Pine64 launches a major hardware upgrade in its quest to build a Linux smartphone. Following the launch of the original PinePhone in 2019, the organization is now taking pre-orders for PinePhone Pro, a new smartphone it calls "the fastest mainline Linux smartphone on the market." The phone was announced in October and you can now secure a device. The MSRP is $ 599, but it's ready to pre - order now at a $ 399 introductory price.
Since Pine64 wants to make an open source Linux smartphone, its choice of hardware components is limited. Most big chip companies like Qualcomm or Samsung do not want to share open drivers or schedules, and you saw that with the original PinePhone, which was based on a 40 nm Cortex A53 SoC made by Allwinner. PinePhone Pro upgrades things with a Rockchip RK3399 SoC. The chip has two Cortex A72 CPUs and four Cortex A53 CPUs, and Pine64 says it worked with Rockchip to get the chip "binned and voltage locked for optimal performance with sustainable current and thermal limits." Pine64 does not cite a process node, but other companies list RK3399 at 28 nm. If that's true and you're looking for something reasonably comparable in Qualcomm's lineup, the Snapdragon 618/650 (a mid-range chip from 2016) seems to fit the bill.
The phone has a 6-inch, 1440 × 720 LCD, 4GB RAM, 128GB eMMC storage space and a 3,000 mAh battery. There is a USB-C port with 15 W charging, a headphone jack, a 13 MP main camera and an 8 MP front camera. The back cover pops off, and inside the phone you will find a removable battery (whoa!), A microSD slot, pogo pins and a series of DIP switches for privacy that let you kill the modem, Wi-Fi / Bluetooth, microphone, rear camera, front camera and headphones.
The Pogo pins support a range of attachable backs, which are compatible with both the original PinePhone and PinePhone Pro. For example, there is no built-in biometrics, but Pine64 sells a $ 25 back panel with a capacitive fingerprint reader. There is no wireless charging, but you can get a back panel that adds the feature for $ 10. The wildest option is a $ 50 keyboard case with a 6,000 mAh battery. This turns the phone into a mini-laptop with individual plastic keyboards that look like they have more travel than many portable keyboards. The major disadvantage of this interchangeable back strategy is that you have to choose between options. You can not have wireless charging and a fingerprint reader, for example.
As for the software you want to run on this thing, it's up to you. This is a phone for the Linux enthusiast who is willing to deal with some hard edges. It comes with the Manjaro Arm and Plasma Mobile interface, which Pine64 calls "pre-beta." You really can not be more honest than "who is it for?" disclaimer on the PinePhone Pro main page which states:
Modern mobile Linux operating systems have a way to go before they can be considered genuine alternatives to Android or iOS. Although mobile Linux is not in a state that could satisfy most ordinary electronics consumers, we recognize that a significant portion of our community is ready to take the plunge into a Linux-only smartphone today. PinePhone Pro has the raw horsepower to be your daily driver, given that you are ready to accept the current software limitations.
Pine64 says it will continue to make the original PinePhone, which is still available at the cheap price of $ 150. The Pro model starts delivery on January 24th.