In our current mobile world, there are essentially two worlds: Android and iOS. But for the oddballs who aren’t satisfied with either option, Pine64 has started shipping the PinePhone, a Linux-based, kinda-DIY smartphone that sells for just $150. Originally a crowdsourced startup, Pine64 has made single-board computers and the PineBook laptop in the past, so it isn’t new to developing alternative hardware for Linux. As ArsTechnica wrote, the company’s efforts are not an attempt to create a third mainstream category for smartphones, but the PinePhone still looks to be an interesting concept.
The phone itself recalls many mid-tier phones from several years ago, and Pine64 itself calls the phone reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy J7 from 2015 in design and style. The phone features a 5.9-inch LCD display, 16GB of memory, 2GB of RAM, and a 5MP main camera—not terribly impressive, but not unexpected for the price point and concept.
Still, the PinePhone has some modern touches, like the USB-C port, fairly modern 18:9 aspect ratio, and a pretty sleek (if dated) design. It’s also got a number of now-rare features, like a MicroSD slot, headphone jack, and removable 3000mAh battery. If you remove the back, you’ll also find dedicated kill switches for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc. Pretty cool!
As for software, you’ll need to flash your own OS onto the phone itself or through the expandable memory, which supports bootable MicroSD cards. A number of options are available, such as Ubuntu Touch, though none are fully operational or supported as of yet.
This isn’t the first attempt at a Linux phone, though it’s one of the only ones to actually start shipping (consider the infamous Ubuntu Edge). Pine64 says it hopes the PinePhone will help the development of Linux-based smartphones and support more diversity in the mobile segment. It’s also currently working on a PineTab tablet and PineTime smartwatch, all of which will run on Linux.
The PinePhone isn’t ready for the general public (or meant for it), but it’s a very interesting look at some alternate options in the smartphone world.