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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 mid-2020 as a fully finished phone pre-loaded with an 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 summer of 2020.

Prior to a general release Pine64 is selling small batches of “community edition” versions. These may boast a few minor hardware differences to final models and come with a specific OS pre-loaded (or even no OS at all).

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

Folks keen to help test this the Linux smartphone ahead of its general release have been able to buy early 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.

Intended for enthusiasts and early adopters only, the Brave Heart is intended to be a “first pass” production batch. The handset does not ship with an OS preinstalled (though there are various development builds to try) and has a few minor hardware differences to the anticipated final units (mainly related to antennae placement and 2G signal).

Brave Heart edition successfully shipped to buyers in January 2020.

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 the Pinephone check that 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:

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

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

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

But 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.

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, you won’t find any firm performance comparisons of the two devices.

But, overall, the PinePhone is more ‘usable’ as a phone today.

Dimensions

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

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 large 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.

The PinePhone Ubports Community Edition is available to buy right now for $149. The phone is pre-loaded with Ubuntu Touch by default and features Ubports branding on the rear case. Only a limited number of “community editions” are being produced.

Buy PinePhone (UbPorts Community Edition)

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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