Can the PinePhone replace your android or IOS device?

One of the most anticipated Linux phones of 2020 is finally available, after months of waiting and anticipation the PinePhone is now available to purchase. Well, sort of… Ok, so its the community edition on pre-order and it won’t ship until Feb but that’s progress. Right?

The new PinePhone is a Linux phone for the developer community, it’s affordable and comes from the guys over at Pine64 who brought us the Pinebook Pro laptop. Its open-source and is supported by a vast majority of Linux phone projects.

It’s encouraging to finally see an alternative to Android for fellow Linux partisans who rightly want to have ultimate control over their mobile phone. Let’s be honest here, its a budget phone at heart and it does come with some limitations but the concept of the PinePhone is intriguing.

If you’re a Linux diehard, a security practitioner or just like many others, you’re looking for something more than Android and IOS this may be the handset for you.

The phone comes with the Quad-Core ARM Cortex A53 64-Bit SOC which is standard on the Pine A64 Single Board Computer. Running Mobian Linux with 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM and retails at $149.

PinePhone
PinePhone

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Allwinner A64 Quad Core SoC with Mali 400 MP2 GPU
  • 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM
  • 5.95″ LCD 1440×720, 18:9 aspect ratio (hardened glass)
  • Bootable Micro SD
  • 16GB eMMC
  • HD Digital Video Out
  • USB Type C (Power, Data and Video Out)
  • Quectel EG-25G with worldwide bands
  • WiFi: 802.11 b/g/n, single-band, hotspot capable
  • Bluetooth: 4.0, A2DP
  • GNSS: GPS, GPS-A, GLONASS
  • Vibrator
  • RGB status LED
  • Selfie and Main camera (2/5Mpx respectively)
  • Main Camera: Single OV6540, 5MP, 1/4″, LED Flash
  • Selfie Camera: Single GC2035, 2MP, f/2.8, 1/5″
  • Sensors: accelerator, gyro, proximity, compass, ambient light
  • 3 External Switches: up down and power
  • HW switches: LTE/GNSS, WiFi, Microphone, Speaker, Cameras 
  • Samsung J7 form-factor 3000mAh battery
  • Case is matte black finished plastic
  • Headphone Jack

The aim of the new PinePhone is to help create a market for a device like this where a functional affordable Linux phone can support existing projects for end-users, while also helping developers work together to drive support for the community-driven device.

The PinePhone isn’t trying to be the next flagship phone, its objectives are clear, it wants to be a reliable, customisable alternative to mainstream Android and IOS. We have to acknowledge that this phone is aimed at Linux Partisans and Dev’s specifically and isn’t suited to technophobes and users who fear the unknown. If you like the thought of physical kill switches and privacy toggles this may be your time to shine.

Tech Specifications

BODYDimensions: 160.5mm x 76.6mm x 9.2mm
Weight: 185 grams
Build: Plastic with Mobian logo
Colour: Black
SIM: Micro-SIM
DisplayType: HD IPS capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size: 5.95 inches
Resolution: 1440×720 pixels, 18:9 ratio
PLATFORMOS: Mobian OS build
Chipset: Allwinner A64
CPU: 64-bit Quad-core 1.2 GHz ARM Cortex A-53
GPU: MALI-400MP2
MEMORYInternal Flash Memory: 16GB eMMC
System Memory: 2GB LPDDR3 SDRAM
Expansion: micro SD Card support SDHC and SDXC, up to 2TB
CAMERAMain Camera: Single 5MP, 1/4″, LED Flash
Selfie Camera: Single 2MP, f/2.8, 1/5″
SOUNDLoudspeaker: Yes, mono
3.5mm jack with mic: Yes, stereo
COMMUNICATIONWorldwide, Global LTE bands
LTE-FDD: B1/ B2/ B3/ B4/ B5/ B7/ B8/ B12/ B13/ B18/ B19/ B20/ B25/ B26/ B28
LTE-TDD: B38/ B39/ B40/ B41
WCDMA: B1/ B2/ B4/ B5/ B6/ B8/ B19
GSM: 850/900/1800/1900MHz
WLAN: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, single-band, hotspot
Bluetooth: 4.0, A2DP
GPS: Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS
FEATURESUSB: type C, USB Host, DisplayPort Alternate Mode output
Sensors: Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, ambient light, magnetometer(compass)
Actuator: Vibrator
Privacy Switches: LTE (include GPS), Wifi/BT, Mic, and Camera
BATTERYRemovable Li-Po 2750-3000 mAh battery
Charging: USB type-C, 15W – 5V 3A Quick Charge, follows USB PD specification

Who is Pine64

Pine64 have been selling ARM Linux devices since 2015, they started out originally with Single Board Computers such as the Pine A64. Much similar to the Well known Raspberry Pi but have now expanded into many other product areas. The guys over at Pine64 sell Laptops, Smartwatches and even Tablets and Server Clusters.

PinePhone Editions

The PinePhone has gone through multiple prototypes before the first public release. BraveHeart began shipping in Jan 2020 and since then we now have the new community edition.

BraveHeart was the first PinePhone to go on sale early Nov 2019 and was sold without an OS installed, it was available direct from the Pine64 website and It sold out in days! The BraveHeart handsets were shipped to early adopters in Jan 2020.

There are some slight differences between BraveHeart and the later models, notably the inability for BraveHeart to connect to external monitors via USB Type-C. Laters models can do this so it’s worth doing your research before purchasing.

Community Editions, the successor the BraveHeart.

The PinePhone Ubports Community Edition was the first handset in the community lineup. It went on sale in May 2020 and came with pre-loaded Ubuntu Touch. This handset had minor hardware revisions and sold out almost instantly.

The second community edition was shipped with PostmarketOS and It went on sale in July 2020. This was the first PinePhone to support video over USB Type-C.

September provided us with a Manjaro edition handset, followed by a Plasma Mobile device in December 2020.

All units to date have been similar in style and design.

Linux Support

As of writing, there are 18 operating systems available for the PinePhone. Bear in mind the OS’s are in various stages of the development lifecycle. Many have been written from the ground up for the mobile community such as Ubuntu Touch and Sailfish. A lot of the others are from existing desktop Linux distributions.

  • Arch Linux ARM
  • Fedora
  • Gentoo
  • GloDroid
  • KDE Neon
  • LuneOS
  • Maemo Leste
  • Manjaro ARM
  • Mobian
  • Nemo Mobile
  • NixOS
  • OpenMandriva Lx
  • openSUSE
  • postmarketOS
  • SailfishOS
  • SkiffOS
  • Sxmo
  • Ubuntu Touch

Where can I buy a PinePhone?

You can buy a Pinephone  Community Edition from the Pine64 Store.

Note, Community Limited Edition PinePhones are aimed solely for developer and early adopter. More specifically, only intend for these units to find their way into the hands of users with extensive Linux experience.

PinePhone Summary

My favourite distro is Mobian and the desire we have for the success of PinePhone isn’t because its cheap, it’s because is built for a multitude of community-driven OS’s on a secure device that has a real chance to deliver mobile Linux to the community.

Like you, I want an open source mobile phone. But my concerns are that it will only truly stake its market share once there’s a semi polished platform like that of Android. 

Linux has so much to offer to the mobile market and challenging the likes of apple and android can only be a good thing. 

It’s commendable what Pine64 are trying to achieve, deliver the hardware that mobile distros can develop upon. 

But until the PinePhone is more polished and has a fully functioning operating and echo system I worry people will struggle using it as a daily device. 

Its early days so be ready for quirks and rough finishes, its not flash and polished yet.

But remember, that’s not why you bought this device. You bought it because like me you found it exciting to be part of something that isn’t mainstream. To hopefully one day free people from the grasp of Android and IOS and deliver them into the tender loving arms of Linux.

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