The PinePhone is an inexpensive smartphone designed to run Linux-based operating systems. It’s also a modular phone, where most major components are replaceable… and now some are upgradeable as well.
If you bought a PinePhone with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, you can upgrade to a 3GB/32GB version by purchasing a new mainboard and installing it yourself.
There are two pricing options: customers who purchased a PinePhone “BraveHeart” edition or a PinePhone UBPorts Community Edition phone can pick up a 3GB/32GB mainboard for $80, while customers who have purchased a more recent version can buy the ne w board for $105.
A brand new PinePhone sells for $150 to $200, depending on whether you opt for a 2GB/16GB model or a 3GB/32GB Convergence Pack version, which also comes with a USB-C dock featuring Ethernet, HDMI, and USB-A ports.
So replacing the board will cost about half as much as buying a new phone. Keep in mind that you’re not just paying for a memory and storage upgrade, but a whole new mainboard featuring an Allwinner A64 processor, SIM and microSD card slots, and headphone jack.
The PinePhone’s modular design makes this upgrade possible – in addition to replacing the mainboard, you can easily repair or replace most key components including the back cover, display, cameras, battery, and USB port with just a screwdriver. Replacement parts are available at the Pine Store, and developer Martjin Braam has shared a video showing the complete process of replacing a PinePhone mainboard.
Software for the PinePhone is still very much a work in progress. While there are at least 19 different operating systems that can at least boot on the phone, many are still buggy or incomplete. But developers are making rapid progress on things like camera support, 60 Hz display support and other features that are bringing the PinePhone closer to being useable as a daily driver. Cellular support is still a little iffy, and battery life is still pretty lousy.
But as a development platform, the PinePhone is proving to be something like the Raspberry Pi of smartphones, offering an affordable and versatile entry point for developers and enthusiasts who want to experiment with free and open source software running on a smartphone. And now, in addition to being one of the few phones designed to run Linux and one of the few phones with hardware kill switches for cameras, wireless, and cellular capabilities… the PinePhone is one of the only phones you can upgrade.
Pine64 also recently announced plans to offer swappable back covers that would allow you to add functionality such as wireless charging, NFC, or even a physical keyboard.