PinePhone: postmarketOS community edition

June 15, 2020 3 min. read


We are proud to announce the PinePhone postmarketOS community edition!

postmarketOS was created to take a stand against the smartphone industry. Compared to what we see on desktop machines, smartphones have artificially short software update lifespans. You cannot even download updates for installed apps without logging in. And unless you are extremely careful, the downloaded (or even pre-installed) apps will turn the little device in your pocket into an advertising- and malware-riddled combination of big brother and a slot machine.

PINE64 breaks tradition with that very industry. Their PinePhone is not just another Android based smartphone that inherits all of Android's problems. Instead, PINE64 has focused on creating amazing hardware and encouraged many alternative FLOSS smartphone OS developers to port their project to the PinePhone.

Linux enthusiasts only

Before we get into the details: postmarketOS is in beta state. The parts to have basic smartphone functionality with phone calls, SMS, mobile data, Wi-Fi, and a touch friendly UI are there (overview). But as of writing, there are too many bugs to provide a reasonable user experience. We will fix as much as we can over the next weeks, until the device is shipped to everyone who has pre-ordered. More fixes and improvements will become available over time through software updates. It should be possible to avoid most future regressions with the new stable release channel. Please have realistic expectations.

The PinePhone

SoC Allwinner A64 Quad Core, Mali 400 MP2 GPU
Display 5.95″ LCD 720x1440, 18:9 (hardened glass)
Internal storage 16 GB eMMC
Modem Quectel EG-25G with worldwide bands
USB port Type C (power, data and HD digital video out)
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, single-band, hotspot capable
Bluetooth 4.0, A2DP
Rear Camera Single OV5640, 5 MP, 1/4″, LED flash
Front Camera Single GC2145, 2 MP, f/2.8, 1/5″
Sensors Accelerator, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer, ambient light
Buttons Up, down and power
Killswitches LTE/GNSS, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth, microphone, speaker, cameras
Battery Samsung J7 form-factor 3000 mAh
Misc Headphone jack, micro SD slot, vibrator,
pogo pin expansion header, RGB status LED
Detailed specifications
Now let's talk about what gets us so excited about the PinePhone, besides their community driven software approach. A quick rundown:

These features are crucial for privacy and security, and to give the device a very long lifetime. We don't need to put an enormous amount of effort into replacing an Android downstream kernel with a mainline Linux one, we have it from the start. This is how smartphones should be made.

postmarketOS community edition

Our community edition will be shipped with Phosh. We have considered shipping with Plasma Mobile as well, and letting the user decide on the first boot. But then we would have twice the effort to optimize the out-of-the-box experience. If you don't like our decision, you can flash a Plasma Mobile postmarketOS (or whatever UI and OS combination you like) image onto your PinePhone postmarketOS CE at any time.

User Interface: Phosh

Phosh is a phone shell running on top of various GNOME components. It is developed by Purism for their own Linux smartphone, the Librem 5 (comparison), which we have promoted during their crowdfunding campaign. If you like the looks of the modern GNOME desktop, you will feel right at home with Phosh. See the screenshots below, and take a look at this beautiful mockup of the calls app to get a sense of the consistent design.

Full Disk Encryption

The PinePhone postmarketOS CE comes with our brand new on-device installer. It will ask you for a password on first boot, which it will use to set up an encrypted installation. Full disk encryption has always been a priority of postmarketOS, and with this new installation method, it can finally be used without creating a custom image on the command-line. To our knowledge, postmarketOS is the only non-Android free software phone operating system that offers full disk encryption. But we hope that more of our friends' projects adopt this in the future.

Shut up, and take my money!

Pre-orders open early July 2020, see the PINE64 announcement.

Then you will be able to buy the postmarketOS PinePhone community edition for $150, plus shipping and handling costs (and possibly import charges depending on your region). The PINE Store will donate $10 to postmarketOS for each one that gets sold.

Thanks to PINE64 and Purism for pushing the free software smartphone revolution. Thanks to everybody who has contributed to postmarketOS, and in context of this post, especially to the people who have contributed to make the PINE64 devices and/or Phosh run with postmarketOS: @afontain, @bshah, @Cogitri, @Danct12, @drebrez, @Icenowy, @MartijnBraam, @MayeulC, @megi, @Minecrell, @ollieparanoid, @PureTryOut, @z3ntu