The PinePhone is one of the first smartphones designed specifically for open source software enthusiasts. It’s an affordable phone with a starting price of $150 that ships with a GNU/Linux distribution pre-installed, but which can also boot from a microSD card if you want to try a different operating system (or 13) before deciding whether to flash it to internal storage.
It’s not a particularly powerful phone, and the software available for it is very much a work in progress. But there are a lot of developers and early adopters working to help make Ubuntu Touch, postmarketOS, Arch, Manjaro, openSUSE, Sailfish OS, Mobian, and other open source operating systems feel at home on smartphones like the PinePhone (and its much pricier cousin/competitor, the Purism Librem 5).
All of which is to say, that right now the PinePhone is sort of like the Raspberry Pi of smartphones. It’s an inexpensive point of entry for developers and early adopters who want to play in an exciting new sandbox… but it might not be ready to be your daily driver as a smartphone just yet.
But I wanted to play with one, so about a month ago I ordered a PinePhone and if you’ve been following our Lilbits news roundups for the past few weeks, you may have noticed I’ve been regularly linking to a new site called Linux Smartphones, which is sort of my new sandbox for all things related to phones like the PinePhone and Librem 5.
I hope to start posting how to guides and more information about actually using these new phones in the future, as well as news updates. But my PinePhone just arrived today, so let’s start with an unboxing and first look.
Here’s a roundup of recent tech news from around the web.
- PinePhone postmarketOS Community Edition: Unboxing and first look [Linux Smartphones]
The version I purchased ships with postmarketOS, features 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, and comes with a Convergence Dock that connects to the USB-C port and allows you to plug in a display, mouse, keyboard, and even Ethernet cable. It’s not the speediest phone I’ve ever used, and the software is quirky. But it’s promising… and it’s unlocked, so I plan to try other operating systems as well.
- Librem AweSIM is a privacy-focused cellular service (for $99/month) [Linux Smartphones]
The maker of the Librem 5 smartphone is now in the MVNO business with an unusual value proposition: pay a premium price for unlimited data, get more privacy and help fund a Linux smartphone and laptop company.
- You can now install any add-on in Firefox Nightly for Android, but it is complicated [gHacks]
This week Mozilla added support for installing a few more extensions in the newest stable build of Firefox for Android. But most older add-ons aren’t supported… except you *can* install them if you’re running Firefox Nightly. It’s just not very easy to do.
- Google is ‘firmly committed to building hardware’ and that Soli gestures will return [9to5Google]
The Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G smartphones announced this week may not have the Soli radar found in the Pixel 4 that adds support for hands-free gestures. But Google says it plans to bring back Soli in future devices… just not these mid-range phones.
- Google confirms that the Pixel 5 doesn’t have the Pixel Neural Core [Android Police]
Another feature the newest Pixel phones don’t have? The Pixel Neural Core. Used in previous phones, this dedicated chip enabled AI features for things like face recognition. Google left it out of the Pixel 5, which also does not support face unlock.
- You can remap the new Chromecast’s Netflix and YouTube remote buttons [Android Police]
The new Chromecast with Google TV comes with a remote control featuring YouTube and Netflix buttons. But you can user a third-party app to remap them to launch other apps or services. Maybe you could put tiny stickers over them to relabel them too?