The PinePhone is a cheap, Linux-ready smartphone that’s expected to ship in limited quantities later this year. It’s not exactly a high-power device by modern smartphone standards, but with an expected starting price of $149, it will be a lot more affordable than some of the other Linux phones on the horizon.
It’s also starting to look like the PinePhone could be a very versatile device.
Pine64 has been sending out development kits for a while, and it looks like developers are porting a number of GNU/Linux-based operating systems to the platform.
Here are a few of the latest examples:
- PostmarketOS is up and running with support for hardware acceleration.
- A port of LuneOS is under development. It’s an open source operating system based on weBOS.
- SailfishOS is at least booting.
- Another developer is working on porting Nemo Mobile with the Glacier UI.
- Here’s an image showing the Sway tiling Wayland compositor.
- And here’s a video showing Maemo Leste on the PinePhone dev kit (without hardware acceleration).
In other words, there’s a good chance that by the time this phone ships to customers, you may have a variety of open source operating systems to choose from. While it’s unlikely that any of them will have as robust an ecosystem of mobile apps as Android or iOS at launch, this isn’t a device designed for people that just want a cheap Android phone.
It’s a phone for open source enthusiasts who would prefer a mobile device that comes with free and open source software that can be customized, modified, or replaced. I’d be surprised if the experience wasn’t a bit buggy at launch, but after years of stops and starts, it looks like this could be the year we start to see smartphones ship that are truly designed to run GNU/Linux distributions.
The PinePhone64 is expected to feature:
- 5.95 inch, 1440 x 720 pixel LCD display
- Allwinner A64 quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor
- Mali 400 MP2 graphics
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB eMMC storage
- Bootable microSD card
- 5MP rear and 2MP front cameras
- 4G LTE Cat 4 modem
- 802.11b/g/n WiFi
- Bluetooth 4.0
- 3,000 mAh battery
Update: Pine64 has posted some more details about the current status of the PinePhone project:
- A prototype is expected in August.
- The phone will use the same battery as a Samsung J7 smartphone, which means users will be able to pick up replacements or spares for about $10 on eBay.
- It’ll have four hardware kill switches for the BT/WiFi, modem, cameras, and microphone. They’ll be hidden under the back cover to keep you from toggling them accidentally.
- A set of 6 pogo pins will be exposed, enabling support for modular back-cover add-ons that can interact with the phone’s hardware. For example, there could be a keyboard add-on.
While I first saw details about some of the latest software developments for the Pine64 in an article at CNX-Software, a tweet from Pine64 sent me looking for some more information. And the best resource I’ve found so far is a lengthy thread in the UBPorts forum. I’d recommend checking it out if you want to keep up on the latest developments.
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