Many of us hackers long for cell phones adorned with numeric keypads. We also have a common understanding that these days a phone like this needs to be open source and run on Linux. Today’s Notkia project is the most promising and realistic effort to create a keyboard phone that meets our requirements. Notkia is a replacement board for Nokia 168x series phones with improved display, USB-C, WiFi, Bluetooth and LoRa [Reimu NotMoe] about [SudoMaker] tells the broad story of this project.
Notkia’s efforts began more than two years ago because [Reimu]increasingly dislikes modern smartphones – this is known to every hacker. Her first-hand experience with privacy breaches and hacking restrictions on Android phones is detailed, and she firmly believes that there are fundamental problems with phones these days. Building new hardware from the ground up seems to be the way forward. Two years later, we got just that!
When it comes to the physical form of this phone, reusing the existing shell is the most cost-effective solution, and the Hackaday.io page describes the journey to find the right shell. Finally, the Nokia 1680 series phones proved to be the perfect candidate. These phones are small and easy to hold in the hand, have plenty of room inside the case, and replaceable cases and batteries are easy to come by these days, at least for the kind of phone you might want to buy.
This replacement motherboard has quite a few features. The old and lagging 128×160 screen has been replaced by an IPS screen with a visible area of 220×280 pixels. They couldn’t find a small enough 4G module, but Notkia uses a LoRa module instead of. There is Wireless Internet, Bluetooth, Yamaha MA-3 music synthesizer, USB Type-C port for charging and OtG, RGB LED, SHT20 sensor, and the 1680 version supports a 5MP camera. This feature set makes Notkia’s ambitious goal of a usable phone quite achievable.
Like the X1501 project we discussed, the Ingenic X1000 processor has freely available and open datasheets. This phone already runs Linux, from where software support continues, features such as full disk encryption are readily available. There are several demo versions: keyboard input, LCD backlight dimming, LVGL Music Player, and ofcourse, A bad apple – with USB audio adapter via USB-OtG. Drop tests were performed, also. Want to get a Notkia board? [Reimu] looking to launch it on CrowdSupply – until then there is a signup email. mailing list to receive project updates. If you’re interested in helping with one of the software’s priorities, it looks like you can get an early start, too.
Nice to see a Linux phone with such high production potential. From time to time there have been projects to reuse old phone cases to make a viable phone. These Nokia 3310 and Nokia 3210 updates have some good ideas, and WiPhone successfully introduced ESP32 on the front with SIP calls. And if you want to get even more DIY, you can always try sandwiching a Pi Zero between a few boards or building an ATMega powered phone with a PCB case!