Computer and developer-board maker Pine64 has started shipping the first edition of its much-anticipated – at least in the open-source community – PinePhone, after pre-orders sold out. Dubbed "Brave Heart", the device is indeed designed only for the keener hobbyists.
Shipping at only $149.99, Brave Heart is a fully open-source smartphone running Linux, which the company claims was developed "with the community for the community", which means with developers and early adopters, and for developers and early adopters; and in this case, preferably for those who have extensive Linux experience.
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In a departure from Android and iOS, Pine's new project provides a platform for customers to develop Linux-on-phone projects. It does not come with a pre-installed OS, but supports all major Linux phone projects such as Ubuntu Touch, Sailfish OS and Plasma Mobile.
Although buyers get to choose their OS, it will be up to them to upload the platform to the Pine Phone – meaning the device is not designed for the average Joe.
"The "BraveHeart" Edition PinePhone does not come with default OS build installed, user needs to install their own favorite build. Most of the OS builds are still in beta stage," it notes: "Only intend for these units to find their way into the hands of users with extensive Linux experience and an interest in Linux-on-phone."
The company has been selling single-board computers and notebook computers, initially to compete with Raspberry Pi, since 2016. The devices are designed for developers who are interested in free and open-source software (FOSS) to work on applications. "Regardless of if you want to sequence DNA, build a robot or kill space invaders, we've got you covered," says Pine64 on its website.
Powered by the same signature quad-core ARM64 found in Pine's A64 single-board computers, the new phone's specs are promising. Brave Heart has 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, a 5MP rear camera and a 2MP front one. There is also a headphone jack, a USB-C port and a Micro-SD slot.
Keeping in line with the company's objectives, Pine64 also includes strong privacy settings in the new device. Under the removable back, for example, are six dip switches that let users kill the modem, GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, microphone and cameras.
The device sets itself against Purism's Librem 5 smartphone, which started shipping last year albeit at the much higher price of $749. Contrary to Pine64's technology, Librem 5 comes with Pure OS and Ubuntu Touch; but it includes similar security features such as hardware kill switches for the camera, mic, WiFi, Bluetooth and modem.
Pine64 has called the Brave Heart device a "milestone" for the company and the phone has certainly generated a lot of enthusiasm among developers. Although the early version of the Pine Phone is only shipping to the select few, the company says a consumer-ready version will be available from Spring 2020.
The manufacturer is also working on an open-source Linux tablet with a detachable keyboard, as well as on a smartwatch, so watch this space for more.