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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.

All of the PinePhone specs, features and design are tailored towards meeting super low $149 price point.

While it may be seen as a cheap alternative to Android and iOS devices, the PinePhone markets itself more towards Linux enthusiasts and software developers, users who will appreciate the combination of privacy-minded open source software and physical hardware kill switches.

This article is kept up to date

The Pinephone isn’t out to one-up Samsung’s latest handset nor is it going to rival flagship devices from other Android OEMs. Its ambitions are more humble: provide a reliable, open, and hackable (and possibly upgradeable) smartphone platform powered by the mainline Linux kernel.

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

PinePhone Release Date & Price

PinePhone Specs

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

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

While there is no specific release date as of writing — it will be ready when it’s ready — Pine64, the company making it say they expect it to launch sometimes in the summer of 2020.

Prior to a wider release Pine64 do sell small batches of pre-release models which may have a few cosmetic differences to the final model or come preloaded with beta-quality software.

But what about cost? Well, the PinePhone costs $149.99. This price does not include shipping fees or any taxes which may be applicable in your country.

PinePhone Brave Heart Edition

pinephone with removable back cover

Anyone willing to help test the Linux smartphone ahead of a general release has been able to buy early bird models.

The first was dubbed the PinePhone BraveHeart edition. It went on sale in November 15, 2019 direct from the Pine64 website and quickly sold out. Brave Heart edition successfully shipped to buyers in January 2020.

A “community edition” preloaded with Ubuntu Touch went on sale in May and began shipping in June. A second community edition preloaded with postmarketOS will be available to buy from July.

Will it be available in the USA?

Like the Pinebook Pro, the PinePhone is assembled and built in China but can be shipped from China to (almost) any country in the world.

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

Will the PinePhone work in the USA?

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

That said, be smart: before you buy a Pinephone check the cellular modem/baseband supported by the phone is compatible with your current mobile network provider and/or 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:

Here’s a concise list:

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

When it comes to Linux phones the PinePhone isn’t going it alone. Purism’s Librem 5 is the other “big name” in the room is

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

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

It’s also more expensive — a lot more expensive — and based on reports from community developers it may not get as many mobile Linux operating systems ported to it as Pine64’s cost-friendly offering.

There are commonalities though. 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 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 on general sale (at the time of writing) and given that neither has a “stable” software stack to speak of, it’s too early for any firm performance comparisons to be made about the devices.

That said, on paper and in practice, the PinePhone appears the more ‘usable’ as a phone right now.

Dimensions

The PinePhone measures 160.5mm x 76.6mm x 9.2mm and weighs between 180 to 200 grams (without a case)

Operating System Support

Pine64 has yet to decide which Linux-based mobile operating system the PinePhone will run, preinstalled.

The wider Linux community IS hard at work porting a swathe of OSes to the device. 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 mid 2020 — you can download, boot and install any OS you choose, both internally and from a microSD card.

Accessories

Pine64 plan to sell phone cases for the PinePhone. These will be available in hard and flexible silicone and feature cut outs for the phone’s rear camera. Branded back covers bearing the logo of various OS projects will also be available to buy, with a percentage of each sale going to the respective project.

Pogo pins on the handset also allow for a range of third-party accessories to be developed, with a wireless charging, battery case, and even a physical keyboard add-on being explored.

Where can I buy a Pinephone?

As mentioned the Pinephone is not yet on general sale – but this doesn’t mean you can’t buy one right now if you want one. A number of “community editions” pre-loaded with pre-release software are being made available every so often.

The next batch, preloaded with postmarketOS, will be available to pre-order in July 2020.

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.

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