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Pinephone update: the first few weeks

9 August 2021 (4 minute read)

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💯 100 Days to Offload

This article is one of a series of posts I have written for the 100 Days to Offload challenge. Disclaimer: The challenge focuses on writing frequency rather than quality, and so posts may not always be fully planned out!

View other posts in this series.

Back in April, I bought a Pinephone. I used the phone quite consistently for the first few weeks and I meant to write an update here a couple of months back, but work (and other things) got in the way a bit.

So, here is my delayed “first few weeks with a Pinephone” update.

As mentioned, I initially aimed to simply use the phone in its out-of-the-box state (i.e. Manjaro Linux with KDE Plasma Mobile) - not as a daily driver, but more as a means of measuring the phone’s base case usability. However, hopefully with an aim to eventually being able to use such a device more full-time.

Overall impression

Generally, I’ve really enjoyed using the Pinephone. I mean, it is slow (compared to other modern phones), apps take a good few seconds to open, and the UI freezes every now and again. However, things are moving quickly - there are other OS builds and desktop environments available to try.

It is encouraging to see successes from the base shipped version of the device. For example, below is a picture of my dog that I took today using the Pinephone.

A picture of my dog - taken on Pinephone

What did I try?

In my previous post, I outlined a few areas and day-to-day tasks I wanted to try and accomplish. I’ll evaluate against each of them (so far!) below.

  • Basic calls and texts: ☑️ worked out of the box. The Pinephone accepted my SIM card and connected without issue.
  • 4G cellular connectivity: ☑️ worked out of the box. Drops out every now and again, requiring a reconnect.
  • WiFi connectivity: ☑️ worked out of the box, automatically connects.
  • Bluetooth connectivity (including headphones): ☑️ worked without issue, was able to connect and play through my Airpods Pro. Airpods-initiated pause/play also worked!
  • Photo- and video-taking using both front- and rear-facing cameras: ☑️ ⚠️ taking photos works fine using the Megapixels app (though does require an app restart for the camera to activate properly), videos not yet present.
  • Web browsing: ☑️ works great, using the shipped Angelfish browser.
  • Podcast subscribing, listing, and listening: ☑️ Works great using the Podcasts app. Could subscribe to all my podcasts. Only thing I couldn’t get working is changing the playback speed (though this I think is just a UI bug as the setting is there).
  • Audiobook downloading and listening: ☑️ I use Audible still as I am not aware of a good DRM-free audiobook retailer, however there are tools to convert the Audible AAX files you own to MP3 for DRM-free playback. AAXtoMP3 looks like it does the trick.
  • Music-playing (preferably through Spotify): ☑️ Works fine using the Spot app. Can access playlists and play music (ironically the Spot app is more responsive than the Spotify app on my iPhone!).
  • Mastodon (tooting and reading my timelines): ⚠️ Tootle looks great, but I have been unable to fully use it. (I can’t for the life of me get copy/paste to work properly, and so I cannot copy the authorization code to login). But it works via the web.
  • RSS (viewing my feeds from my FreshRSS server): ☑️ Working fine using the NewsFlash app (connected via the Fever API to my existing FreshRSS server).
  • Email reading and sending: ☑️ worked OK using Geary. Unable to login to my Google Mail accounts, but others worked.
  • Telegram messaging: ☑️ Worked with no problems.
  • Password-management: ⚠️ Could not get working: the available Bitwarden app does not scale small enough to enable me to login. But promising it exists in the store.

A screenshot of the Podcasts app listing some of my subscriptions Above: a screenshot from the Podcasts app listing some of my subscriptions.

Moving forward

Clearly the Pinephone is capable of fulfilling most of my every-day mobile device needs - right out of the box. As I say, the device is a little slow and crash-prone (currently) to use fully as a daily driver. Additionally, the issue I’m having with Bitwarden and copy/paste makes accessing some services tricky.

However, this certainly feels like it’s just the start. I am excited to give Phosh a go and to get involved further in the Flathub ecosystem to see if I can improve on the functionality and usability. I’ll update again soon!

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