The upcoming PinePhone keyboard accessory will let you turn Pine64’s Linux smartphone into a tiny Linux laptop. But thanks to a recent change to the design it’ll let you do more than that.
In order to connect the keyboard to a PinePhone, you’ll remove the back cover of the phone and replace it with the keyboard case which is designed to connect to the pogo pin connectors. Some folks were hoping to be able to extend the functionality by adding more hardware. So Pine64’s Lukasz Erecinski says the latest version of the keyboard includes a breakout header that makes that possible… although not necessarily easy.
According to Erecinski, that means uses will be able to add things like a LoRa wireless radio or a Qi wireless charging coil to the case, extending its functionality. But it also opens the door to other DIY or official hardware projects.
That said, cramming hardware inside the keyboard case itself won’t be user-friendly. It involves cracking open the case and using a soldering iron to make connections. The idea is to make it possible for hardware hackers to modify their devices, but casual users may want to stick with official accessories.
Pine64 also plans to release back covers for the PinePhone that add features like a fingerprint reader or wireless charging. But it’s unclear when those will be available – in the Pine64 June 2021 update, Erecinski notes that supply chain issues are rearing their head. The TI wireless charging chip the company plans to use has proven difficult to obtain.