For all the endless tales of Apple’s latest iPhone and what truly is the best Android smartphone, you’d think there is already a phone for everyone. Nope. Wrong. For those who value privacy above all else, there’s the Android / e / without Google and pro-privacy operating system, and then there’s those who still want an honest Linux-based smartphone. For the latter, there is a new choice from the main supplier of Linux smartphones Pin64: New PinePhone – KDE Community Edition.
This soon to be released beta smartphone includes most of the essential features of a smartphone. It works on a modified version of Kubuntu, which is the version of Ubuntu who uses KDE Plasma for his office. Concretely, it is executed Mobile Plasma, which is a direct descendant of KDE Plasma Desktop. Even before Canonical tried using Ubuntu Unit as a common operating system for smartphones and desktops, the KDE team was moving in this direction with Plasma.
Today, the same underlying technologies drive both environments. It also comes with apps for two devices such as KDE Connection, which allows you to connect phones and desktops; the Okular document reader; and the VVave Music player. One thing you can’t do, however, is run Android apps on that phone. They don’t work. Period.
Having said that, the KDE community and Pine64 strive to let you run a full Linux workstation from the phone. They are not there yet, but they have been working on it for years now.
This is because you can use any USB-C docking station to connect the latest phone to an external USB mouse, keyboard, storage and monitors. The 3GB version of the PinePhone comes with a docking station, which provides two USB ports, a full-size HDMI video port, and an RJ45 Ethernet port.
Sure, it’s very pretty, but where are the apps for it? With projects such as Kirigami and Maui, programmers can write applications that can work with both the landscape format of a desktop interface and the portrait mode of a phone. Yet this is a work in progress. Developers are actively creating essential Plasma Mobile programs, such as web browsers, clocks, calendars, and games.
As for the phone itself, it comes in two versions. The main difference between them is that the lower end model comes with just 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. It sells for $ 150. The high-end edition increases the RAM to 3 GB and 32 GB of storage. It also includes the aforementioned USB-C docking station. You can buy this model for $ 200.
It is much cheaper than its main competitor, Purism has yet to deliver Librem 5. The Librem 5 listings for $ 749. A version of the same phone, but which is built in the US, will sell for $ 1,999. After many delays, Purism promises its PureOS Linux smartphone will finally be available in November 2020. While Pine64 and KDE have yet to give delivery dates, its two smartphones are available today.
As for the rest of Pine64’s hardware, it’s built around an Allwinner A64 SoC with a 1.2GHz quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex A-53 processor and Mali-400MP2 GPU. It also has a 5.95 inch screen with a resolution of 1440 × 720 pixels in 18: 9 aspect ratio. The phone also comes with a 5MP rear camera and a 2MP front camera.
For connectivity, it supports 802.11 b / g / n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, a USB Type C port with HD digital video output, GPS (and support for Russian version of GPS, GLONASS). It also comes with a micro-SD slot, which can be used to start it up.
Unlike almost all smartphones these days, the battery is removable and easily replaced. Behind its removable back, you’ll also find six DIP switches. With these, you can protect your privacy by physically turning off the 4G modem, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, microphone or cameras.
Is this a phone for everyone? Oh no. But if you’re a die-hard Linux fan or a manufacturer who likes to push the boundaries of open source software, this phone is for you.