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The PinePhone is an affordable Linux phone created by Pine64, makers of the Pinebook Pro laptop and the Pine64 single board computer.

The PinePhone specs, features and design are all tailored towards meeting a super low $149 price point.

Pitching as a cheap alternative to Android and iOS devices, the PinePhone is targeted squarely at Linux enthusiasts and developers who’ll appreciate the use of privacy-minded open source software and physical hardware kill switches.

This article is kept up to date

But let’s be totally clear here: the Pinephone isn’t going to one-up Samsung’s latest handset nor rival flagship devices from other Android OEMs. It’s ambitions are more humble: provide a reliable, open, and hackable (even potentially upgradeable) smartphone platform that’s powered by the Linux kernel.

For more info on the phone, including when you can expect to buy it, the carriers it will be support, and the sort of software it will run, read on!

PinePhone Release Date & Price

PinePhone specs graphic

For Linux users, Pine64 is the most exciting hardware company around right now

You will be able to buy the PinePhone in early 2020 as a fully finished phone pre-loaded with a(n as yet unchosen) Linux-based mobile operating system.

There is no specific release date as of writing — it will be ready when it’s ready — but Pine64, the company making it, expect it to launch in the spring of 2020.

The PinePhone costs $149.99, but this price does not include shipping fees and any taxes which may be applicable in your country.

PinePhone Brave Heart Edition

pinephone with removable back cover

Folks interested in helping to test the Linux smartphone before of its general release were able to buy an early model, dibbled the PinePhone BraveHeart edition, in November 15, 2019 direct from the Pine64 website:

PinePhone ‘Brave Heart’ Edition Order Page

Intended for enthusiasts and early adopters only, the PinePhone Brave Heart is something of a “first pass” production batch. As such the handset does not ship with an OS preinstalled (there are various development builds to try) and will feature a few minor hardware differences to the final run units (mainly related to antennae placement and 2G signal).

But despite the caveats it proved very popular: the PinePhone Brave Heart edition sold out in December of last year, and began shipping to buyers in January.

Will it be available in the USA?

Like the Pinebook Pro, the PinePhone is being assembled and built in China, but it will ship from China to (almost) any country in the world when it goes on general sale next year.

It’s yet to be seen if any resellers for the device will emerge, so until then you won’t be able to buy the PinePhone in the USA (or Germany, or Sweden, etc) but you will be able to buy the phone from those countries and have it sent to you.

Will the PinePhone work in the USA?

Unless you live somewhere particularly remote there’s a good chance that the PinePhone will support your mobile network of choice.

That said, before you buy the Pinephone you should check that the cellular modem/baseband support is compatible with your current mobile network provider, and the frequencies used in the country/s you want to makes calls, send texts, or browse the web in.

This isn’t hard to do:

Behold:

FrequencyModem Support
LTELTE-FDDB1/ B2/ B3/ B4/ B5/ B7/ B8/ B12/ B13/ B18/ B19/ B20/ B25/ B26/ B28
LTE-TDDB38/ B39/ B40/ B41
WCDMAB1/ B2/ B4/ B5/ B6/ B8/ B19 
GSMB2/ B3/ B5/ B8

For example, my mobile network is GiffGaff in the UK, and they use the o2 network. The bands used for LTE (aka 4G) by o2 are B3 and B20 — both are supported by the modem used in this phone.

Pinephone vs Purism Librem 5: Specs

Pinephone vs Librem 5 specs graphic

DSo far I’ve managed to avoid mentioning the elephant sized Linux phone in the room: Purism’s Librem 5.

Now, the Librem 5 is a bespoke device. It cuts fewer technical corners than the PinePhone (for better or worse; it uses desktop class components which aren’t designed for the phone form factor) and is arguably the more powerful of the two.

The PinePhone is cheaper than the Librem 5 and there’s a greater choice of mobile operating systems available for it

But it’s also more expensive — a lot more expensive — and based on reports from community developers it may not be supported by as many mobile Linux operating systems as Pine64’s offering.

Both Linux phones pitch themselves as a privacy-conscious devices (with hardware kill switches) that open source enthusiasts, developers and adopters can make more of.

Both phones still use proprietary ROM firmware in baseband (though Purism load it with a FOSS driver) as well as in the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth too, though these are separated on different boards in the Librem 5.

As neither the Pinephone or the Librem 5 are currently available for wider testing at the time of writing, and given that neither has a “stable” software stack to speak of, there is no performance comparisons of the two devices.

Dimensions

The final handset (without a case) measures 160.5mm x 76.6mm x 9.2mm and weigh between 180 to 200 grams.

Photos of the PinePhone

Tbc.

Operating System Support

As of writing a Linux-based mobile operating system has not yet been selected to ship preinstalled on the PinePhone.

But the Linux community IS hard at work porting a swathe of OSes to the PinePhone. Below is a table listing some (though probably not all) of these, including their development status on the Librem 5:

OSPinePhoneLibrem 5
Ubuntu TouchYesYes
postmarketOSYesYes
Sailfish OSYesUnknown
LuneOS (webOS based)YesNo
Replicant (Android based)YesNo
PureOSNoYes

Regardless of which OS the handset actually ships with — spoiler: it’ll be whichever one is in the best state in Q1 2020 — owners WILL be able to download and boot in to any OS they choose, internally and from an microSD card.

Summary

I’m super excited for the PinePhone and not just because it’s cheap. Like the Pinebook and Pinebook Pro laptops, the PinePhone is going help put mobile Linux into the pockets of people who might otherwise have never tried it.

The experience will be rough, things won’t be glamorous, and there is going to be a major app gap for quite a while.

But that’s sort of why this phones so exciting: it’s the foundation on which many different approaches to mobile computing can be built.

Did I miss something (warranty, perhaps?)? Let me know via email!
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