Notkia: Building an Open Linux-Powered Numpad Phone

Many of us hackers long for cell phones with a numpad. We also agree that such a phone should be open and running on Linux these days. Today’s project, Notkia, is the most promising and realistic attempt to build a keyboard phone that meets our requirements. Notkia is a replacement board for Nokia 168x series phones, equipped with an improved display, USB-C, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and LoRa — and [Reimu NotMoe] from [SudoMaker] tell us the comprehensive story of this project.

Notkia’s efforts started more than two years ago because of: [Reimu]’s increasing distaste for modern smartphones – something every hacker is familiar with. Her first-hand experience with privacy violations and hackability restrictions on Android phones is told in detail, leading to a strong belief that there are fundamental issues with phones available today. Building new hardware from the ground up seems like the best choice. Two years later, this is exactly what we got!

When it comes to the physical form factor of this phone, reusing an existing shell is the most economical solution out there, and the Hackaday.io page describes a journey to finding a shell that fits. In the end, Nokia 1680 series phones turned out to be the perfect candidate. These phones are small and can easily fit in your hand, there’s plenty of room in the case and replacement cases and batteries are easy to get these days – at least the kind of phone you might want.

This replacement motherboard has quite a few features. The old and laggy 128×160 screen is 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 Wi-FiBluetooth, a Yamaha MA-3 music synthesizer, a USB Type-C port for charging and OtG, an RGB LED, an SHT20 sensor and the 1680 version supports a 5MP camera. Such a feature set makes Notkia’s ambitious goal of producing a usable phone quite achievable.

just like with the X1501 project we covered, the Ingenic X1000 CPU has freely available and open datasheets. This phone already runs on Linux – software support is being worked on from here, with an easy path to features like full disk encryption. There is a series of demos: keyboard inputLCD backlight dimming, LVGL music player, and of course, bad apple – with a USB audio adapter via USB-OtG. Drop tests were performed, at. Interested in a Notkia board? [Reimu] aims to launch it on CrowdSupply – until then there is an email signup list to get project updates. If you’re interested in helping with any of the software priorities, it also seems possible to intervene early.

It’s reassuring to see a Linux phone with so much production potential. Projects to repurpose old phone shells to get a viable feature phone have popped up every now and then. This one Nokia 3310 and 3210 rebuilds have some good ideas to borrow, and the WiFi has delivered successfully on the ESP32 front with SIP calls. And if you want to work even more, you can always try that sandwich a Pi Zero between a few planks, or build a ATMega powered phone with a PCB housing!

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