Goodbye Addictive Spy Brick, Hello Freedom!
What if I told you that you can have a smartphone like device that was less addictive, less privacy invasive and less expensive than the device you currently own. Would you be interested in such a device? If you said yes, perhaps you’ve already heard of it. If not, well then let’s talk about the PinePhone and why it’s making waves.
If you follow us on Mastadon you may have seen the post that we pre-ordered the newest version of the PinePhone, the Community Edition running Mobian from Pine64. While it’s been a long time coming, we’re glad to finally know the device is on it’s way.
What It Is
The PinePhone is a smartphone like device that can run a variety of operating systems. Noticed I said smartphone like device. It looks like a smartphone, quacks like a smartphone and sinks like a smartphone, but it’s actually a pocketable computer. This is because in most cases, the OS of choice running on the PinePhone is a scaled down desktop class operating system that can run “full screen” when connected to a monitor with a keyboard and mouse(see the list of available OS’s here). This is known as convergence. So unlike Apple or Google, your computer and smartphone don’t run two different operating systems. The same Linux distribution you’re used to running at home(or on a laptop) is the same one that could be in your pocket. Is that a PinePhone in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
About the Experience
So, if you know anything about Linux(or GNU + Linux), you know that it’s known for being customizable, secure, and respecting of the end user(except for Canonical). All of these benefits trickle down into the PinePhone. When compared to the competition, there is no Apple ID or Google account to worry about(unless you sign into Chromium). There is no big company harvesting your data for profit. Most apps available are open source and freedom and privacy respecting.
Chances are if you’re a big Tik-Tok user, this device is not going to be desirable to you. The same issues that plague the Linux desktops, plague this device too. So what does that mean? Well, a lot of your favorite social media apps(or apps in general) might not be available. Luckily there’s the browser, but that has issues too(it's slow). The specs of the device aren’t that great, and the software has a long way to go before it’s ready for prime time. So don’t expect everything to work at this point in time, or to run smoothly. The communities around the device do put out updates constantly, but it may still be a year before it’s daily driver ready for some. This device is aimed to those of you who are crazy about their privacy, love to tinker with new tech, minimalists, or are Linux or BSD die-hards and really want to get away from Google and Apple.
One of the ways the PinePhone respects your privacy and security is with kill switches under the back cover of the device. These switches can cut off the signal to things like LTE(including GPS), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, microphone, and camera. Mind you, this isn’t the same as disabling those features like on iOS and Android. While those don't allow you to use something like Bluetooth, it’s still technically running in the background. These switches kill the electrical current to those parts on the motherboard. Which means someone can’t hack into your device and turn them back on like they could on Android and iOS. Another great feature of this device is the price! Pine64 doesn’t sell these devices at a profit, so you get a lot for what you pay for(the same can be said of their entire store honestly, we’re huge fans). You can grab the base model for 150 dollars or the convergence model which has improved specs and includes a dongle that connects to a monitor, keyboard and mouse for desktop use(think Samsung Dex) for 200 dollars.
Apple and Samsung love charging you more and giving you less for either of the two prices mentioned above. Pine64 is giving you a device with a Micro SD card slot(which Samsung no longer offers on it’s flagship devices) and a headphone jack(guess they lack courage like Apple...eyeroll). They also offer you the freedom to replace any parts on your device that may have broken. Break your screen, your motherboard shorts out, or you need a new battery. Their store offers the replacement parts for purchase. No need to have to send it off for repair or pay tons of money to have an Apple tech repair it.
I mentioned a replaceable back earlier. Not really sure why this feature died out(other than greed) but having access to the battery means this device doesn’t need to be tossed into a landfill after a few years. Give it a new battery and it’s good to go. So it’s both Eco and wallet friendly!
What about updates? Well, what about them? These devices run the mainline Linux kernel. These phones will get updates for years! Consider this, there are still Linux distro’s that run on an Intel Core Duo PC, this alone should tell you that the phone will outlive iOS and Android in terms of updates. Post Market OS’s goal is to provide at least 10 years of updates.
This is Just the Beginning
The PinePhone is the first of it’s kind. Getting one of these devices will be like owning a piece of history. The community around this device is already large and is only continuing to grow. We’ve only really scratched the surface of what this phone will be able to do. Under the devices back cover lies pogo pins. This feature allows for add-ons to be attatched to the back of the device, further increasing its feature set, think Moto Mods. Right now Pine64 has pre-orders open for their newest model running Mobian. Grab em while they’re hot(and available)!