Pine64 has announced that at least until the end of 2021, folks who want to buy a PinePhone will be able to place a pre-order at any time. Orders will no longer be taken in small batches a few times a year.
The latest version of the phone is the PinePhone Beta Edition, which ships with Manjaro Linux and the KDE Plasma Mobile user interface, but users can install a variety of other Linux distributions or user interfaces.
Phones will still ship in batches, so depending on when you place your order you may have to wait a few weeks or possibly even months for your device to roll off the production line. But the company says it has enough components and replacement parts sourced to fulfill orders placed this year, even as the global chip shortage continues.
Pine64’s May 2021 update blog post also includes some good news for folks hoping to add functionality to the company’s $150 Linux smartphone by purchasing add-ons with some extra hardware packed in.
The Pine64 has a removeable, replaceable back cover. Take it off and you’ll find a set of pogo pins, which some hardware hackers have been using to add functionality to the phone for some time.
Starting in June, you won’t need to design your own accessories though. That’s when the first two replacement covers with additional hardware will be available for purchase.
One is a wireless charging cover that will let you use a Qi wireless charging pad or stand to charge the smartphone’s battery. Since this is all done via hardware, it should work as soon as you swap the old cover for the new one.
The other accessory will be a LoRa cover, which adds a low-power, wide-area network module to the PinePhone. This one will need software in order to work properly with the PinePhone, so it will be up to developers to create apps and/or build support into Pinephone-compatible Linux distributions.
Later this summer, Pine64 also expects to begin shipping the keyboard case that’s been in development for much of the year and which was one of the first add-ons the company announced it was working on.
While the PinePhone keyboard isn’t ready to ship yet, the design has been finalized.
Like the other add-ons, the keyboard case will replace the back cover of the PinePhone. But this accessory basically turns the PinePhone into a tiny Linux laptop by adding a QWERTY keyboard, a hinge, and a 6,000 mAh battery that will not only extend the phone’s battery life, but which also provides a bit of extra weight in the keyboard section to keep the device from tipping over.
The last time we saw a prototype of the keyboard, the keycaps hadn’t been labeled yet and the prototype’s color scheme wasn’t the same as the version that will ship to customers. But now we know what the finished keyboard looks like thanks to a few new images shared by Pine64’s Lukasz Erecinski in the May update.
A fingerprinter reader cover is also under development, but Erecinski says Pine64 is still working on the firmware, so there’s no estimated ship date for that add-on yet.
You can find more information about the PinePhone, its accessories, and other Pine64 hardware and software developments in the Pine64 May 2021 update.