When the PinePhone postmarketOS Community Edition smartphone began shipping to customers in September it came with a version of the operating system with one important feature missing: HDMI output.
So when my phone arrived a few weeks ago I was able to spend some time familiarizing myself with the operating system and I could plug in the included Convergence Dock to use USB accessories including a keyboard, mouse, and storage. But I wasn’t able to connect an external display.
Now I can.
Earlier this week the developers of postmarketOS announced they had released an updated kernel to the edge branch for devices with Allwinner processors, including the PinePhone and PineTab. Today the update rolled out to the stable channel, so when I opened the Software app on my phone and checked for updates, this is what I saw:
After all of those updates were loaded, I was able to plug the convergence dock into the PinePhone’s USB-C port and connect a TV to the dock using an HDMI cable.
Getting apps to actually show up on the second screen is a little tricky so far.
Apps only seem to want to run in full screen, and I can’t drag and drop them from one display to the other. The most reliable method I’ve found for getting an app to open on the external display is to open the app on the phone, switch to landscape mode, and then switch back to portrait. For some reason that tends to push the apps to the TV screen.
Update: As knorkey points out in the comments, you can drag applications from one screen to another by holding the Windows or Super key on your keyboard, left-clicking, and dragging.
Another quirk? The USB dock has a USB-C port that theoretically allows you to charge the phone while it’s connected to a monitor or other accessories. But as soon as I plug in a charging cable, the HDMI output stops working.
At this point, with this operating system, convergence is still clearly a work in progress. But there’s at least preliminary support for using the same pocket-sized device to make phone calls, run mobile apps, or connect external hardware for use as an inexpensive (and kind of sluggish) desktop computer.
PostmarketOS isn’t the first or only operating system to support HDMI output for the PinePhone. But it’s nice that the software that shipped with some versions of the phone now supports the feature.
According to postmarketOS, the update also lets you power off the phone more quickly, since it doesn’t have to wait 30 seconds for the modem to shut down, and improved call quality. I can confirm that the phone shuts down more quickly, but since I’m not currently using a SIM card with the PinePhone, I haven’t tested call quality.