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PinePhone development kit

February 02, 2019 — BarryK

Wow, this is interesting! Those who read my blog, will know that I have purchased the Librem 5 phone development kit, as reported here:

Mine arrived a few weeks ago, yet it remains unused. I am waiting until they get the LCD screen to work. Apparently, it is a software driver problem, rather than a hardware fault (thank goodness), but the screen is the most essential component, that must be working.

Another worry is the immaturity of the NXP iMX 8m SoC. Apparently, there is a fault in the chip as supplied with the dev kit, that prevents it from going into a lower-power mode -- the Purism developers reported this to NXP and it is, apparently, scheduled to be fixed.

Even so, it is a concern, as the iMX8 has been "in the pipeline" for a long time -- first announced in 2013.

The Purism developers have been doing incredible work on the software side, and hopefully the hardware issues will be resolved in a reasonable time frame.

In the meantime, another group has produced a "copy". Well, not a copy exactly, but very similar, a phone development kit, named the PinePhone, based on the Allwinner A64 SoC. Photo:


As with the Librem 5, this has a separate modem -- you can see it in the above photo.

The SoC's used in phones all have the modem built into the SoC. Purism are using an SoC without modem, as by keeping it separate they can keep a watch on what traffic goes between SoC and modem, for improved security.

So, the PinePhone is using the same security-minded approach, and targeting the same market, and will be running the same Linux OS's as the Librem 5. They don't mention it, but no doubt it will also run the OS that the Purism guys are developing.

The PinePhone will be on show as FOSDEM 2019, here is a blog post:

Pine64 are the same guys who make the Rock64, which I own and have just today released EasyOS for. The above blog also announces an improved Rock64, including RTC.

Anyway, the Allwinner A64 SoC, how does that stack up for use in a phone, and for Linux compatibility?

This is a great page to get a birds eye on Linux compatibility:

Here is a report on upstream Linux support for the VPU: this pans out in practice, remains to be seen. All very interesting! 

Tags: tech