The PinePhone is an inexpensive smartphone capable of running a variety of different Linux-based operating systems. But the folks at Pine64 have been partnering with developers to ship a series of Community Edition phones with a specific OS pre-installed, and a custom logo on the back of the phone.
Pine64 had previously offered PinePhone UBports (Ubuntu Touch) and postmarketOS Community Edition phones, and the company is currently shipping PinePhone Manjaro Community Edition phones to customers.
Up next? The PinePhone KDE Community Edition.
While the hardware is largely the same as the least few versions of the phone, the newest Community Edition
will ship with the KDE Neon operating system featuring the Plasma Mobile user interface pre-installed, along with a small set of mobile apps including a file manager, web browser, weather, clock, calendar, SMS, and phone dialer apps, and of course a terminal emulator.
Update: The PinePhone KDE Community Edition is now up for pre-order for $150 and up, and it will actually ship with Manjaro ARM with the KDE Plasma Mobile user interface rather than KDE Neon.
Pine64 will also donate a portion of revenue from sales of the phone to the KDE Plasma Mobile team.
I took a recent build of KDE Neon with Plasma Mobile for a spin on my PinePhone last week, and while performance is a little buggy at the moment, the UI is attractive and we’ll thought out.
One thing I should point out is that the PinePhone is still very much a smartphone for tinkerers and Linux enthusiasts. Battery life isn’t great and some operating systems struggle with phone calls, text messages, and other basic functions. But software developers have been making rapid progress since Pine64 began shipping phones earlier this year, bringing improvements to power management, graphics, camera functionality, and more.
The KDE Plasma Mobile team has also been hard at work, and it’s possible that the PinePhone KDE Community Edition will ship with a version of Neon/Plasma Mobile that’s a little more polished than the recent nightly build I tested in the video above. And I’d expect things to get better over time through future software updates.
As with any version of the PinePhone, if you’re not happy with the operating system that comes with the phone, you can always change it. There are already almost twenty different operating systems that will at least boot on the PinePhone. You can try them out by flashing them to a microSD card or use JumpDrive to flash them to internal storage to replace the OS that ships with your phone.
The PinePhone KDE Community Edition goes up for pre-order December 1, and like the last few versions of the PinePhone, it will be available in two versions: