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PinePhone Review: An Imperfect Device With a Must-Watch Ecosystem

Ernie Smith, Tedium:

The key to understanding the value proposition of the PinePhone is understanding the difference between workable and cutting-edge.

 

...the reason for the attention comes down to the point that, unlike most phones that might support some form of Linux because that support has been hacked in, the Linux on the PinePhone takes center stage. This is a workable phone for which neither Android nor iOS is the primary selling point. You can take phone calls on this; it will work.

 

...the PinePhone can be fairly temperamental in my experience, chewing through battery life when idle and reporting inconsistent charge levels when in use, no matter what OS is loaded.

But that is still better than what the Linux community had previously—a whole bunch of moonshot aspirations, some of which have failed to ship and others of which exploded into interest years ago, only to burn out almost immediately.

The PinePhone gives those projects a home, a sustainable one that allows them to grow as open-source projects rather than die on the vine. The marquee names here—among them the open-source Ubuntu Mobile (maintained not by desktop Ubuntu maker Canonical, but by UBPorts), the partially closed Sailfish OS, and the webOS descendant LuneOS—each represent high-profile attempts to take on the hierarchy of iOS vs. Android that have faced irrelevance as the larger mobile giants crushed them. The PinePhone gives those projects a fresh lease on life by building excitement around them once again, while also giving noble old-smartphone revival projects like postmarketOS a new target audience.

And plus, let’s be clear: The Linux community thrives on extending the power of outdated hardware.

Like Linux on the desktop, which has helped keep machines alive literal decades past their traditional expiration date, the PinePhone keeps software projects alive that would have struggled to find a modern context.

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