Pine64 is making a keyboard accessory for the PinePhone. When it goes on sale later this year, it will let you basically turn a PinePhone into a tiny Linux laptop. But first, developers need to create software that lets the two devices talk to one another.

The company has started sending prototypes to developers, and last month Martijn Braam posted a short video that shows that the phone can detect input from the keyboard… but when you try to type, the wrong letters and symbols appear on the screen.

Now developer Megi has a prototype in-house, and after a bit of hardware hacking, Megi has found a way to flash custom firmware to the keyboard, and now it looks like basic keyboard input using open source software is possible.

It’s still described as a work in progress, but we’re inching toward the PinePhone becoming a device you can use as a pocket-sized Linux laptop when you’re not using it as a Linux smartphone.

In other recent Linux smartphone-related news, the PinePhone is getting some attention from the mainstream tech press, a few interesting updates are coming to the Phosh user interface, there’s a new convergent web browser (that adapts to mobile or desktop use) scheduled for release in August, and there are a few interesting websites you might want to check out.

Here’s a roundup of recent Linux smartphone news.

PinePhone keyboard developments [Megi]
In a series of recent updates, Megi did some analysis of the PinePhone keyboard’s schematics, components and firmware, figured out how to flash firmware, worked on the hardware to make that possible, wrote and tested a USB flashing tool and some free and open source firmware, and then posted a video showed it working. 

Phoc 0.7.1 released [@dos1]
The Phoc compositor for the Phosh “phone shell” user interface allows Phosh to bind more keyboard buttons such as using PrntScrn to capture screenshots.

GUI mouse & keyboard configuration coming to Phoc [@GuidoGuenther]
An upcoming build of Phoc, meanwhile, will bring better support for using a mouse or touchpad when a phone or tablet is docked, with support for configuring those devices using the Gnome Control Center.

Sol is a convergent web browser designed for Linux phones, laptops, and desktops [@LinuxPhoneApps.org]
Developed by the Maui team as part of a suite of convergent applications, Sol is still a work in progress, but version 1.0 is scheduled for release in August.

The $149 Smartphone That Could Bring The Linux Mobile Ecosystem to Life [Motherboard]
Vice’s Motherboard has an in-depth look at the PinePhone, what it can do, and what it means for the future. While it may not be the best option for folks looking for an “it just works” phone today, it’s the kind of tool that can help spur the development of a Linux smartphone ecosystem. And that’s exactly what’s happening.

Pine64 Availability and Shipping Status [Pine64]
Pine64 now has a web page that shows stock levels, estimated availability time frames, and ship dates for products including the PinePhone, PineBook Pro, PineTab, PineTime, Pinecil and single-board computers.

Sxmo has a new website [Sxmo]
The Simple X Mobile user interface for Linux phones features a tiling window manager, support for touch and button-based controls, and it’s super lightweight, making it one of the fastest ways to interact with a PinePhone. Now it has its own dedicated website.

You can keep up on the latest Linux smartphone news by following Linux Smartphones on Facebook and Twitter or by subscribing to our RSS feed.

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  1. That keyboard looks really good. I hope they fix the potential problems Megi identified with dock compatibility though, it would suck to have to remove the phone from the keyboard case whenever you want to use an external monitor and mouse.