I am just learning about them and value your opinions on.
1 their practicality over other phones (how has it improved your life)
2 the quality of the device
A) is it versatile?
B) is it durable?
C) buggy or nah?
3 the quality of the company? forseeable future? support?
4 the quality of Pine’s competitors and competing products?
I am just learning about them and value your opinions on.
I’ll give a couple of answers from my perspective.
- It’s a phone without any ties to google or Apple. That also means, without their app stores.
- The build quality is excellent. It really feels like a premium phone.
2a. You can do hardware mods, switch battery, backcases etc. So I would say yes.
2b. It’s a hard plastic case, with a glass screen. Durable, depends on how you use it.
2c. Bugginess depends on the interface you choose to use on. Many say that Phosh is the most stable at the moment.
- Pine64 has been around for a few years now and I haven’t seen any indication that they are slowing down stuff.
- Competing products for the PinePhone are far between, as the PinePhone is a true Linux phone. Only a handful others exists and some are way more expensive (ex. Purism Libremn 5).
My experience here, got the phone around 6months ago with the idea of it being a toy to play with. I is so great and easy to change distros, that I have experience almost all distros available and using as a daily dirver since I bought it…but it also depends if you use spyware or not…if you don’t need them and feel confortable using xmpp as chat, no social media and etc the pine phone is the solution of many problems.
Do phone calls work in a stable way? No need to reboot sometimes to be able to make a phone call?
Well, That’s a software issue and software is buggy still. Most of times it works just fine on Phosh, not so much on Plasma Mobile yet, but will get better soon.
Thanks for the details, Strit. Sounds like something I could get into. I just got my first computer after about 15 years. and my senses are overloaded with new opportunities. This being one of them. Cheers
I had always refused to get a smartphone and stuck to small dumb cellphones with physical buttons and a small screen, because I refused to get into the Android or (worse) iOS walled gardens. I figured that if I want to make my phone calls with a computer, it’d better be running an open Free Software platform just like the GNU/Linux I run on my desktop and notebook computers. So the PinePhone was exactly what I was waiting for. Now I am happy to enjoy the benefits of a smartphone, such as being able to check e-mails and websites almost everywhere.
Your experience will be different if you are coming from Android or iOS and taking a lot of functionality for granted, though. Especially stuff that the PinePhone cannot offer, such as out-of-the-box support for tons of (mostly proprietary) third-party applications. On the other hand, the PinePhone does also allow things that Android or iOS will not, such as being able to SSH from the computer into the phone or vice-versa, without needing any third-party application. (You will need to explicitly enable sshd, and if you care at all about security, install an SSH user key and disable password login as soon as possible, though. The short “PIN” passwords are not safe for SSH!)
Compared to other smartphones that typically even have the battery soldered in (!), definitely. Of course you cannot easily upgrade, e.g., your RAM – this is not a desktop computer! (And the 3 GiB the edition “with convergence package” comes with is the maximum RAM the SoC will accept anyway.) But you can add in a microSD card of any capacity and even boot from it (!), you have kill switches, you can use USB docks (and the “convergence package” is such a dock), there is an official keyboard accessory available, etc. There are also third-party screen protectors and batteries known to work with the PinePhone, see the wiki for the exact models to look for.
Well, this is a smartphone, so of course it comes with a big glass panel screen, so of course it is fragile! As goofy as I am, I already managed to drop it and get a crack in the display glass despite having a hardened glass screen protector on top. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, it hit the ground in a corner, which is of course not covered by the screen protector, and the crack propagated even below the screen protector.) But I doubt any other smartphone would have reacted any differently.
The small dumb cellphones will typically just pop open if you drop them and you just put them back together and move on, but that is not what is going to happen with a smartphone of any kind. Glass is fragile!
What does make the PinePhone potentially more durable than many other smartphones is that the battery can be replaced.
Well, yes, it is a Beta Edition for a reason. There are definitely bugs left in the software. That said, I also know people cursing about the bugginess of some Android phones…
Pine64 offers unique and innovative products at very affordable prices. On the other hand:
- Part of the low prices is that they do very little software development, leaving it all (including user support) to the community. They will just ship an image from the community (currently Manjaro Plasma Mobile) and flat out tell you that the software is not their business, only the hardware is. On the other hand, this also means that you do not get preinstalled adware, spyware, or the like, their factory image is a standard Manjaro image.
- I have seen several reports of customer support in cases such as shipping problems being less than stellar. Thankfully, I have not had to deal with the support so far.
But even with those caveats, I would still give a very good rating to Pine64, the value / price ratio is just unbeatable.
What competitors and competing products? The only one I know of is the Librem 5, which is way too expensive (already was before the latest price bump, now it is even worse). See also “the value / price ratio is just unbeatable” above.
To sum it up: The PinePhone is a unique niche device. If you are really familiar with desktop GNU/Linux, value an open and “free as in speech” platform more than proprietary apps, and at this time, can deal with some software bugs (I hope this is going to improve over time!), the PinePhone may be for you even as a daily driver. (That is clearly where I fit in.) If you just want a GNU/Linux device to experiment with, it may be for you as an extra toy. If on the other hand you want a daily driver than runs popular proprietary apps, is relatively bug-free (but as I already mentioned, Android and iOS also have their share of bugs!), and requires no GNU/Linux knowledge, then you better get a mainstream smartphone. But that is not what and whom the PinePhone is for. I, for one, would not swap my PinePhone for any robot- or fruit-branded smartphone!
That’s an excellent review. Think I’ll be ordering one. I’m basically looking for more privacy in my day to day. I assume doing online banking and payment apps are complicated if impossible on th Pine while its quite easy to manage bitcoin hrough a number of reputable mobile wallets on the other hand?
I have been using a pp as a dd for the last 8 months, it’s amazing and with manjaro phosh(the best distro and DE imho, having tested almost all of them) it’s very useful for calls, sms, xmpp chat, email. Also a lot of fun to be the real admin of your device. Manjaro is progessing very fast, the battery life is getting better and better, the days I am working a lot and don’t use much the phone it lasts 2-3 days, but when using it intensilly the battery drops fast but it still lasts the whole day. In regards of banking apps, ■■■■ them all, use satoshis.
I’ll have to agree with “fch” here, the phone really is great. As of today Manjaro Phosh I’ve found to have the best experience on the PinePhone, mostly everything works out of the box: Calls, mobile data, wifi, bt, and the external PineDock too, with HDMI output included. I was worried at first that I wouldn’t be able to daily driver it though at the beginning because of Android apps support, but, I’ve been proven wrong. There are plenty of options which I will enumerate here that can help you get through with those 2-3 apps you maybe need to make the switch to a full GNU/Linux phone like this one:
Anbox: Anbox is probably the most popular one, but I just find it so annoying to use (on the PinePhone, don’t get me wrong, otherwise it works well) because it still uses android 7 Nougat as base, so you’ll lose compatibility, not to mention the window scaling problems that might occur. Would only recommend if anything else fails.
Native Android: I know what you might be thinking, you are supposed to buy this phone to run Linux on it, not Android, and you are not wrong. But, given that you can literally dual boot this thing using an sd card and the interal emmc storage, you could leave behind Android (GloDroid is what I’ve found so far, let me know if other native Android solution is available) on the emmc, while having linux on the sd card. It is a good alternative, but not for using it 24/7, since (at least for me) audio didn’t work at all, calls and mobile data didn’t work either. So yeah, just for using some apps, and rebooting to linux it can be usable.
Waydroid: This is no doubt the best solution, not only you won’t have to be rebooting and stuff, but it also has way less problems compared to the two mentioned alternatives. Plus, it comes with a LineageOS 17.1 image with no Google services, so not only you get much more compatibility compared to the Nougat of Anbox, but also you get privacy without google on it, and then you are free to use microg and be over the moon. It still lacks some things, like for example, to get Whatsapp, Instagram, or whatever app’s notifications on the PinePhone you HAVE to use KDE Connect, because otherwise Waydroid is just a closed Android container that has no relation to you main GNU/Linux system other than a virtual network interface to contact it, that means notifications won’t magically appear on the PP’s top bar, but with kde connect it is pretty much solved. Other thing is that I’ve found that only the audio out and the microphone in are actually passed through, so no camera, wifi or bt, but to be honest you won’t need them mostly, if you want to share a picture you can send it to waydroid with kde connect too, and why do you need wifi when the internet connection is already shared? Maybe BT can be a dealbreaker for you if you have a fancy smartwatch or some other thing that NEEDS to connect to an Android only app through BT, but… you can’t get everything in life… XD.
So far for me I’m using Manjaro Phosh with Waydroid to get through daily driving the PinePhone and it has been amazing.
PD: Other small point I want to talk about is that Waydroid (even running in the background) consumes more battery for the PinePhone, so if you use it a lot, make sure to keep an eye on that, too. For example, if you are outside and don’t have any more mobile data left, just shut Waydroid off, or else you’ll get less battery life.
I hope my experience can help some of you make a choice on it, if you require any specific Android app you just can’t live without.
I want to get away from Big Tech tyranny and I don’t understand a lot of the techno language behind these things. Will Pine Phone work with Verizon and AT&T services in the USA?
Verizon and AT&T control all the cell towers no choices to get away from them.
Yes, see: PinePhone Carrier Support - PINE64
If I understand what that link says It looks like they might work against Pine Phone. Which looks like another reaosn to sue Big Tech and make some money to develop Pine Phones.
If you’re simply looking for a smartphone, not much. A cheap, degoogled android phone will easily win over pinephone in the practicality department. Almost no smartphone task I can think of, including geeky stuff like ssh-ing over mobile internet, is more comfortable on pinephone than other phones.
If you need (linux) desktop software you may find pinephone more comfortable, provided a) the software in question works in a mobile layout and b) it’s light enough to run on Allwinner A64. This kinda worked to my advantage however because I am trying to reduce screen time.
I have to write in points other than what’s mentioned here, because I feel it’s important for you to know.
I have a 16GB Pinephone. Considering its $150 price tag, the flaws it has are somewhat forgivable, but I will mention them anyway 'cause just saying “it has flaws” doesn’t give you the whole picture.
The display looks washed out (compared to other LCDs) and in low brightness flickering is visible. The screen also “soft-freezes” sometimes, where it flickers and displays ghost image. Speaker is very tinny. Camera takes you back to the pre-smartphone era phone cameras. I call it “a QR code scanner” because that’s basically how useful it is. My front camera has also collected dust, likely from the earpiece grill, which just seems like a design mistake.
With that out of the way, here are the answers to your question:
A) Yes and no? I tried plugging in a 3rd party USB-C to HDMI adapter and it worked… sometimes. But more often than not it wouldn’t recognise the display and freeze. But that’s still better than any other phones I have that doesn’t even support video over USB-C. USB hub works as expected.
B) For the price, yes. I do have a big scratch on the front glass that idk how I got, but it survived a few drops, which I see as a plus.
C) I have to preface that Pine64 doesn’t make softwares, but yes it is. Expect force reboots once every day. Some distros are more buggy than others, and I find Manjaro Phosh is the perfect medium between stability and up to date software.
I’ve known the company since their first Kickstarter, the Pine64. I thought they didn’t have enough merit to survive, but they did and they seem to be thriving. They are branching out with products like PineNote, and the release of the PinePhone Pro seems like a sign that the community is growing and maturing for the forseeable future.
From all the points above you could say that I am critical of the PinePhone, but I actually love this product, and do not regret buying it. PinePhone’s biggest strength is the vast selection of OSes. Librem 5 may beat PinePhone in spec, but it doesn’t run multiple OSes from Android and SailfishOS to WebOS and Gentoo Linux. Nexus 5 has a good support of non-Android OS but it still can’t run Phosh as well as PinePhone.
If you want an actual linux daily driver, Librem 5 or even PinePhone Pro would work better. For privacy, degoogled Android phones like Volla Phone and Murena(/e/) works even better if you’re OK with AOSP. Where PinePhone shines is as a test bed for any and all open source OSes and app devs for those OSes. The low spec is also a strength, not only because it’s cheap, but also if it runs on this phone, it will fly on more powerful phones. It’s a very niche product, but it fills that niche and then some.
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