A Phone That Old Shouldn’t Be Running Android

Cars and smartphones have something curious in common, just as most everyday saloon cars from different manufacturers have tended towards similarity, so have smartphones. Whether your smartphone the latest and greatest or only cost you $50 from a supermarket, it matters little to look at because both phones will be superficially near-identical black slabs.

It wasn’t always this way though, in decades past phones from different manufacturers each had their own flavours, and there was a variety in form factors to suit all tastes. There’s a ray of hope for fans of those days though, in the form of [befinitiv]’s 2000-era Sony flip phone. It runs Android. Yes, you read that right, there on the tiny screen is Android 9.

Of course whatever processor and electronics the phone came with are long gone, and instead the phone sports the internals of a modern Chinese watch-smartphone grafted in in place of the original. The whole electronics package fits in the screen opening, and though it required some wiring for the USB-C socket and a few other parts it looks for all the world from the outside as though it was meant to run Android. You can take a look in the video below the break.

He cheerfully admits that there’s still a way to go for example in getting the original keyboard working, but even with a tiny touchscreen it’s good enough to be a daily driver. It may be a little on the small side, but for those of us who miss our old phones maybe there’s hope in it for something new.

Meanwhile this isn’t the first re-use of an old phone we’ve seen recently.

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An Open Source Smart Watch You’d Actually Wear

We’ve seen a number of open source smart watches over the years, and while they’ve certainly been impressive from a technical standpoint, they often leave something to be desired in terms of fit and finish. Exposed PCBs and monochromatic OLED displays might be fine for a trip to the hackerspace, but it wouldn’t be our first choice for date night attire.

Enter the Open-SmartWatch from [pauls_3d_things]. This ESP32 powered watch packs a gorgeous circular 240×240 TFT display, DS323M RTC, BMA400 three-axis accelerometer, and a 450 mAh battery inside of a 3D printed enclosure that can be produced on your average desktop machine. WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity are a given with the ESP32, but there’s also an enhanced edition of the PCB that adds another 4 MB of RAM, a micro SD slot, and a Quectel L96 GPS receiver.

The GPS edition of the PCB

As it’s an open source project you’re free to download the PCB design files and get the board produced on your own, but [pauls_3d_things] has actually partnered with LILYGO to do a run of the Open-SmartWatch electronics which you can pick up on AliExpress right now for just $24 USD. You’ll still need to order the battery separately and 3D print your own case, but it still seems like a pretty sweet deal to us.

On the software front, things are pretty basic right now. The watch can update the time from NTP using a pre-configured WiFi network, and there’s a Bluetooth media controller and stopwatch included. Of course, as more people get the hardware in their hands (or on their wrists, as the case may be), we’ll likely start seeing more capabilities added to the core OS.

While getting our own code running on commercially produced smartwatches holds a lot of promise, the Open-SmartWatch is arguably the best of both worlds. The partnership with LILYGO brings professional fabrication to the open hardware project, and the GPLv3 licensed firmware is ripe for hacking. We’re very excited to see where the community takes this project, and fully expect to start seeing these watches out in the wild once we can have proper cons again.

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The IEEE Builds A Smart Watch

It used to be that building your own watch was either a big project or it meant that you didn’t really care about how something looked on your wrist. But now with modern parts and construction techniques, a good-looking smart watch isn’t out of reach of the home shop. But if you don’t want to totally do it yourself, you can turn to a kit and that’s what [Stephen Cass] did. Writing in IEEE Spectrum, he took a kit called a Watchy and put it through its paces for you.

Watchy is an open source product that uses an ESP32, an E-ink display, and costs about $50. The display is 1.5 inches — good enough for a watch — and it has a real time clock, a vibration motor, an accelerometer, and four buttons. The whole thing runs on a 200 mAh lithium polymer battery. The charger is microUSB and you can also upload software to it using the usual Arduino tools.

However, [Stephen] found that none of the examples he tried would work at first. He found problems with the Mac software, but he also had problems under Windows. The answer? Switching to a Raspberry Pi seemed to work and once the watch was wiped clean, the Mac tools would work, too. It sounds like this isn’t a common problem, but he has to erase the watch with the Pi before each programming cycle.

Unlike a normal Arduino program, all the work in a typical Watchy program happens in setup() so the watch can mostly sleep and it updates the 200×200 typically just once a minute. As an example, [Stephan] wrote a watch face that uses an old Irish alphabet to tell time. He plans to add code to grab online data, too, and the phone has support for connecting wirelessly and parsing JSON to make tasks like that easier.

We always thought the EZ430-Chronos was a good-looking watch, but its screen is dated now. You can also pick up a lot of cheap import watches that can be hacked.

Giving Recalled Fitness Trackers A Second Chance

When it was released back in 2012, the Basis B1 fitness tracker was in many ways ahead of its time. In fact, the early smartwatch was so impressive that Intel quickly snapped up the company and made it the cornerstone of their wearable division. Unfortunately a flaw in their next watch, the Basis Peak, ended up literally burning some wearers. Intel was forced to recall the whole product line, and a year later dissolved their entire wearable division.

Given their rocky history, it’s probably no surprise that these gadgets can be had quite cheaply on the second hand market. But can you do anything with them? That’s what [Ben Jabituya] recently decided to find out, and the results of his experiments certainly look very promising. So far he hasn’t found a way to activate a brand-new Basis watch, but assuming you can get your hands on one that was actively being used when Intel pulled the plug, his hacks can be used to get it back up and running.

Examining the downloaded sensor logs.

The Basis Android application has long since been removed from the Play Store, but [Ben] said it wasn’t too hard to find an old version floating around on the web. After decompiling the application he discovered the developers included a backdoor that lets you configure advanced options that would normally be hidden.

How do you access it? As a reminder of the era in which the product was developed, you simply need to log into the application using Jersey and Shore as the username and password, respectively.

Between the developer options and API information he gleaned from the decompiled code, [Ben] was able to create a faux Basis authentication server and point the application to it. That let him get past the login screen, after which he was able to sync with the watch and download its stored data. Between examinations with a hex editor and some open source code that was already available online, he was able to write a Python script for parsing the data which he’s been kind enough to share with the world.

We’re very pleased to see an open source solution that not only gets these “bricked” smartwatches back online, but allows the user to keep all of the generated data under their own control. If you’d like to do something similar with a device that doesn’t have a history of releasing the Magic Smoke, the development of an open source firmware for more modern fitness trackers might be of interest.

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Is That An ESP32 On Your Wrist?

What could you do with a dual-core 240 MHz ESP32 that supports Arduino-style programming, with 16 MB of flash, 8 MB of PSRAM, and 520 k of RAM? Oh, let’s throw in a touchscreen, an accelerometer, Wifi, and Bluetooth. Besides that, it fits on your wrist and can show the time? That’s the proposition behind Lilygo T Watch 2020. If it sounds like a smartwatch, it is. At around $25 –and you can snag the hardware from a few different places — it is not only cheaper than the latest flagship smartwatch, but it is also infinitely more hackable.

OK, so the screen is only 1.54″, but then again, it is a watch. If Arduino isn’t your thing, you can use anything else that supports the ESP32 like Micropython or even Scratch. There are variants that have LoRA and GPS, at slightly higher prices. You can also find ones with heart rate monitors and other features.

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Cheap Smartwatch Hacking, To Run Your Own Code

[Aaron Christophel] has been busy, he picked up a P8 smartwatch of the type that many of you will no doubt have seen. They cost almost nothing and do almost… nothing. In all fairness, they do connect to your phone using Bluetooth LE courtesy of a chip from Nordic (the NRF52832), and they can do several simple tasks. But they don’t run applications in the way an Android or Apple watch does. [Aaron] wants to run his own applications, so his YouTube channel has a lot of information about hacking the P8 and other watches with similar chips. In one video you can watch below, he demonstrates how he’s written support for Arduino programming to the devices. What we were really excited about was the second video below where he shows his Android app that can flash the devices via Bluetooth. That means you can potentially hack these devices without opening them up.

The app that normally runs these watches is called Da Fit, so [Aaron] called his utility DaFlasher. This is all early stuff so we expect some coaxing to get everything working, but it has great promise.

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OpenChronograph Lets You Roll Your Own Smart Watch

At first, smartwatches were like little tiny tablets or phones that you wore on your wrist. More recently though we have noticed more “hybrid” smartwatches, that look like a regular watch, but that use their hands to communicate data. For example you might hear a text message come in and then see the hand swing to 1, indicating it is your significant other. Want to roll your own? The OpenChronograph project should be your first stop.

The watches are drop in replacements for several Fossil and Skagen watch boards (keep in mind Fossil and Skagen are really the same company). There’s an Arduino-compatible Atmega328p, an ultra low power real time clock, a magnetometer, pressure sensor, temperature sensor, and support for a total of three hands. You can even create PCB artwork that will act as the watch face using Python.

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