BL-5C

Batteries for cell phones are a commodity and thus often quite cheap. The interesting part is that fake batteries will often cost the same as original ones and some dealers will swear by the fake Chinese NokLa phone in their hands that they are of course only selling “Original Nokia” products.

Original. Yeah, right.

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What you see here:

A) original battery that came shipped with my Nokia 6230i

B) fake “original” battery from eBay @ 6,39 EUR

C) most-likely “original” battery from eBay @ 4,99 EUR

Battery B really pissed us off as it was drained within a few hours (!). The hologram is just very simple yet it looks like an original battery (except for the hologram and the deeper golden contacts). There are no hints on Nokia’s website other than the hologram (they used to have a form to double-check that number on the holo but imho even those numbers were faked).

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Battery B was bulk-ware, meaning that it came shipped in a plastic bag while battery C was in an original Nokia packaging with a proper invoice. A bit irritating that there are two different mAh readings – a sticker that says 850 mAh on the front and a printed 970 mAh on the back. On Nokia’s website it says 900 mAh for the BL-5C, but hey – Nokia’s website has never been that accurate on phone details. Nokia also published a product advisory on the BL-5C type some time ago – a successful battery type has been produced over 300 million times and is built by five different manufacturers.

There are many, many dealers on eBay that sell BL-5C batteries for Nokia phones and I’d say that most of them are just fake ones. On the other hand, candidate number C was the cheapest, came in an original packaging and seems to perform like candidate A. Simbaya!

eBay as an online marketplace of course isn’t the best platform to purchase such electronics, but it is the one with the most competitive, or let’s say: comparable prices. Any other online-shop or even physical store will be more expensive (due to shipping rates & other general expenses). And it ain’t about the costs alone – I’d be willing to cough up more on a battery (but not too much!) if the dealer can assure that it is indeed original. I know this is a huge issue with product piracy and so on but – other than with cars where a non-original spare part may just as well be performing as required – most fake batteries also don’t last as long.? There may be exeptions to this general rule, but from my experience with this and other phones, most copies aren’t good enough, not even close. Probably also because they are commodities and their Chinese manufacturers just don’t give a damn…

the LED phone hack

The following post is dedicated to Samuel & Juliana – both connoisseurs of mobile phones that come with an integrated flashlight (such as the Nokia 1208).

An integrated LED flashlight? What’s the big deal?

Well, if you happen to live in a country with frequent power failures and favour all-in-one devices, an integrated flashlight comes in handy for those moments when it’s too windy or otherwise inappropriate to use a lighter as a source of light. Dedicated LED-based flashlights are nice and proven – I have mine on the keychain – got it free from Globetrotter.de some years ago.

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Sure, you could even use the brigtly illuminated screen on your phone to satisfy any quick needs for a source of light, but it just isn’t the same comfort and also isn’t right on one single spot. There btw is a fancy app for the iPhone which provides a blank white screen to substitute a flash (says @mzeecedric). Quite a ROFL-factor but more like a gimmick. Other recent Nokias with S60 and LED-flash for photography can be modified on the hardware side, e.g. cutting a wire on the printed circuit flex cable. Those “flash lights” weren’t made for constant illumination needs, hence it’s highly recommended not to do that.

I’d been thinking about a DIY alternative for a phone that could be realized by any average phone fundi out there and consequently didn’t want to come up with any SMD-type solution that would probably do a much better job, but instead come up with a simple hack that – most importantly – may be reversed to preserve any warranty on the phone.

The actual need for this project arose late last night after Samuel’s tweet on how he misses the flashlight. Besides, I had urgent work to finish so I needed an external incentive to push me through the evening until I could eventually put my hands on this “hack”.

The players:

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an older Nokia 6230 I rescued from eBay some time ago (my 6230i walked away in a Were-sense…). Here you can already see the thin back cover which can be replaced anytime and is thus perfectly made for hacks.

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an old LED with batteries from a dead lighter

So let’s start with….

1. the cheap solution :-)

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A quick ‘n’ dirty solution that will just do the job.

Not very sustainable though. Which gets us to…

2. the slightly better option

Many Nokia phones come with an exchangable cover, so it’s obvious to make use of the plastic cover which can be exchanged any time. And since there isn’t much space for a bigger battery, we’ll also use the phone’s own battery. After all, it’s based on LithiumIon technology which means relatively high energy density.

The LED is in blue colour, but basically any stronger LED will do the job. Your fundi may be able to resuce one from the usual e-waste found in popular places. I am also not using any resistor or any other passive & active parts to keep it really simple. All we need to do is to sacrifice the back cover for this hack (coz the LED has to go somewhere) and get a direct connection to the battery.

So I’d asked myself:

  1. Where do I put the LED?
  2. Will I need a switch to activate it?
  3. How will I manage to connect it to the battery, given the narrow space in between the cover and the battery?

To worsen the situation even more, I currently do not have access to my usual tools, but then again, that’s the challenge after all – trying to find a decent solution under limited conditions. All I currently have are scissors, my Leatherman Wave, a (really!) cheap voltmeter and a monsterous 30W soldering iron. My Gadgetimoja-toolbox is somewhere else on this planet…

Trying to find a short piece of relatively thin wire turned out to be the hardest part – I have lots of that stuff at home – but where is it when you need it??

So I did what everyone does in such situations: improvise – and take it from somewhere else. In other words: look for another electronical device and see if you can “borrow” some 10cm of wire from that.

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Pole sana, dear electrical thermometer. It’s friggin cold outside anyways so at least I’ve provided you with a few indoor minutes. And thx for the cable!

Improvising also means that you do things by trial & error and try to avoid any hardware modifications by simulating the scenario in your head. Will this work? Where will I put the LED? Can it still fit? And what about that damn switch??

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It works!

I’d made good experience with “drilling” decent holes into plastic (mis)using a cheap soldering iron in the past, so I just continued “drilling” a hole (don’t try this at home, kids) using this method. Just make sure you actually clean the iron afterwards and while it’s still hot.

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As you can see from the pictures above, the cables are just loosely joined with the wonderful battery dock on the phone so that you can remove them any time. The LED is rather big but “somehow” fits onto the edge of the back cover. Also, the cable is still too thick and the back cover will not close the way it is supposed to (also because my phone….ahem…let’s say: had already survived a few other “operations” in the past + remember I’d previously aquired it in an awful condition from eBay).

A “switch” is also missing but this was just version 0.1 to show it’s doable to pimp an ordinary phone into a flashlight phone. It’s a jua kali hack for prototyping, I’d say.

Do you have any ideas for a switch? How would you design it? Maybe integrate it on the side? And is it locally available (= keep it cheap and simple)?

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The activated LED with the back cover just put on top.

I will try to organise two more back covers so that I can play around and see what else is possible. Ideally, I’d like to see someone else from Nairobi pick this up (if not already done – sijui if this already exists in Nbo these days?) and modify it into a commercial add-on for wanainchii. After all, phones with flashlights just rock and should imho be on any phone out there. This solution here won’t jeopardize the gadget itself – and such a plastic back cover is cheap, especially this one (with a Vodafone branding, yuck!).

MobilePress

FireShot Pro capture #43 - 'MobilePress - Enable The Mobile Web' - mobilepress co za

Following my other mobile blogging related posts, both my colleagues @AfriGadget – Frerieke & Erik – adviced me to take a closer look at a wonderful (new) WordPress plugin called MobilePress.

“MobilePress is a WordPress plugin that will render your WordPress blog on mobile handsets, with the ability to use customized themes.” – We’ve seen this feature with others before, but – as the author correctly points out: “Plugins exist, but, at best, contain sneaky ads and backlinks and are not all together well written.” I do share those feelings regarding the WordPress Mobile Plugin as mentioned earlier.

Despite of MobilePress being just the right choice for the mobile accessibility of your WordPress-based blog, I am still using the out-dated WPhone Admin Plugin because MobilePress (currently) lacks one important part: it automatically chooses the right rendering option based on the browser.

Now – I would like to choose that myself! WPhone does that by providing a “use mobile admin interface” checkbox on the WP login screen.

Mzeecedric and I recently had to look for a solution to a low-bandwidth blog-access issue and ended up using WPhone. I would, however, prefer to use MobilePress (also because it’s from SA, yay! :-) once such a “use mobile admin interface” functionality is integrated so that blog editors can actively choose a low-bandwidth login to the WP backend while using a normal browser.

(It’s btw interesting to see how a plugin is used for another purpose – something else than what it had been designed for. See M-Pesa in Kenya and how it is used these days.)

N97

With all the iPhone hype back then, pls allow me to celebrate my Nokia fanboy moment for 2 minutes.

Honestly, I wasn’t counting on any innovation by Nokia these days and really hope that they improved the S60 browser on this upcoming device. I think the success of a phone these days depends to at least 40% on the mobile browser. The one on the iPhone is good. If Nokia understood this message and improves the S60 browser until the N97 is released in ~ 05/2009, it could become a? good phone for bloggers. Else it will just be another SE X1, HTC touch and so on.

The swapable QWERTY keyboard (horizontally, not vertically – very important) is the only reason I would accept moving from a slider phone to another slider phone. Else I am all monoblock. Same reason why I switched from a Nokia 7110 to a 6210 in 2000.

Oh, and did I mention it has microUSB charging? To me, real innovations start with these not so obvious details which are more important to me than awesome multimedia options.

If this new phone is as easy to use as the iPhone, I will want to have it asap!

JKE’s Nokia E71 review: (2) Hello world!

If you thought that Stephen Hawking is the only one around with a cool voice, check this out:

(my 2nd video on YouTube btw – am a bit shy when it comes to video blogging…)

If you ever thought about getting an E71 and are still looking for that *special* reason why it’s better than a BB or even an iPhone, this may be a surprising gimmick for your non-geek friends at Pizza Garden on those Furahiday evenings. ;-)

Stay tuned for part (3) of my E71 review!