The $150 PinePhone is already the most affordable, accessible smartphone designed to run GNU/Linux software. But software is still very much a work in progress, which makes it an interesting development platform at the moment, but not a great… you know… phone.

Now the makers of the PinePhone want to make a new handheld communication device called the PineCom.

In some ways, it’ll be like a smaller, cheaper PinePhone that could sell for as little as $100. But it’ll be different in at least one key way: the PineCom is not a phone and it cannot make phone calls over cellular networks.

PinePhone
PinePhone

In a forum post announcing the project, Pine64 notes that instead of a cellular modem, the PineCom will “rely on WiFi, IoT LoRA, and LoRaWan for communications.”

In other words, you’d be able to use it as a communication device or a handheld Linux PDA. But since it doesn’t connect to cellular networks, it gives users more privacy (and arguably less versatility – you could always just disable the cellular radio or remove your SIM from the PinePhone if you don’t want to connect to a cellular network).

Pine64 is soliciting feedback from the community before deciding which features are necessary for this sort of device. Does it need front and rear cameras? GPS? Should it have better WiFi and Bluetooth than the PinePhone? How about GPS? You can weigh in by commenting in the Pine64 forum.

For now, here’s what we know about the PineCom so far:

  • 5 inch or smaller LCD display panel
  • No USB-C alt mode for video output
  • Compatibility with all PinePhone OS images

That last bit suggests that the PineCom will have the same Allwinner A64 processor as the PinePhone, so if you were hoping for a faster device with better graphics capabilities, this ain’t it. But sticking with the same basic hardware does mean that software created for one device should most likely run on the other, as long as it doesn’t require hardware that’s not present.

If and when the PineCom launches, it’ll join Pine64’s growing collection of Linux-friendly devices that already includes the PinePhone, PineTab (tablet), PineBook and PineBook Pro (laptops), and a variety of single-board computers and system-on-modules, as well as the PineTime (an open smartwatch dev kit) and various other projects (like the PineCube and Pinecil).

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2 Comments

  1. I was really excited when I heard the name pinecom, I imagined a blend between a Blackberry Keyone and a Kindle 2nd gen with the keyboard. It’s more like a smartphone with features cut out to make it cheap 🙁

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