With the focus given to Huawei’s US ban, there has also been some discussion about Android, Google’s hold on the platform, and truly free (as in freedom) alternatives to the world’s biggest mobile OS. There has never been a shortage of alternative mobile platforms, many of them revolving around Linux, but there has been a dearth of companies making devices that run and support such platforms. Pine64 is one of those few and it is now sharing some development in its quest to make a privacy-respecting open source smartphone.
It’s not the first to attempt to do so and it hopefully won’t be the last. Purism has also dabbled in making a phone, the Librem 5, after successfully making privacy-focused Linux laptops. It still has to actually deliver those phones later this year but it may already have some competition.
Unlike Purism, Pine64’s roots lied more with single board computers (SBCs) similar to the popular Raspberry Pi. It has since branched out to other computing devices, including laptops, all powered by its ARM-based boards. That includes the PinePhone phone and PineTab tablet, both of which have taken steps closer to becoming available to the public at large.
What makes the PinePhone special and what gives it its privacy-respecting identity are the planned four physical switches to turn hardware off, like Bluetooth/Wi-Fi, cellular, modem, cameras, and the microphone. Equally interesting, Pine64 is planning for 6 pogo pins that could be used by add-on components to expand the phone’s functionality. Pretty much like Motorola’s Moto Mods system.
There has also been some progress made in the variety of software that could run on the PinePhone as shown above. Sadly, no timeline has been given yet for the phone. The PineTab might be closer to becoming a reality, with a launch set for summer. That despite the delay caused by switching to a different digitizer and the upcoming addition of an M.2 expansion slot to supplement the target 64 GB storage inside.