Nokia 1260 (or 3360) display and Arduino/AVR? Maybe. Not yet.

I’m going to make a confession. My favorite mobile phone of all time is the Nokia 1260. Nope, not an iPhone, not an Android phone, not even a smartphone. Sorry folks, but the telephone hardware in smartphones sucks all the way across the board. WORST. PHONES. EVER. Why even include the hardware? Screw it, just make smartphones pocket robots and be done with it. I digress.

This little pre-paid AT&T mobile phone was fast, cheap, rock solid, and had all the features I’d ever need in a phone plus about 20. AndandAND…it’s absolutely worthless in 2014. Oh well, I guess phones aren’t in style anymore.

Seeing as how there is no resale value in this thing anymore and I have no intention of moving from my iPhone back to a pre-paid mobile plan, I may as well crack this thing open and salvage parts for DIY projects.

During some recent explorations with Arduinos and AVR chips (gonna program AVRs directly soon, just wait for the hella-boring and severely detailed blog posts) I have stumbled across what may be one of the coolest trends in DIY electronics: Nokia 3310/5110 LCD displays. These things are 84×48 monochrome displays with a super-simple 8-contact connector and a controller datasheet that is so thorough that you could practically build your own controller hardware yourself, not that you’d want to, but you could. They’re available in breadboard-compatible configurations complete with backlight LEDs, and they’re cheap! You can pick them up in the US for around $10 a piece. Or, you could be a cheap bastard like me and get a set of 5 Nokia 5110 LCDs on eBay literally shipped on a slow boat from China (2+ weeks for delivery) for around $15, shipping included. Same LCDs, probably cheaper production, but whatever. Search eBay if you’re interested in bulk LCD displays. That’s all I’m gonna say about it.

I’m impatient, so after ordering my 5110 displays I eyeballed my mothballed 1260 and thought “hey, how many different LCDs could Nokia have possibly used in their old phones? I bet this thing has the same display!” So, a few torx screwdrivers later, I had the 1260 in pieces. The LCD looked almost identical so I got excited, then I found out that 1260 LCDs and 3310/5110 LCDs aren’t the same and I got really sad.

Nokia 1260 LCD, front and back

No biggie, all hope is not lost. Someone has managed to get something going with these displays, although he never posted his code which kinda irks me but I’ll forgive him because of all the other valuable info he shared.

Here’s what I know based on my own searches and info from the guy mentioned above:

  • this is either a Seiko or Philips LCD
  • Nokia part number 4850139
  • it has a similar 8-contact “zebra” strip as the 3310/5110 LCDs, which is cool
  • the pinouts may be different. From 1-8: reset, cs, vss, data, clock, vlogic, vsupply, vlcd (out)
  • same voltage (3.3V), same resolution as Nokia 3310/5110 LCD

The image above gives a slightly misleading impression. The display is not a standalone component of the phone. Part of the backing of the display is an extension of the plastic panel that holds button hardware. I had to first peel back and cut away a layer of sticky plastic (I trimmed it just below the display. The portion that extends behind the display holds not only the part numbers you see above, but also a rectangular plastic backlight blocker panel that you see through the clear plastic underneath the part numbers). After trimming the sticky plastic sheet, I scored and then bent/broke away the clear plastic board that contained structural phone button BS. A few bent metal tabs later, and I ended up with what you see in the image above: just the display and bezel. Note: no backlighting LEDs. They’re on the PCB in the phone, completely separate from the display. This may be unique to Nokia 1260s. I don’t know. Either way, they’re nice but not necessary.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten with this project.

I plan to find a PCB that would normally include a Nokia 3310/5110 LCD but without the LCD and see if I can just connect this thing to it (hopefully the contacts line up with the zebra connector on the back of this LCD) then I’ll see if I can tweak one of the libraries used for the 3310/5110 LCD so it can be used with the 1260 LCD. It shouldn’t be impossible, right? Damn right I’m right. It’s just code. Anything is possible.

We’ll see. If you read this far thinking I have a solution, I apologize, but you must admit you got something useful out of this. Information about Arduinos/AVRs and 1260 LCDs is almost nonexistent, which shocks the hell out of me. If I make progress with this thing, you know I’ll share what I find.

Update 7/25/2014: I torched it!

Actually, I killed one of the metal contacts on the top of the display when I (re-, re-re-, re-re-re-) soldered a wire to it. I may have come close to killing more than one of the contacts, now that I think about it. They’re not made to withstand heat at all so I guess I can’t say I’m surprised. Without all 8 of the contacts having connections, this thing is useless. Lesson learned: sometimes it’s easier to just buy the damn things.

Of course, I DID have fun before the contact got scorched. I was so close! Really! Oh well, I guess I’ll stick with my Nokia 5110 LCDs. No biggie.

Proof that I’m not full of s**t. I WAS CLOSE.

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