PinePhone Pro Review
#1
A Little About Me

I have been an avid linux for some time and I work a technical job, although I've no experience at all in mobile linux. I had a (well known) phone gifted to me as a youth that I never wanted to upgrade and have had forever. I began desiring to switch it out, and in the process got curious if there were linux phones out there. After much research, I was dismayed at how few choices I had. I also had a specific flavor of linux that I highly preferred, and was going to preferentially select the phone based on that above anything else (barring extreme cost).

The PinePhone was the first choice because of it's price and wide OS/UI support (which of course included my linux flavor). Going into this, my expectation was that I was donating a few hundred dollars for a phone that I would be unable to get working, and thus would buy another phone (an Android) that I knew would work, although at the very least I would be contributing to the development of a linux-friendly phone, and that was worth something in and of itself. I don't need much out of a phone, other than the ability to get calls and texts and use a mapping application of some sort.

Initial Purchase

Initially I purchased the original Pinephone (Convergence Edition). I did not want to use the default OS, so there was a little learning to do when it came to flashing the phone with Jumpdrive, but there was enough documentation between Danctnix, Pinephone forums and Jumpdrive to figure it out. I was surprised to find that it didn't take me long at all to install my preferred UI, and within a day or so of receiving the phone in the mail I had it booting to the login screen. Wonderful!

However, right out the gate I was disappointed in the responsiveness. It took nearly 10+ seconds to open anything. Was it something I could live with? Maybe. But I had spent so many years expecting a 1-2 second response on more or less any application; this felt like a huge downgrade. I also noticed the battery ran down fairly fast, even with aggressive power saving measures. There was a fair amount of applications already made for my UI/OS combination, but applications that were nice bonuses I either could not get to launch at all or weren't in repos, or they launched but were unusable without changing some settings that didn't seem to exist (like Chromium not being able to zoom out far enough to see everything- everything was cut off, and searches on how to configure this returned nothing).

At this point I decided I would switch the text/calls to the Pinephone, but all the other dd tasks would either need a new, more responsive phone or just use the old phone. I went back over my notes on various alternative phones, and realized that there was a faster alternative from Pinephone- the Pro. The responsiveness was the real key, and that should be resolved with better hardware. Once again, I went into it with the mindset that I was merely donating to the development of a faster, more responsive linux phone. I had the cash to try it, and I was impressed with mostly everything else about the phone... so I went for the Pro.

PPP

Here, I had to learn how to use TowBoot instead of Jumpdrive, but TowBoot has decent documentation and the installation process was fairly similar. Again, it didn't take me long to install the OS/UI of choice. Sure enough, the responsiveness improved dramatically! I had some issues figuring out how to get the SIM working, and using mmcli/nmcli to get my carrier internet, but I did figure it out eventually. It was hard to find some basic documentation on connecting to my carrier and troubleshooting modem issues, but there were some PinePhone forum posts that helped. As it stands, I have been dd with the PPP for some time now; I eventually threw my old phone away for good.

I've had some issues with the audio periodically; audio from the audio jack stuttering, playing audio randomly for a brief second when unlocking, etc. Diagnosing these issues has proven difficult, but they happen rarely or there are workarounds and I just ignore them. Most of the applications I'd want to see are available. The battery still drains heavily, even when idle, but aggressive power saving measures (suspending after a few minutes etc) can help. I've seen remarkably few software issues overall.

Retrospective

All told I spent ~$700 between both phones and accessories. $400 for a linux-friendly phone that is very close to working out of the box is a bargain that I am still surprised that I found. In fact if the price of the PPP was $700 I still think it would've been worth it. Overall it was far less challenging than I thought it would be to set up. Documentation was hard to find for some things (UI configuration, modem issues, etc) but there were enough forum posts to get me by. For the few things that would've been a nice bonus but I've not been able to get working, I can live without them (Chromium).

My expectations going into this experiment were completely shattered, frankly. I went into this thinking it would be a donation and walked away with a dd linux phone that I enjoy. I would be willing to pay $100-300 more for a better battery and faster processors. I'd also like to see better/more durable cases. Stickers, collectibles and "gear" for sale would be nice too. This is still a phone for people comfortable with linux and unafraid to get their hands dirty a little.

Links

The links I found most helpful, especially during flashing:
  Reply
#2
(03-02-2024, 06:50 PM)tmoj Wrote: ...

PPP

...

I've had some issues with the audio periodically; audio from the audio jack stuttering, playing audio randomly for a brief second when unlocking, etc. Diagnosing these issues has proven difficult, but they happen rarely or there are workarounds and I just ignore them. Most of the applications I'd want to see are available. The battery still drains heavily, even when idle, but aggressive power saving measures (suspending after a few minutes etc) can help. I've seen remarkably few software issues overall.

...

Links

The links I found most helpful, especially during flashing:

The call audio is a known issue. I hope this will be fixed soon. Thank you for linking to all my videos!
  Reply
#3
(03-04-2024, 12:23 PM)mikehenson Wrote:
(03-02-2024, 06:50 PM)tmoj Wrote: ...

PPP

...

I've had some issues with the audio periodically; audio from the audio jack stuttering, playing audio randomly for a brief second when unlocking, etc. Diagnosing these issues has proven difficult, but they happen rarely or there are workarounds and I just ignore them. Most of the applications I'd want to see are available. The battery still drains heavily, even when idle, but aggressive power saving measures (suspending after a few minutes etc) can help. I've seen remarkably few software issues overall.

...

Links

The links I found most helpful, especially during flashing:

The call audio is a known issue. I hope this will be fixed soon. Thank you for linking to all my videos!
@mikehenson your videos and step by step guides were really really helpful for me! Thanks for putting those together!
  Reply


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