It seems that the dreams of an open source Linux phone are starting to pick up steam again. Purism has just announced its batched schedule of Librem 5 shipments and now the folks over at PINE64 also have some good news for Linux fans. Although a final product is far from ready, prototypes will be shipped to a limited number of Linux developers soon, not only proving that the PinePhone does exist but also to get the ball rolling towards a 2020 full product launch.
PINE64’s claim to fame was its open source-friendly Allwinner-based single board computers (SBC) that came at the height of the Raspberry Pi’s popularity. It has since then expanded to putting those boards and their experience inside more finished products, like the Pinebook ARM-based laptops. As the team’s Lukasz Erecinski narrates, the decision to add a smartphone to that list wasn’t an easy or quick one but it was the most logical next step (a tablet is in the works now as well).
But not even a year after that decision was made, the team has already started making making prototypes, enough to start pre-orders for them. Not everyone’s invited for now, though. Only experienced Linux developers that could contribute towards actually improving the PinePhone. That said, in October and November, they do plan on having a more open pre-order period, this time for tinkerers and app developers as well.
The design and composition of the boards are all but ready but aren’t set in stone. An Allwinner64 SoC will, of course, be at the heart of it all, with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of expandable storage. Those may sound almost laughable by today’s standards but the phone’s emphasis has always been on providing a private and secure open source Linux phone, not compete with Samsung and Apple. As such, it embraces a multitude of Linux on Phone projects and experiences and isn’t locked down to a single one.
Still, PINE64 will still need the revenue to keep producing PinePhones, which it plans to commercially produce en masse by March 2020. That’s still half a year away and anything can happen in between. Hopefully, just the good things.