It was not three years ago that the PinePhone was announced. With entry-level, but relatively modern specifications, video output through Type-C, and full openness to custom software and mainline Linux, the device grew to be possibly even more popular than expected. Name it, and most Linux enthusiast will either know it, or own one themselves.
While its humble specifications did not put it directly on the same league as Purism's Librem 5, the community grew large enough to test most pieces of modern open-source software to its form factor.
However, today PINE64 finally announced the long awaited PinePhone Pro, a similar Linux phone in shape, but with considerably more powerful technical specifications. And, needless to say, just as much mainline kernel in it.
The technical specifications can be seen in comparison with the normal PinePhone.
|PinePhone (2018)||PinePhone Pro (2021)|
|SoC||AllWinner A64||Rockchip RK3399S|
|CPU||4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.1GHz||2x Cortex-A72 + 4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.5GHz|
|GPU||ARM Mali 400 MP2 @ 400MHz||ARM Mali T860 quad-core @ 500Mhz|
|RAM||2GB / 3GB LPDDR3||4GB LPDDR4 @ 800MHz|
|Storage||16GB / 32GB eMMC||128GB eMMC|
|Display||5.95" 1440x720 LCD||5.95" 1440x720 LCD IPS (different panel!), Gorilla Glass 4|
|Imaging||5MP OmniVision OV5640||13MP Sony IMX258 main camera (w/ Gorilla Glass layer), 5MP OmniVision OV5640 front camera|
|Modem||Quectel EC25-G LTE modem||Quectel EG25-G LTE modem with GPS|
|GNSS||GPS, GPS-A, GLONASS||same|
|Wireless||Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0 (Realtek RTL8723CS)||Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth V4.1 (AMPAK AP6255)|
|Pogo pins||Yes, exposing I2C bus||same (and compatible)|
|USB||Type-C 2.0 (data, DP video output for convergence)||Type-C 3.0 (data, 5V/3A quick charging, Power Delivery/PD, DP video output for convergence)|
|Sensors||Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Proximity, Compass, Ambient light||same|
|Hardware kill-switches||Cameras, mic, Wi-Fi, Speaker, LTE/GNSS||Cameras, mic/Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, modem/GPS, UART on headphone jack|
|Others||Flash / Torch, Vibration motor, notification LED||same|
|Battery||~2800mAh (Samsung J7 compatible)||3000mAh (Samsung J7 compatible)|
|Dimensions||160.5 x 76.6 x 9.2 mm||160.8 x 76.6 x 11.1mm|
But even more interestingly, it looks like the motherboard is technically compatible with the old model. This means that, while strongly warned against, it could be possible to upgrade the old to the new model by swapping the mainboard and main camera module. But even if this was possible – something we are not sure about – this would imply dealing with e.g. thermal issues, needing a patched Device Tree binding with the new DSI panel, and similar.
The choice of a laptop SoC brought to the need for better thermals, and using the same Lithium battery format at the same time means that the chipset has been slightly throttled compared to the PineBook Pro ($199) running on the same chip. The Pro model is also slightly heavier and thicker, going from 9 to 11 mm, maybe also because of better thermal management.
While we did not get to see one device in person, here are some first impressions from a developer, Martijn Braam, who already owns one:
- The PinePhone Pro exterior looks almost identical to the PinePhone, thickness aside
- The Sony IMX258 camera module is promising, and is going to be supported by Linux very soon
- The display, while having same size and resolution as the older, has much better quality and viewing angles than that mounted on the standard PinePhone
- The device is, expectedly, considerably faster than the old model
Pricing is set to $399, over twice the $149 tag of the standard model, plus any shipping and import taxes. This, however, is justified by the higher-end hardware and low availability of components (which also had considerable impact on the Librem 5 price).
The PinePhone Pro is available for pre-order starting from today, and development units will start shipping already in December. After these, the so-called Explorer Edition, that is the first commercially available, will be shipped from early 2022 onwards. For more information, you can read more on their official website.