The PinePhone Pro Is Here. But It’s Still Probably Not The Year Of Open-Source Linux On The Smartphone

A trope in open source commentary over the last decades has been the phrase “Is this the year of Linux on the desktop?”, as though the open source OS will finally break through and challenge Windows. In fact the process has been one of stealth rather than explosive growth, as the likes of ChromeOS with its Linux underpinnings become the go-to choice for an inexpensive consumer laptop. In the phone arena the same has happened with Android, as most users have no idea that a Linux foundation lies beneath their Samsung Galaxy or Google Pixel.

Fully open-source via Android on the phone has been very slow to arrive, but could that be changed by the arrival of Pine64’s PinePhone Pro? The new device will be available alongside their existing PinePhone, and will continue the dream of a fully open-source mobile phone with its increased-specification hardware.

As much as the specs of one black slab versus another matter, at its heart is a 1.5 GHz Rockchip RK3399S hexa-core SoC alongside 4 GB of dual-channel LPDDR4 RAM. This compares well to the original PinePhone’s quad-Core Allwinner A64 at 1.152 GHz and 3 GB LPDDR3 RAM, so it’s clear that there is plenty of capability in this phone.

Any phone whether open-source or not will however live or die on the quality of its software and support, so for this model to be a real success outside the realm of extreme open-source devotees we think that Pine64 will need to be prepared to up their game when it comes to what happens after hardware delivery. It’s fair to say that some of their previous products have been a little lacklustre in this department, with hardware bugs remaining unfixed. Their approach of relying on the community of users to deliver software support has not so far returned a stable experience for users of the original PinePhone. We understand that their intention is to provide a developer’s phone, but developers need to place phonecalls and take pictures too.

We’ve seen some PinePhone owners commenting to this effect, and though we’re fans of Pine64 and like what they are trying to do, we have to admit that those users have a point. If they were prepared to put some effort into software development to the extent of providing an official OS image with let’s say Plasma Mobile, a working phone app, a working web browser, and responsive phone features such as instant on and off, even at the expense of charging more for the phone itself, we think that they’ll be on to a winner. Otherwise they’ll remain as the really cool open-source phone that only your kernel-wizard friends own, and even then they use a Google Pixel as their everyday phone. Please Pine64, prove us wrong!

Last month our colleague Brian Cockfield took us on a tour of his PinePhone.

82 thoughts on “The PinePhone Pro Is Here. But It’s Still Probably Not The Year Of Open-Source Linux On The Smartphone

    1. Microsoft sold twice as many subscriptions to their office software, just in the last year. Apple sells many more machines than that, every year. With those sales figures, Linux is very much a tiny little niche brand. Linux is losing ground on the desktop, not catching up. At this point it struggle to run on a few laptops and is unusable on most of them.

      I have tried hard to have a nice Linux laptop that ‘just works’ and I have given up and bought a Mac. I won’t put up with broken wifi and broken trackpad and broken suspend any more. Life is too short to spend it screwing with bugs.

      1. I don’t engage in Ford-vs-Chevy arguments. Computers are simply tools. What works for you, works. What doesn’t, doesn’t.

        That said, a lot of the criticism about Linux seems to come from people who last tried it many years ago. Saying “linux sucks” on the basis of that experince is like saying “windows sucks” on the basis of having used PCDOS.

        FWIW, have run Linux to the exclusion of any other OS at my home for > 10 years… multiple desktops and laptops. I have no complaints–none. There is no compelling reason–at least for the foreseeable future–ever to go back to windows.

        What I do remember about windows is having to constantly reboot it. New driver? Reboot. Security patch? Reboot. Reboot reboot reboot. I remember having to download and install a special driver just so that windows could recognize a microsoft mouse! (The same mouse plugs into any linux box and just works.)

        Another thing that bugged me was all the times the machine would bog down on tasks that never appeared in the task manager list. In a world where companies like MS feel they are justified in spying on their customers, this sort of thing never inspired confidence.

        Frankly, open source software, on which sunlight can shine, and which the world community can scrutinize, seems more trustworthy.

        The straw that broke the camel’s back was OEM installed windows crashing on a 3-month old desktop machine and micrshaft telling me they wouldn’t help (the “support” person actually implied I was trying to steal a license) but they were willing to sell me another copy for a hundred bucks. Yeah…no thanks, adios.

        As to the matter of Apple stuff, I have no ax to grind and I confess I once explored that option myself…until I discovered that Apple-logo’d computer hardware costs 5x what generic hardware of the same capability costs.

        They make nice stuff, but to me it doesn’t make economic sense.

        I’m glad you found a solution that works for you. I did.

        1. “I discovered that Apple-logo’d computer hardware costs 5x what generic hardware of the same capability costs.”

          Wow now there are some really poor shopping skills. I paid $800 for an ARM MacBook Air that makes my Dell laptop look like a commodore 64. Can you really beat that for $200???

          1. Linux doesn’t even support 32 bit Intel any more, X86_64 is next for the chopping block, by 2051 linux will not be supported on any intel hardware unless they convert to arm.

          2. Apple products don’t get new OS updates at all after a few years, and your old software stops working as 3rd parties push updates that break functionality on older OS versions and shut down support for older versions. Since everything is software as a service now, updates are often mandatory. Source: the super expensive piece of garbage in my office.

            Now I could install Linux on it and it would run well again, but it’s my wife’s. We’d both prefer to leave it as is.

      2. I am currently writing this on a junker/budget Lenovo laptop I got from Best Buy for ~$300 a few years back. It’s my daily driver. Came with W10 installed, but, that got replaced with Linux soon after I made sure everything worked. Dropped several distros on it, found the one I liked, and went with it. Have had no issues with hardware compatibility. It just worked.

        I’ve done this with a bunch of different laptops over the years (anyone remember WinBooks?). Some worked, some didn’t, some did partially (as you describe).

        While I like Linux, you’re right. It doesn’t have a lot of penetration in the desktop world. And, if you’re looking for ‘just works’ 100% of the time, and have the money, you’re probably better off with a Mac.

        1. My experience, even with currently supported hardware, is that the “it just works” line is a bold faced lie. It rarely works as advertised. All the 3rd party stuff you have to download to get basic functionality? Android USB browsing software anyone? What a joke.

          1. You are both wrong.

            Yes, Opensetep is the base for macos 10, but linux was inspired by UNIX which existed on a ton of systems for decades before Next even existed (nextstep became openstep). Most folks were running Sun SunOS (bsd based) / Solaris (sysV based) in the early days of linux, and probably second place, after Sun, was SGI. Even Apple and Microsoft were shipping their own Unix flavors at the time, as were IBM, HP, Mark Williams, Cray, Digital, etc.. Next’s market was rounding error. Although Next may have exceeded MS and Apple unix sales?

            MacOS userspace is bsd-ish. But, their kernel is a funky almost monolithic kernel slapped on top of the Mach micro kernel. Zero to do with Linux. But, Apple used to ship some GNU userspace bits too (e.g., bash and xcode used to be based on gcc), which might be the source of GP’s linux confusion.

          1. I used nextstep for a long time on the old black cube. It was black and white but otherwise it was very very close to modern MacOS. It was also bsd under the covers. It was lovely, and a joy to work with, but it all came to a halt when you printed because the printer used the main cpu to render postscript. It had a 16 mhz 68030 so performance was not great. There are still include files in xcode that have next copyright notices.

      3. “At this point it struggle to run on a few laptops and is unusable on most of them.”

        Um not at all. I have run linux on laptops since 2007 and it has only gotten better. I still have an eeepc 701 that is now running Debian 10, and that was simple to install despite the eeepc 701 coming out in 2008/2009 and only having 4GB of HS space.

        That statement is factually false.

        1. Agreed, if its unusable on Linux it was almost certainly many many times more unusable on Windoze…

          There is a grand total of one thing in the last 20 odd years worth of hardware I’ve played with in recent years where M$ did get something right out the box and Linux did not – and it wasn’t even a big deal failure, just that Linux’s sound stack swapped Headphone volume mixer and master volume mixer on the inbuilt soundcard – something that with that chipset is actually quite common, and can catch out M$ polluted machines too, as everyone used it ‘incorrectly’ in different but functional ways, so if you didn’t get your vendors driver loaded it might well be wonky…

          The crappy Poulsbo Atom combo does have some issues on Linux around suspend I never bothered to look at, as that computer (which I still use frequently) just flat out couldn’t run windoze of its day at all well, and runs modern Linux distro’s perfectly – for what its used for was never worth looking at, just turn sleep off – and hardly worth complaining about when hardware that is e-waste in the M$ world, and was basically unusable when it was brand new with Windoze works just fine now.

          The only exception to that rule is Nvidia GPU’s are often awful, and the most cutting edge hardware in general may be better on Windows for a few months – it takes time for the Distro’s to catch up with their packaged versions to make it easy to use the hardware, and sometimes it takes a while for the hardware to get much dev time at all..

          1. “Agreed, if its unusable on Linux it was almost certainly many many times more unusable on Windoze…”

            That is actually why my eeepc701 started running linux. The XP service packs got to the point where there wasn’t enough HD space to update.

            I give Debian 10 as an example of how a current modern version of linux is able to easily be installed from a bootable usb drive on ancient, extremely low end hardware, and still works just fine, while Windows XP Service pack 3, 7,8, 10, and 11 have zero chance of ever running on that computer.

            Now that isn’t to say it is fantastic as the base Buster install needs to be tweaked to fit the HD size constraints and once installed there is only 1GB of usable space (which is gone once you install a web browser and media player), but it is certainly usable especially if you migrate home to an SD card.

            I also absolutely concede that linux used to be a huge PITA to set up. Back in 2007 I would often have to modify and compile to get drivers working. Those days are gone though.

            I still do have a single high end computer running windows for gaming, emulators, solidworks and a few other things windows does better than linux. But linux is far more versatile and much quicker and easier to install on anything.

          2. Talking back in the ages past some time that must be after 2000, but not by much I had to slipstream drivers (so I added a service pack too) into Windoze to get a bootable installer for a system – that truly was hell on a level way beyond anything Linux puts you through, even back then – sure you had to tweak stuff back in ages past, but as soon as you know where to look for help and documentation its all there far far more than M$ ever lets its users know useful details (thinking ‘lets secrets slide’)…

            I no longer bother with Windoze at all by choice – I do have a VM I have needed for gaming on and off, but proton has come so far and fast recently generally its so unneeded. Anti-cheat is still somewhat of a stumbling block, though one that seems like it should go away for good soon…

        2. I was all set to buy a Dell linux laptop, hovering on the submit button when I saw ‘supports Ubuntu 18.04’ Given that the current is 20.04 I decided to do more research. Not only is 20.04 not supported, it won’t even boot. Oops, there goes the Dell. So much for that fabled “supports linux”. I bought a MacBook air and a copy of VMware fusion, now I have Ubuntu 20.04 and windows and MacOS all in the same laptop.

          1. Bovine excrement – if 18.04 boots something newer by so little will, Linux is very good at retaining support for old hardware, and performs well on it, you find a machine that booted one of the very first Ubuntu’s and claim the latest ones won’t just work I’d agree its possible, hardware that old may well have been obsoleted out, and even if it hasn’t any modern full desktop distro is going to be rather more than something that old can handle…

        3. meh…struggles are different for different people. i know what i’m doing and it’s always about a 10 hour struggle to get linux on a new laptop set up about how i want it to be. with working suspend, wifi, lcd backlight controls, audio, all the little things. the subset of those things that ‘just work’ out of the box with something like knoppix or ubuntu has been growing over time but for me the struggle is unchanged because i hate how they do everything (i hate systemd). and there are still gaps, especially if your laptop has new components. i still sometimes need to track down a firmware file or a newer driver or patch a list of USB ids to recognize the new variant.

          someone from a different background may well find that struggle unsurmountable, or trip up on parts of it that i don’t even notice. i’m glad it works for you. i’m glad it works for me. but i’d never say the struggle isn’t real.

          i’ve worked enough tech support in my life to know windows and even macos run you through some struggles too. that doesn’t mean linux doesn’t have struggle, it just means struggle is common.

      4. A lot of IT companies allow their devs to run Linux distro’s on their desktops. Lot’s of developers use some Debian distro. It’s gotten really good, and I’ve used it in a professional setting too, developing different sorts of software. I like it better than Windows, but that might be a preference. Everything seems simpler in Linux. Also, personal story: bought a brand new laptop, WiFi kept dropping out. Installed new drivers, re-installed Windows, contacted the manufacturer, sent the laptop back, they looked at it and returned it, it-just-wouldn’t-work! Completely fed up, I installed Ubuntu. Problem fixed… Never went back to Windows.
        Granted, printer drivers are still shit in Ubuntu, but that’s the only complaint you’ll hear from me. Nowadays I use Windows for work, Ubuntu for private and hobby dev projects. I’d much rather use Ubuntu. It’s A LOT faster, uses much less memory and does not force you to update if you decide now is not the time…

        1. HP has not updated their MacOS printer drivers for ARM, but no matter because the
          Intel drivers work perfectly in emulation. You can always count on MacOS to print your document when the Linux and windows folks struggle with drivers. It really does matter when you have to print documents for real estate transactions, excuses just don’t cut it.

          1. I’ve had a good experience with a networked Brother laser printer, possibly because it’s enterprise tier (though low end). Without me consciously installing a driver it’s detected over the network with all its features by android, Linux, mac os and Windows. I’m guessing there are standardised and well supported interfaces for printers but they’re not usable over USB or maybe no one bothers on consumer printers.

          2. Print drivers can be shit if the company chooses to let them be so – but generally it won’t matter as the printer should understand one of the generic print languages, which is good enough for most folks and probably has an identical innards brother from some other brand that is supported too if you really need all the features the printer might have…

          3. If printer drivers work in Mac, they work in Linux, simple like that, both use the same printing driver Stack (CUPS), All printers I have used work OOTB in GNU/Linux, most with 100% free software, a new HP with a propietary PostScript Descriptor but 100% OOTB

        2. I’m a professional developer for a large retail company and a lot of us in the dev room run Ubuntu 20.04 (On Dells none the less) there is literally nothing I can’t do (including printing) that the windows and Mac dev’s can. You know what my department CANT do? Buy new Mac’s because we cant run VirtualBox on them. Its funny that I saw the comment above
          “Linux doesn’t even support 32 bit Intel any more, X86_64 is next for the chopping block, by 2051 linux will not be supported on any intel hardware unless they convert to arm.” when Apple silicon is doing just that.

          Again, its up to the developers to change their software to support the hardware, not the OS and yes, that includes printer drivers.

  1. The quality of Google’s phone software leaves a lot to be desired, though.

    I direct you to Gmail on Android, which now displays the three important back/close/suspend icons at the bottom of the page in white on white. I can only assume Google’s designers are all Apple users.

    1. that or the design is simply what works and people tend to be comfortable with. like it or not. apple with its 50% phone market share kind of directs where software design goes sadly.

    2. Interesting. I haven’t had any such usability issues, but then again I have dark mode forced system wide in the dev options. If you don’t mind dark mode, you could try seeing if you have the option on your device.

    1. depends on expectations…i signed up for the neo pre-order but it dragged out too long and i never wound up buying one. at the time, i was impatient and disappointed by their lack of seriousness…the guy had a good vision of the product but a poor vision of what it would take to bring it to fruition. i was coming from a world of separate palmtops and phones, and a new device which isn’t a better palmtop and isn’t really a phone would probably have been uninspiring. i got an n810 to bridge me over on the upgraded palmtop front and then not too much later, i got an android phone and i’ve actually been mostly happy with those as a developer but obviously with some frustrations that only seem to be growing…

      but i like to imagine the guy who did get the neo in 2009 or 2010. i am not sure the details but i think some people were ultimately able to make phonecalls with them. i believe, i could have been one of them, even if it wouldn’t’ve been worth the effort. i don’t know the upgrade path that would have taken them through to today…it would have been a frustrating journey, because you probably wouldn’t’ve been able to take much of your own work from one phone to the next without a bunch of effort. i know i wasn’t able to carry much forward from one linux palmtop to the next…the step from my bespoke debian derivative on ipaq to nokia maemo, for example, offered few opportunities for re-use. and even matchbox wm changed so much, there was nothing lasting to the work i invested learning that!

      so it seems unlikely. but there could have been someone who got as accustomed to the labor of tweaking smartphone linux every 5 years the same way i’m used to tweaking laptop linux. and that person would have started on the neo. and i imagine they would be relieved and excited to see the pinephone!

      so maybe it’s counterfactual but i think there might be a neo user who is today quite pleased :)

    2. please forgive the verbosity but while i’m gathering openmoko wool :)

      the openmoko head guy, Sean Moss-Pultz, was always going on about geofencing, in his mind it was the main example of the sort of feature open source hackers would take to unprecedented places. i was ambivalent about it at the time. but by 2015, google had a mature geofencing feature in android and i wound up using that in my personal notes database app. when i was within two blocks of the grocery store, my shopping list would automatically pop up on the lock screen as a notification. it was so slick! Moss-Pultz’ vision of the future, at last! google of course kept changing the ‘google play services’ library that it depended upon, but i’ve kept up with it so far (it helps that i haven’t rebuilt the app in some years now).

      but at some point, i don’t know if it got worse or if i just turned a more critical eye to it, i realized that it doesn’t work! even when i am inside the store, and i explicitly power up the phone, and it starts indexing the store’s wifi APs. i know it has been awake long enough to know where it is, it’s not simply a matter of it being in sleep mode and it hasn’t noticed as i approached the store. and i’m staring at it and it isn’t popping up my notification. sometimes i stand for ten seconds or so staring at it, and no notification.

      the notification is there just often enough for me to be pretty confident that it isn’t a bug in my code…the feature is definitely still enabled. but google just has heuristics for geofencing that make it 90% of the time take longer to trigger the action than it takes me to manually open my shopping list, even if i loiter at the front door before checking. it’s a disappointment. if geofencing were actually a popular feature then i know google would have invested the effort in reducing latency, to increasing the GPS polling when it recognizes that you’re in transit, especially if you’re heading towards a geofence perimeter. why would you even bother with setting up a geofence if it wasn’t worth a tiny battery cost?

      so i guess after all that, i am the only person using geofencing and it’s like the dystopian version of his vision. it’s not the killer app of open source phones, it’s the unmaintained niche feature which typifies an open source hack that never caught on. you can go through the effort to use it but you’ll be the only one and your upstream changes won’t be incorporated because there’s no enthusiastic community behind it. sigh.

  2. I’m not sure the quality of software and support is such a big deal. Google’s own software is poor and user-hating, and the third-party software is mostly duplicates. The important factor is that buyers can assume ‘it will run what I want’ without finding out the truth.

  3. Personally I don’t use a mobile for much at all – and I also don’t care if its clunky in use as a phone, at least as long as I have some hope of making it behave the way I want eventually and it does have the required functionality… So a decent open hardware and software system you can customise sounds like a winner to me – and eventually somebody will make it work more seamlessly for the normal boring phone applications (give me an internet connection and computer even in phone format over a normal smartphone anyday – it suits what I do better).

    From what I’ve been reading recently the Tizen stuff Samsung uses might well be a great starting point to making a ‘Linux’ phone – it appears the entire thing is opensource bar the very first step of the bootloader (which doesn’t matter for this), built off Linux, but with some great ideas built in to make it a better mobile phone and lightweight computing experience… I don’t personally have any experience using it, but it seems popular and functional enough – its something I only found out existed recently so lots more digging to do (I assumed it was all Android IOS still, but this does appear to be different). It certainly has some great ideas in the framework its created on top of Linux for the portable device, and ultimately it appears to be pretty much stock Linux underneath so still good for the dev device..

    Please do educate me on anything I’ve missed with this Tizen stuff, I’ve only skimmed the surface so far, and found it enticing.

  4. I think just manufacturing new, unlocked hardware, that software can be deployed to is a huge benefit to those who have the skill to tinker with phone software.

    Had looked at various other open distributions for existing phones – those phones are hard to find, and seem to only be getting older and harder to find.

  5. 1.5GHz and ***4?!*** GB of ram?! What are they thinking?! Ram is cheap! Another waste of PCB’s and effort….come on…if you want to compete, actually ***compete!*** sigh….looks like another pass in the linux smartphone market….

    1. The RK3399 chipset simply does not support more RAM. There aren’t many ARM SoC’s with decent mainline support, and even less with an availability in the quantities that are feasible for PINE64, so this is the best they could come up with.

      1. Yeah it’s sort of a weird SoC; there are *definitely* more hardware capabilities that this chip is able to offer, particularly the independent power domains for power saving operation, and I’m kinda surprised that the four PCI lanes are just… left there on the table. IDK maybe one of them is used for the 4G/wifi/bt/gps/glonass module but I doubt it; that’s probably communicated with using a different peripheral interface.

        anyway, 4GB and 1.5GHz is *plenty*, given the number of features which are accelerated in hardware by the chip.

    2. It all comes down to the SoC. If you want mainline Linux support and phone power envelopes you can’t do much better than an RK3399 as far as I know. Maybe an i.MX8. Certainly support is poor for snapdragon SoCs.

    3. Seems like plenty to me, its a phone not a desktop replacement. And running Linux those specs are pretty damn good even as a desktop – not many tasks actually need anything more when you strip away the bloat… Not like you are going to be doing massive complex CAD projects on a phone etc…

      Plus no matter what you pick its supposed to be a battery powered mobile device – so you want to pick something that can actually run at decent enough performance to be useable in a sensible power budget so it can run long enough, and in a sensible thermal budget so you don’t have to put it massive cooling systems to make it actually work and not get hot enough to scald the user!

      (but yes more performance is always nice if it doesn’t cost you too much in other important areas)

    4. I really don’t understand the obsession with the amount of ram. If people knew how to half decently program we wouldn’t need that much.
      Is not RAM why mobile phones or OSes are so slow, is because the software stack is severely broken.

    5. It’s Linux, not Android: 2GB would be enough, 4GB is plenty. Linux binaries and libraries are really small compared to other systems, and there’s no Java VM with all its overhead. Actually, with 4GB RAM you can have say Firefox and Libreoffice and a few other beefy apps running at the same time with memory to spare – I mean the real ones and not dumbed down mobile clones.

  6. Hardware support is a boring thankless job that nobody wants to do. It never ends, it’s beyond tedious and it has to be done over and over and over again for every computer. It’s no wonder that this is where Linux falls down, there is no money to pay for hardware support and nobody will do it for free.

  7. If I didn’t already have a pinephone I’d pick one up. Most of my complaints with the current pinephone are either software bugs (kde plasma lockscreen appearing in the wrong orientation with half of the keypad obscured) or general slowness. It gets toasty and throttles fast when driving external displays.

    Since these days I tend to use it docked it’d be wiser to get a steam deck which costs just as much. More ram, more cpu and gpu horsepower for driving high res monitors.

      1. It’s not my daily driver so something cheap. 8 GBP per month with Smarty for unlimited calls and texts plus 3GB data, partial refund for unused data so I pay 5 per month. Coverage is fine here but it’s Three so kinda patchy.

  8. We don’t have open source toaster ovens or microwaves or digital thermometers. Thermostats, ultrasonic cleaners, electric screwdrivers, air fryers, remote controls, dishwashers, multimeters, washers, dryers, tire pressure gauges, circuit testers….

    These things all have processors and closed source code and nobody cares. Why is it so important to have an open source phone?

    1. To be able to repair it all.
      A processor might be closed source, i wouldn’t want it opensource for that means much too easy acces for any hacker.
      Your pc however is pretty much open source: you can replace all components brand independent, in most cases even model independent, and you can replace about every software with your liking and opensource replacement.
      Even opensource platforms use close sourced components when it comes to security.

      1. So how do you repair your washing machine when you need secret codes to enable diagnostic mode? Or your air fryer? Or do you only care about fixing computers?

        Why do I want to replace the stuff in my computer? It was all carefully chosen by the manufacturer to work well together. It just means you were not thinking ahead when you bought it. What I say is that the whole computer is obsolete and I get a new one. The old one turns into a Linux server, the mouse is busted and the screen is dark but it’s a server and nobody cares.

    2. i don’t want unusual features out of those devices, and i am able to buy ones without undesired features. for example i just bought a dishwasher that doesn’t phone home, doesn’t beep notifications at me even when it’s idle, doesn’t crash, and so on. i know you can get a dishwasher that does all of those undesirable things but so far i’ve been able to avoid it.

      out of a phone, i do want some unusual features (though personally, i really just want to be able to run my own custom apps, i don’t need to replace the core apps), and i am increasingly frustrated by undesired features. and getting a phone that has a web browser but doesn’t phone home, beep at you when you don’t want it to, crash, and so on…it’s getting really difficult!

      that’s how a phone is different from a dishwasher. with a phone, you do want special features and you do struggle to avoid undesirable ones.

        1. After reading some posts from you, I’ve concluded that you are clearly trolling, but just for the sake of others seeking some information let’s pretend your question was genuine.
          The difference between a phone and a dishwasher is that very few people would allow the latter to access their personal data, while the former has become essentially a wallet, and I do want to know what manufacturers put in my wallet. So yes, it’s perfectly normal to not give a damn about a dishwasher board being closed while being concerned about the same on phones, TVs, cars, etc.
          A special case would be the networked dishwasher that contains microphone and cameras. In that case, some concern would be more than appropriate, for obvious reasons.

        2. the dishwasher is much morer reliable at the safety-critical tasks than the phone is at any task! even my very reliable linux boxes, i wouldn’t trust to monitor a heater (and i monitor my 3d printer when it’s on!). but your point is valid in some sense…i do trust my appliances but only to a point. i have a rule that i won’t run the dishwasher, washing machine, or any of the ovens / hot plates, unless i’m home for the full run. if the heater element or water valve doesn’t turn off, i’ll at least notice it.

          and where it makes sense to, they mostly have physical siwtches. i know some of the new stoves run the heavy loads through solid state switches that will spontaneously fail closed, for example, and i simply will not accept that sort of garbage in my house. my father-in-law has one of those…he got lucky and caught it in time when it failed. and then he just replaced the switch with the same awful part, i was astonished.

    3. I’ve opened up broken stuff and though, “I could build this so much better.”

      So I’d LOVE an open source microwave, digital thermometer, …., Etc., Etc., Etc.

  9. I’ve been using it as my daily phone for more than a year. Awful at the beginning, but I think the last Manjaro betas check your list: a working phone app, a working web browser, and responsive phone features such as instant on and off. Email client works pretty well, as the camera and messaging apps. Main problem is IMO the battery life, which can be very short in case of intensive use.

  10. I’m still waiting for that $200 Linux laptop everyone keeps talking about that works out of the box and outperforms an ARM MacBook. I think maybe $200 is too much, one guy said his machine was 1/5 the price of a MacBook. I know about used machines but the Mac is new with a warranty, I want that. Many hackaday commenters say that they own these machines and use them daily but nobody will tell me the brand. I don’t want a Chromebook, I want to compile and debug code, and I’ve never seen one that comes close to an ARM MacBook performance wise.

    1. If you really want to spend the Apple tax on their hardware go right ahead, nobody cares. The new M1 chips of theirs do seem pretty good on paper, and there is no denying they make very pretty products and operating systems.

      However its still an Apple product, with a pretty steep price tag for it – you can get similar or greater performance in a new machine at vastly cheaper prices, maybe even your $200, what you may not be able to find is a combination that really grabs your interest when you include material selection, build quality, keyboard, trackpad style, thickness, battery life etc – if what you really want is a Mac, or something indistinguishable in every way from one just pay your damn Apple tax and deal with it… Or pick a machine at the budget you like with the features you actually need, lots of them out there, many that will outperform the Mac in many ways (maybe even every way) while being vastly cheaper…

      For myself my current laptops of choice are old toughbooks CF-19s mostly, doesn’t matter that they are old – they are really well built (nearly indestructible without active malice), weigh far less than you would think, entirely passively cooled, have pretty reasonable performance (nothing ground breaking of course, but good enough for most everything I’d ever want to do on the move – small screens and laptop ergonomics are so hard to go back to), and easy exchangeable battery (with good battery life) and harddisk, daylight readable screens – all for very good prices second hand. Does everything I need very nicely – only thing I don’t like about them are the keyboards, but I have never found a laptop style keyboard I really like…

      1. “on paper”

        Yeah you are just behind. The performance is real and it’s available now. I’m enjoying it today.

        I tell you what, MacOS is a much better unix than Linux. The macOS terminal program puts Linux to shame. It supports all that middle button goodness you expect from x windows, it automatically rerenders the text in the window when you resize it. If you do not like how it works, it has many settings and you can get it to do what you want. It comes right back to the directory where you left it if you log out or reboot. I use it to ssh into Linux machines because every Linux terminal program is garbage in comparison.

        For an added plus there is no systemd on MacOS, that alone is worth it.

        1. I don’t think anybody has their hands on the most recently announced M1’s yet – hence the on paper, the first generation was mearly alright – sure better than most of what Intel has put out for similar jobs even now, but that isn’t saying an awful lot…

          MacOS not possessing systemd really isn’t a selling point with all the various other flaws it does have, and how very long they tend to hang around before Apple will fix them…

          I will agree I am not a big fan of systemd, but on the other hand it works, and does make life simper in creating distro for the less tech savvy (so MacOS and Windows users), on the whole its not been a bad thing for Linux, just something many of us don’t really like…

        2. lol. no systemd on MacOS.

          i used an ibook running stock macos from 2005 to 2010, and in a lot of ways i found it a very superlative experience. for that era, it provided a laptop experience that would have been difficult to reproduce on PC hardware at any cost, even with linux. now between ultrabooks and chromebooks, i would never give a mac the time of day…but at the time, the x86 laptop world was really abominable.

          but macos definitely has systemd. i think it’s called ‘configd’. and it has that same systemd problem where it’s a bunch of compiled plugins instead of transparent scripts. and all the plugins change all the time, so when you track down a problem with Kicker (a configd plugin) and contact upstream about it, they’re reliably dismissing your whole point because they’ve since rewritten the whole thing and have no interest in the version that’s actually deployed. it’s a much more mature than systemd. and, mostly because macos supports such a limited ecosystem, it ‘just works’ a greater fraction of the time.

          but systemd is totally a concept stolen from other operating systems, and macos is chief among them. android calls it zygote. i don’t know what chromeos calls it but it clearly has something playing that role.

          anyways if you want a solid $200 linux laptop, it’s called a chromebook. the stock terminal app is awful but you can install xterm or whatever if you want. you can write code on it out of the box, install gcc, whatever. i always replaced chromeos with debian, which btw isn’t as easy as it used to be. but chromeos itself is totally usable. it’s certainly not as performant as a $1000 macbook air, but in the specs i care about, chromebooks were actually ahead for a long time. i’m not sure, apple may have caught up since they switched to arm at the same time as chromebooks have all become x86.

    1. It’s not just ARM, Intel will have to give its chips away for free at this point. Expect big big sales on Intel laptops that will soon be expensive boat anchors. Expect Microsoft to change its windows 11 plans as Intel sales fall through the floor. Expect to see macs that run windows and emulate x86 faster than any Intel chip can run natively. Expect MacBook airs to get really cheap. It’s all good.

  11. I’ve bought previous Pine stuff that sits in the closet, so I bought a PinePhone with full knowledge. The article is fairly dead on.. Pine has to invest in some software development or their products will often just end up as e-waste. I admire all the hard work the community has put into the original phone, but it is far from reliable enough to risk daily. The issues are still missing calls or texts, and not just final polish. And, for that phone it is kind of OK because it isn’t built to withstand daily life. The glass on it is pretty weak from my understanding and wouldn’t last in daily use. Mine is essentially a toy, but I use it mostly via ssh these days and don’t use the screen. Pine also makes strange decisions. They appear? to be using the same SIM/microsd combo they used in the original. It is horrible and I’m not sure why they don’t spend the pennies to provide something better. Also, for the original why did they bother selling that hard case? It is just basic plastic and provides no benefit. Really. This reminds me of the known sketchy SATA card they sell for the RockPro64–hardware that has had revisions but no fixes for PCIe hardware issues. The RPI provided a solid initial software experience, at least when I got one, and I think that has contributed greatly to their success. It’s hard for me to recommend any Pine product knowing that they’re going to produce hardware that may just be broken in some ways on arrival and the community is responsible for dealing with the software. I admire the folks who have really put time into the software development in their free time, but I don’t have the time or patience to go from essentially nothing as opposed to the RPI ecosystem of modification. It’s an expensive road buying SBC stuff. Beelink sold a product i thought would be useful, but shipped known bad hardware, ghosted me on support to fix that, and has refused to help the community fix a uboot issue that prevents it from running a stable linux. Odroid hardware was solid and enjoyable, and I am grateful to the person who provided a solid and updated Ubuntu port in his free time. I will probably cave and test the Radxa zero next, but I’m watching for some more development maturity. As far as phones, I miss my N900 a lot, really.

  12. If you place any kind of value on your own time and you own a computer for years then the purchase price is just a tiny fraction of what you are spending. Every extra thing you have to do, it costs time and money. After years the stupid stuff is costing you big time. All those kernel recompiles, all that time spent on fixing the broken wifi, not worth it. Life is too short. Spend it with your family and get a computer that just works.

  13. “Fully open-source via Android on the phone has been very slow to arrive”

    It never arrived. To be installed to any phone,and successfully support its hardware, Android would need a good number of closed device drivers and blobs, which would turn it again into a black box. There’s no such thing as an Open Source Android that can be used on a mobile platform.

  14. Linux is just a kernel. All the parts that make it usable and give it a UI come from the distribution, which is not always maintained by the same people that make contributions to the kernel.

    There will never be a “year of the Linux” anything because Linux isn’t designed for consumers. Its role as a kernel is to make hardware work with distributions, and it’s up to private companies to put forth the investment to build the rest of the operating system for their use cases.

    Cool idea, but the phone will still be a niche device. I’ve seen countless people struggle with basic tasks in Android, so I won’t hold my breath for obscure, hobbyist hardware to take the world by storm.

    1. Um — can all y’all sheldons focus on the PINE PHONE please? This is a column about the phone, not just Linux. 90% of these comments sound like a script from the Big Bang Theory. I want to know if it makes sense to buy the phone if I’m not an expert Linux operator. That is all.

      1. That depends on just how much you wish to start becoming a Linux expert – Nothing Pine as far as I am aware is really that polished, so you are bound to have a somewhat bumpy ride. Does sound like it is worth it to me though and you are reading this site so probably interested and educated enough to make a good go of it. On the whole Linux has a good community you can find help with, and the wonders of internet search engines make what would have been hard slog reading man pages for everything and taking notes for hours or even days so easy.

        I’d happily have a Pine phone, though for my personal needs I’d rather they came in smaller format or somewhat larger in the tablet size range – I find the current size of phones somewhat annoying as they are too big to easily fit in every pocket, the size and thinness makes them somewhat delicate… So for me either commit and make it a still easily portable but definately tablet size, or shrunk and perhaps a bit thicker so its both tougher, which is how all my early 2000 windows and older still palm phones were (damn I still want to try and make that HP windows one work again with a decent OS, it was so nice to use – not even sure it was 2G though…), easier to hold and will fit in most any pocket easily…

        p.s. Most of my pockets are massive cargo short pockets – why carry a bag if it all fits, so the current size is mostly ok, but its hugely frustrating when you happen to put on something with the small pockets, or all those pockets that are big but too narrow, or need to take too much other junk to put the expensive phone in its own smaller safe pocket…

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