PiTalk, Gemini PDA and Eelo take different paths to the Linux phone


The PiTalk is an RPi telephone expansion card. The Gemini PDA is a re-spin of the Psion. Eelo is a privacy-focused phone ROM. Samsung plans to load Ubuntu desktops on Galaxy phones. They all want to reinvent the concept of the Linux phone.

Since our September post on a new generation of competitors for Linux smartphones, including the Raspberry Pi-based ZeroPhone and Purism’s Librem 5, we’ve seen several other Linux phone projects emerge. New entries covered here include a successfully booted PiTalk phone add-on for the Raspberry Pi. There is also a Gemini PDA with 4G support that doubles Linux and Android. It won funding from Indiegogo last year and is now open for additional orders.

PiTalk phone (left) and Gemini PDA
(Click on the pictures to enlarge them)

Meanwhile, a new privacy-focused Eelo project has joined several Linux software projects to reuse old Android phones. We also have updates on the similar PostmarketOS, as well as Samsung’s plan to support Linux desktops on its Android-based Galaxy phones when connected to the DEX desktop docking station in option (see below).


Renewed dreams of a Linux smartphone can turn out to be naive – an unsuccessful tilt to windmills that will end in the same fate that befell Firefox OS and the Ubuntu phone. However, the enthusiastic public response to most of these projects suggests that there is widespread appeal for phones that aren’t locked into the constraints – or open to data mining – of Linux-based Android.

The Librem5, for example, surpassed its goal of $ 1.5 million to over $ 2.2 million, and PDA Gemini made $ 1.36 million. Whatever the motivation – greater privacy, increased modularity and recyclability, longer term support, better compatibility with Linux desktops or more open platforms for software and / or hardware innovation – the desire to change the formula of 10-year-old smartphones is real.


As the ZeroPhone, which has not yet launched its Crowd Supply campaign, the SB Components PiTalk is a fully open source platform compatible with the Raspberry Pi ecosystem. Yet instead of incorporating a Raspberry Pi Zero, the modular and hackable PiTalk is more of a shield expansion board that can work with any Modern Pi, from an RPi Zero to an RPi 3.

PiTalk board on both sides
(Click on the pictures to enlarge them)

The PiTalk shield includes a 40-pin RPi header, micro-USB port, audio interfaces, and analog pins. There is also a SIM card slot, antenna connector and a 3G cellular module with voice, data and SMS support. You can further extend the board with the capabilities of the underlying Raspberry Pi, including WiFi and Bluetooth on the RPi 3, and customize it with the vast ecosystem of RPi add-ons.

PiTalk display options
(Click on the image to enlarge)

The campaign was completed to the tune of 11,995 pounds ($ 16,213), so it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to order one until the estimated delivery date of March 2018. Donors were able to purchase the shield with antenna for 47 pounds ($ 64), or add 3.2 inch (65 lb), 4.0 inch (70 lb), or 5 inch (80 lb) touch screens ranging from 320 × 240 to 800 × 480 pixels.

Full kits that added a Raspberry Pi and an SD card loaded with PiTalk software built with Python 3.4 ranged from 95 to 110 pounds ($ 128 to $ 149), depending on the screen size. There was also a full 125-pound kit that added a 90-pound camera and automation kit with an RPi 3 and PiRelay automation shield, but no display.

Gemini PDA

Planet Computers new Gemini PDA is a clamshell device with dual boot Linux / Android setup available in WiFi only and 4G models. The device was funded last March, earning $ 1,359,174, making it one of the most successful Indiegogo projects of 2017. It finally started shipping to backers, and this week Planet Computers relaunch the device turned on Indiegogo for $ 299 (WiFi) or $ 399 (WiFi / 4G).

Detailed view of the Gemini PDA
(Click on the image to enlarge)

The Gemini PDA was designed by Martin Riddiford, the chief designer of the late 90s Psion PDA. The 320-gram device folds down to reveal a 6-inch, 2880 × 1440-pixel multi-touch display, as well as ” a QWERTY keyboard with a dedicated voice assistance button.

The portable device includes a MediaTek Helio X27 SoC with two 2.6 GHz Cortex-A72 cores, two banks of quad-core Cortex-A53 cores split between 2.0 GHz and 1.6 GHz, as well as a Mali T880 MP4 GPU at 875 MHz. You get 4GB of RAM, 64GB of flash, and a microSD slot. There is also a 4220mAh battery.

The Gemini PDA is further equipped with a 5 megapixel front camera, two USB Type-C ports, fingerprint reader and accelerometer, compass, light sensor, a gyroscope and a video sensor. Standard wireless features include 802.11a / b / g / n / ac, Bluetooth 4.0, aGPS, and NFC, and the 4G version adds a SIM slot with available cards supporting GSM, WCDMA, and LTE 1-20.

This week, Liliputing published a mostly positive assessment practical exam of the prototype device.


The Eelo campaign more than doubled its Kickstarter goal to reach $ 79,000, with 10 days remaining. The open source community project has generated interest in part due to its leadership by Mandrake Linux creator Gael Duval.

Eelo prototype running on Xiaomi phone (left) and Eelo user interface
(Click on the pictures to enlarge them)

“Privacy Protected” software ROMs will be based on LineageOS – the fork of the abandoned CyanogenMod. Eelo will be designed to connect to privacy-conscious “alternative web services” such as search, cloud storage and settings retrieval services. Updates will be supported for at least three years.

The Eelo phone is currently just a software project to create an open source Linux operating system for loading on Android phones. Considering that it is a far cry from the estimated 2 million to 2.4 million euros ($ 2.4 to 2.9 million), the project indicates that it needs to build its own Eelo hardware without a scope, it is likely that ‘there is still a software project in the near future.

Future-oriented bezel-less Eelo design

Most pledges of funding are simply invitations to join the project. The closest thing to a product is a 1,024 euro ($ 1,225) package that gets you a first version of Eelo loaded onto a mid-range Android phone such as the Xiaomi Mi 5S, slated for September 2018. For double you get a top-of-the-range Xiaomi Mi Mix2 expected in October.

Samsung PostmarketOS and Linux Extensions for Galaxy Phones

We mentioned the early PostmarketOS in our last report as one of the most promising Linux smartphone projects. This lightweight, touchscreen-friendly variant on Alpine Linux will be offered for Android phones, with a 10-year support lifecycle.

On December 31, the developers released a progress report this shows that the open source project has come a long way. It’s still at an early stage, but like this History of hackaday notes: “Incredible progress is being made in everything from core kernel development to running standard Linux desktops such as Gnome, MATE and XFCE4. “

Other improvements to PostmarketOS include improvements to the backend component compilation and packaging process. There are also new ports of Plasma Mobile and the WebOS based LuneOS user interface, as well as support for many other Android devices.

One of the most exciting experiences with Linux smartphones was first reported in October: a set of extensions Samsung released that allow its Android-based Galaxy phones to run Linux. However, it is not a post-market replacement for Android. Instead, you plug the Galaxy into its optional DEX desktop docking station to activate a full Linux desktop on a big screen. The idea is to make it easier for Linux developers to launch their desktops from Android phones.

In November, Samsung released a YouTube video that demonstrated a Galaxy / DEX launch from an Ubuntu 16.04 LTS desktop with Eclipse IDE. The Ubuntu desktop comes from the same Linux kernel that the Galaxy uses to run Android. Users can even install multiple Linux distributions on the same Galaxy phone. In a way, the Linux-on-Galaxy trick provides a bit of the “convergence” experience that Ubuntu promised with its now-discontinued Ubuntu Phone.


Samsung Demo of Loading Ubuntu from Galaxy Phone in DEX Dock

The latest Linux-based Tizen phone that Samsung released in May with the Z4, a budget phone shipped to India. It remains to be seen whether Samsung will continue to introduce new Tizen phones. However, the CE giant certainly continues to push Tizen into consumer electronics. At CES this week, he launched a To return to digital whiteboard for multistakeholder collaboration that rivals the Microsoft Surface Hub.

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