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Time for a Linux smartphone? Here comes the PinePhone Pro Explorer Edition

The Linux PinePhone Pro Explorer gives Linux fans an escape from mid-range Android smartphones.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

The PinePhone Pro Explorer Edition is available to pre-order now.

Image: Pine64

The Explorer Edition of Pine64's flagship Linux-powered PinePhone Pro is available today for pre-order.  

Pine64, the makers of popular single-board computers, the Pine Phone KDE edition and the Pinebook Pro, is gearing up to ship the PinePhone Pro Explorer Edition. Pine64 shipped the PinePhone Pro to developers in Q4 2021 for $399 and is now offering the Explorer Edition at the same price to more mainstream Linux fans. However, it is primarily aimed at seasoned Linux enthusiasts and developers with embedded systems experience.    

"Contemporary mobile Linux operating systems have a way to go before they can be considered a true alternatives to Android or iOS. While mobile Linux isn't in a state that could satisfy most mainstream electronics consumers, we recognize that a sizable portion of our community is ready to make the jump to a Linux-only smartphone today," PinePhone said. "The PinePhone Pro has the raw horsepower to be your daily driver, granted you're ready to accept the current software limitations."

SEE: Got Windows and an Android handset? Microsoft just updated its Your Phone app

The PinePhone Pro can run multiple flavors of ARM-based Linux releases and is powered by Rockchip's RK3399S system on chip, which consists of two fast 1.5GHz A72 cores and four lower-powered 1.5GHz A53 cores. 

It comes with 4G DDR4 RAM, 128GB of eMMC storage, a 13 megapixel Sony main camera and an 8MP front camera, a 3.5mm headphone jack with mic, worldwide LTE, and pogo pins for an external keyboard and back cases. 

The Linux phone also features a Micro SD Card slot for up to 2TB additional storage and Li-Po 3000 mAh battery that is actually removable. But the battery must be bought and shipped separately due to restrictions on shipping Lithium-ion powered devices, according to Pine64. The device only has a 30-day warranty. 

The RK3399S is a customized version of its RK3399 used in Pine64 development boards. The phone also features video output via USB-C and offers USB 3.0 faster data transfer.

To its credit, Pine64 is being fairly transparent with Linux mobile fans about the device's availability, capabilities and its primary audience. 

Pre-orders for the Explorer Edition made between January 11 to 17 should be delivered by January or early February, according to the pre-order page. Orders placed on or after January 18 will leave Hong Kong in late February. But Pine64 notes this production run is "large" and, therefore, shouldn't sell out quickly.

While it is a well-specced Linux phone and should be welcomed by owners of last year's PinePhone, PinePhone Pro isn't for typical iOS and Android fans as it doesn't yet have the breadth of apps available for those platforms. 

That said, for those with the technical chops, it should be on par with mid-range Android phones and solid for web browsing, watching videos, Linux games and game emulators.   

"There is a long road ahead of us," Pine64 says of its appeal to the average Android user.   

"If you depend on proprietary mainstream mobile messenger applications, banking applications, use loyalty or travel apps, consume DRM media, or play mobile video games on your fruit or Android smartphone, then the PinePhone Pro is likely not for you," it adds. 

The PinePhone Pro Explorer Edition is "aimed at Linux developers with an extensive knowledge of embedded systems and/or experience with mobile Linux", it warns on the pre-order page.

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