokia phone in 2022? [vrhelmutt] argues that there’s a whole world of S40 software out there that can still be put to use, ranging from games to SSH clients. It’s also relatively easy to develop your own S40 applications in Java, with the original software development kit still freely available online. Combined with the solid (if considerably dated) hardware, this makes the Nokia Asha 210 a surprisingly compelling choice for a pocket hacking platform.

Whether you’re looking for a cheap device that will let you chat on IRC from your couch, or want to write your own custom software for controlling your home automation or robotics projects, you might want to check the second-hand market for a Nokia Asha 210. Or if you’re eager to get experimenting immediately, [vrhelmutt] is actually selling these phones pre-loaded with a wide array of games and programs. Don’t consider this to be an official endorsement; frankly we’re not feeling too confident about the legality of redistributing all this software, but at least it’s an option for those looking to get off the modern smartphone thrill-ride.

If you’re looking for something even farther removed from today’s mobile supercomputers, perhaps we could interest you in the Rotary Un-Smartphone.

9 thoughts on “Finding Digital Solace In An Old Nokia Phone

  1. This reminded me of the neo900 project,, but it looks like it went defunct. Which is too bad! It aimed to remake the Nokia N900 with “modern” (circa a decade ago) features.

    With anything that/this old though, I’d be worried about being locked out of wifi networks with higher levels of security, the modern web, even ssh servers as encryption changes, but this looks awesome for the next few years! It even looks like it has a headphone port!

    It seems the eternal, 3 options, pick two: Modern hardware, Size/build quality, hackability these days.

      1. The problem with the Leste project is that no-one makes hardware that is a potential target for Leste and that would have all the features (including the right cellular network support) for my needs. The Neo900 (with the right modem module) would have given me everything I loved about my old N900 but with a USB port that wouldn’t break off, a web browser that could actually browse modern web sites and a cellular modem that would work with my carrier going forward.

    1. This!

      Brings me back to PSP hacking, before pandora. I was never a coder, but I could do hardware – I’m actually the guy that imported the (ms to microsd was already a thing) sd->cf converters and got them working with 2.5″ ATA – 1.8 was the goal, but it had some quirks I never worked out – and stopped paying attention to that line of work when it turned out that the guy that inspired it all just happened to be really good with photoshop.

      But “well, it wont connect to our network, but if you unofficially do this” . . . Oh yeah, memories :)

  2. I use a Nokia 2730c running S40 as my daily driver. It’s amazing and it turns 12 in two months. I wish wish wish someone would release a new phone running S40; the new Nokia OSes are garbage in comparison with the slick, highly flexible ease of S40.

  3. I think that LineageOS does a great job at this. It works on a wide variety of modern devices, can actually be used daily as a smartphone, and provides a wide variety of privacy and security features.

    1. LineageOS has the same issue as any other Android build. Hardware abandonment. When whomever the principle people behind making it run on a given device lose interest, there’s no more updates for that device. Same as happened with Cyanogenmod that preceded LineageOS.

      Then there are all the quite decent devices like the Sprint Slate 8 AQT80 or many of the Nobis tablets that never get any 3rd party Android love despite having better specifications than many tablets that did get newer Android versions.

      Also aggravating are how many devices built around the Allwinner H3 SOC are stuck at Android 4.x while there are newer ones with the same SOC running Android 7 or newer.

      Why won’t anyone do an Android version 5 or later for the Orange Pi Plus 2E? I have one but it’s becoming useless without a newer Android version. I designed the first 3D printable case for this model OrangePi and uploaded it to Thingiverse.

  4. I still use the little nokia 210 as a very handy ebook reader with Albite, sometimes for a quick photo, or as alarm clock. It works fine especially when traveling, stays in a pocket and forget the bulky big 5″ smartannoyingphone in the bag! Oh, and calculator, little finance spending, and Sideralis, sky map. Pity than Weather by Gega doesn’t work any more, it was perfect. So even if outdated I still find it useful and fun.

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