back to article Open hardware smartphone PinePhone Pro starts to ship – to developers only, for now

Open-source-hardware vendor Pine64 has started shipping versions of its upgraded smartphone and new e-ink tablet – but so far, only to developers. There's more to affordable Arm hardware than the bare single-board computers (SBCs) from, for example, the Raspberry Pi Foundation, or TI's BeagleBone. Hong Kong vendor Pine64 …

  1. karlkarl Silver badge

    Surely a very large proportion of their potential userbase *is* developers since the average consumer doesn't give a damn if their machine is an open platform or not.

    So if the developers get hold of the phone, they are unlikely to buy another (until it breaks) making it very difficult to afford to manufacture another batch and expect to recover costs. Then the developers lose interest if there are no users to benefit from their software and the whole ecosystem starts to look a little depressing.

    I see this unfortunate pattern happening with kickstarter hardware projects quite a lot. But I do wish the PinePhone good luck!

    1. Neil Brown

      I would have bought one on launch, but...

      ... I didn't feel I met the criteria they had set out for being a developer. I'm a keen user, and I'm happy to make what meagre contributions I can, but I don't have the skills to make software work on a new hardware platform. So I didn't apply for one, knowing that slots were limited. When they become available to the general public - if they become available to the general public - then I'll be buying one.

      (I like my PineTime, and my old model PinePhone, but I didn't get on with the PineBook Pro.)

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Given the success of the Raspberry Pi, I think they have a chance. The Pi was intended for educational purchases, which they've had some of, but schools have often taken the attitude you described where they don't really care whether the software or hardware is open. Yet they've still had a lot of success with the general public (admittedly the technical side of it), selling to people who know what Linux is but don't have the knowledge to contribute to it. Through support and sufficient information for nontechnical users, that product worked. I hope that a similar story can happen with Linux-based smartphones; they'll never get a large share of the market, but if they can get enough users that there's a stable supply of new models and software updates, they will work for those of us who care about the benefits. I can't guarantee that will happen, but I wouldn't count them out just yet.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HK is CCP now

    I would start being wary of anything more complex than a basic board component like a cap or resisor or diode or npn/pnp something real basic. The CCP is ramping up the rhetoric and it wont leave a private company to make hw destined for the weetern shores without snoop stuffing embedded in every board and circuit.

    Tinfoil hat and all.

    1. PM.

      Re: HK is CCP now

      Aren't Pine a Singapore company now?

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: HK is CCP now

        Officially, they're based in Malaysia, but their operations appear to be mostly remote with a lot of core people in Europe. The products are assembled in Shenzhen and shipped from Hong Kong, and they use processors from two mainland Chinese companies because those have good mainline support. You can use that set of countries to decide whether you have problems trusting them, but if you think that products manufactured in China are intrinsically untrustworthy down to the component level, Pine is the least of your problems.

  3. CJ_C

    Pinephone not for users

    It would be nice if the Pinephone worked as a phone. Really nice. Currently it cannot wake quickly enough for a call to be answered, if I understand correctly. I hope the Pro is better.

    In the meantime there are phones repurposed from Android which work well with Linux if you can do without apps. I recently ran up a modern(Ish) version of Android, to update the kernel of a Pixel 3a for UBPorts. What an unpleasant experience that was, but now UBPorts runs like a dream...

  4. nautica Silver badge

    Life is too short...

    Pine Micro depends far too heavily on "the community" to finish their products for them; my time is far too valuable to do that---as is most people's, I'm sure.

    In Pine's defense, their transparency---regarding the development of their hardware---is outstanding, mostly...when they want it to be (see below). They publish all aspects, including all warts, along the way, of the development of a product.

    They (it) cranks out superb-sounding (and spec'd) hardware, but there has never been a more pointed case of a firm answer to the question, "What's more important---the hardware or the software?". There is only one answer, when the proper operation of a device depends upon software: BOTH. This applies to everything which Pine Micro designs: PinePhone, Pinebook Pro, PineTab, PineNote, PineTime...

    When the Pinebook Pro was introduced, it sounded like the answer to a prayer---a 14" Linux laptop in a magnesium case, no less, with more than reasonable specs, for $199.00.

    Great hardware. The only fly in the ointment is that the software development (anybody's OS, and Bios) still---after two years or more--- isn't at the place called "final, complete product, ready to be your 'daily driver' ".

    The Pinebook Pro was the lead article in a widely-read US-based technical online publication about 1 1/2 years ago, and no follow-up was ever published. The author had some problems, and his parting words were that he'd continue with his review when he'd gotten some answers from Pine.

    Nothing more was ever published.

    I was all set to buy the Pinebook Pro (for the third time) when I happened to read in one their forums that a critical laptop function still was not working, after about 2 years. I posted a polite question in their monthly update about this, something like, "Was the XXXX problem ever resolved?". The question not only was not answered, but the question was completely gone a short time later. Draw your own conclusions.

    Now it seems the price has jumped from $199 to $299. Nope. Life's too short...

  5. Rob Davis

    HiSense eink a7 cc colour phone, android permissions

    For those interested in eink devices, checkout the hisense colour eink android 10 phone, a7 cc, there's also a black and white version.

    Eink fans might also like the Boyou Likebook P78. Hires Black and white eink and one of the few ebooks that has a microsd slot, support for up to 256gb. I own one with said card and it us superb. Android 8, so can also run google books and even kindle on it. Uk online store onbuy good place tk buy from, i did. No affiliation.

    As for privacy issues, Google/android permissions ate attrocious: very coarse granuarilty: why let an ebook reader have full read, write and delete access to your entire google drive, that's why the microsd appeals.

    Ive raised the permissions issue with Google here:

  6. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    I want a nice big e-ink monitor, mainly so I can stick it on a stand and use it for displaying music. Unfortunately the only ones available are fiendishly - is in "hundreds and hundreds of pounds" expensive. Does the technology have to be so dear or is it an economies of scale thing?

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Both. It's relatively new, with a small number of manufacturers, and it doesn't have the kind of usage that other screen technologies have gotten. You can't find very many electronic things that don't have an LCD on them, so LCD manufacturers got a lot of money to improve their products. E-ink is mostly sold on ebook readers and that's kind of it, so they haven't had the resources to get similar levels of technical improvement or price reduction. It will come at some point, but probably will take some time.

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