The smartphone world is basically a duopoly at the moment. Android is the dominant operating system and iOS comes in a distant second place, while competing platforms such as Windows, BlackBerry OS, Symbian, FireFox OS have largely been abandoned.

There are still a few holdouts — Jolla continues to develop its Sailfish OS, but its market share is virtually nil.

But that hasn’t started a few small companies from announcing plans to release smartphones that will run open source, Linux-based software. Purism’s upcoming $599 Librem 5 has gotten a lot of attention, and startup Necunos plan to ship its Necunos NC_1 in March to customers willing to spend €1,199 ($1,376) today.

Niche hardware and software isn’t cheap… but maybe it can be. Pine64 has announced that its developing a cheap Linux phone called the PinePhone that could sell for as little as $149.

We first learned about the company’s plans a few months ago, but now the company is giving us an early look at some prototypes and promising that development kits will begin going out to developers in the first quarter of 2019. Pine64 hopes to have phones ready for end-users “sometime this year.”

Part of the reason the $149 price tag seems doable is that Pine64 isn’t quite reinventing the wheel. The company already sells a line of single-board computers, laptops, and other products based on the same hardware… and it’s cheap hardware.

Under the hood this phone will be powered by a SOPine module with an Allwinner A64 ARM Cortex-A53 quad-core processor and 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM. The company sells that module on its own for just $29.

Of curse it takes a lot more than a processor and memory to make a phone, so here are some of the other components Pine64 expects to include in the PinePhone:

  • 1440 x 720 pixel IPS display
  • 32GB eMMC module
  • 4G LTE Cat 4 support
  • 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0
  • Sensors including gyroscropic sensor and lightsensor
  • 5MP rear camera and 2MP front camera
  • Headphone jack
  • card reader

The goal is to also provide physical switches that can disable or enable the wireless components, cameras, and speaker for privacy.

The company hopes to fit everything into a phone that measures about 6.5″ x 3″.

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9 replies on “PinePhone Linux smartphone to sell for $149, dev kits coming soon”

  1. Welp, bezel. I’m not surprised they’re skimping on build either. That is a bit unfortunate, but eh.

    Apart from the build/styling concerns: How’s the performance? The Librem 5 will have half the performance of a 2016 mid range Android phone.

    How’s the driver situation?

  2. I wouldn’t mind supporting this from Pine. I like their products and regarding apps, I wonder if they could leverage any of the KDE apps that have been developed?

  3. And don’t forget to mention Planet Computing’s Gemini PDA and upcoming Cosmo Communicator. While they won’t use a Linux distro by default, you can easily install one and even multi-boot, which makes it more of a Linux phone than most other smartphones.

    I do like this cheap offering from Pine as well. That’s a pretty good price tag for that feature set. Hope they’ll sell well! 🙂

    1. I have the Gemini but I don’t expect the cellular modem ever to be usable under Linux. Mediatek just isn’t a good open-source participant.

  4. Well, they abosolutely can run Linux on the board. It’s easy part. But does it have 3d acceleration? Do all wireless interfaces work?

    1. The bigger question is are there any apps? This would be the one phone with fewer apps than the Fire Phone.

      1. At least in theory, any Linux application compiled to run on a PINE64 SOC should be able to run on this phone. There are builds for a few mainstream distributions already compiled for the SOC, so there are at least a few applications that will work. The better question is how many of them will work well on a 5″ (or whatever) screen with a pokey processor and 2GB of RAM.

        As a developer I really hope this works and doesn’t have a horribly esoteric implementation. There are a million and one ways to build something for Linux, while there are only a handful of ways to build a non-terrible app for iOS/Android. I’d love to take the desktop applications I’ve written, tweak the UI for a small touch screen, and release them with little extra labor.

        1. > any Linux application compiled to run on a PINE64 SOC
          Meaning any Linux application compiled for ARM.
          And that number wil absolutely increase thanks to the Librem 5.

          1. The number of “compilable” open source applications for Linux on ARM is already massive and has been for years. The problem is that most aren’t optimized for a small screen and touch input – which is a situation that will likely be improved by devices like the Librem.

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