The PinePhone is an inexpensive smartphone designed to run Linux-based operating systems. Developed by the folks at Pine64, the $150 smartphone was first announced about a year ago — and this week the first units will ship.

Pine64 says it will begin shipping the PinePhone Braveheart Edition on January 17th — although it could take a few weeks for customers to receive their phones.

This Braveheart edition phone is aimed at early adopters willing to tinker and test the hardware and try out various software environments. In fact, it doesn’t even ship with a fully functional operating system pre-installed — Braveheart versions of the PinePhone have a Linux-based system test utility loaded onto the built-in storage.

Pine64 says users will want to check out the PinePhone Wiki or other sources to find compatible operating systems such as Ubuntu Touch, postmarketOS, or Sailfish OS.

All of those operating systems are still very much a work in progress, with new builds rolling out all the time, so it’s recommended you load the operating systems onto an SD card rather than built-in storage.

But that’s one of the key things that really sets the PinePhone apart from other handsets. Not only is it designed to run free and open source, GNU/Linux-based operating systems. But you can boot from internal storage or an SD card. There’s no bootloader lock that keeps you from running the software you want to use on the phone.

It also has a headphone jack and a removable battery, unlike most modern phones. And there are hardware killswitches for disabling wireless capabilities, the camera, or other hardware.

Pine64 also included 6 pogo pins on the back of the phone that could eventually be used to connect custom hardware modules.

Not bad for a $150 phone.

That said, the specs are nothing to write home about. The PinePhone has a 5.95 inch, 1440 x 720 pixel IPS display, an Allwinner A64 ARM Cortex-A53 quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage.  It supports 802.11b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0, and the phone has a 5MP rear camera and a 2MP front-facing camera.

The phone supports 15 watt fast charging, but it ships with just a USB-C cable. You’ll need to supply your own 5V/3A USB-PD charger (lower-power chargers should work as well, but the phone will obviously charge more slowly).

While it’s just the Braveheart edition phones shipping this month, Pine64 hopes to ramp up production of its next batch of PinePhones in a few months. By that point, it’s possible that the company will be ready to ship phones with a usable operating system pre-installed, making the PinePhone a little more viable for folks who may not want to have to choose and install their own OS.

The company is also exploring the possibility of partnering with software developers to offer co-branded phones. So don’t be surprised if one day we see the smartphone equivalent of a “Mintbox” computer, where the developers of a Linux distribution partner with Pine64 to ship a special edition phone with a specific operating system installed and a custom logo on the back of the handset.

 

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  1. I dream of a day when Linux (not Android) smartphones are full featured, supported, and in common use. I really want one but doubt there will ever be one in the market.

    1. Well this is what happens with free as in freedom, non predatory software. If nobody has cause to develop it it doesn’t get developed and if nobody buys the hardware it’s supposed to, or allowed to, run on due to lack of software, there is no cause to develop it!
      It’s $150, is that not cheap enough to even try to create impetus to make your dream come true? I mean, I know it doesn’t help that there’s nothing wrong with android fundamentally, it’s just that by default all real implementations of it are set up to encourage and aid evil, but still.
      If you really need NFC there’s always smartwatches.

  2. Expose the hardware in /dev so the dummy linux drivers fullfill the specification (wifi, modem, display, audio, sensors). Minimal xwindow manager, the Chromiums Android Virtual Machine.

    Build a laptop dock, use the phone as the mouse. USB-C expanded PCI-e x86 coprocessor; expose the x86 or coload an alternative os via kvirt or something (systemd-nspawn).

    Dreamy…

    1. I feel like stuffing an x86 coprocessor in a lapdock is missing the point and seems prohibitively difficult for anyone to try and make into a commercial product. At that point what you’ve got is practically a laptop in it’s own right (in terms of cost and ability), and using it with the phone doesn’t seem like it would be much different from using a laptop with the phone as a mobile hotspot. And considering the cost of this thing a pinebook pro and some chromebooks are cheaper than any lapdock you’ll ever buy, or build, and they’re more powerful than this phone.
      More practical would be to just let the phone power the whole thing. If the mobile OS images available don’t have very good ability to switch between desktop and phone modes, you could boot a desktop distro from the SD card.
      I am sure however, that this phone will increase interest in Anbox.

  3. I’m intrigued by this. Limits of apps will be an issue of course. Curious if Chrome would work with it? Mapping programs would be a major concern for navigation. Commercial use for trucking would be a major boon to the companies.

    1. Why Chrome shouldn’t work? It is a Linux distro, Chrome available on ARM for almost decade long. Even if Chrome will be unavailable, I am sure that Chromium will be available

  4. Last month, they mentioned in a blog post that they’re making a keyboard attachment. Similar to the Cosmo Communicator it seems but a higher chance that a desktop Linux distro will actually truly work that what Planet Computers can come with.

    If the phone, keyboard attachment and a working desktop Linux distro becomes a reality, then I’ll be a buyer.