PinePhone Status

4 months ago I got my PinePhonePro [1]. Since then I have got SE Linux working on it to the stage of allowing it to boot correctly with Debian/Unstable, login with the user_t domain (minimum privilege for the graphical user) and make and receive calls. I finished getting SE Linux working reasonably well 3 days ago and most (but not all) of the SE Linux policy is in Debian now. I’ve been getting good at Github PRs and I’m sending a lot of policy upstream, so the next version of Debian will have a much smaller diff from the upstream Refpolicy. I have been running the PinePhone with Plasma Mobile because I prefer KDE, I would run GNOME/Phoc if it gave significantly better functionality.

3 days ago I moved my main SIM (the one with the number that people call about work etc) to my PinePhone and tried running it as my main phone. Today I gave up on that.

My Android History

The last phone I had that did everything I needed was a Huawei Mate 10 Pro that I bought refurbished in June 2019 for $389. The Mate 10 Pro runs Android with the Google Play store and has been quite unremarkable which is presumably why I forgot to blog about it when I got it, it was a slight upgrade over the Huawei Mate 9 [2] that I had used for 2 years before that. In April 2022 I tried using a Huawei Nova 7i as my main phone without Google Play programs or services [3]. That experiment was a failure as I couldn’t get NextCloud to work for Calendaring and Contacts. It could be that I stuffed something up when trying that, but I put more skill and effort into trying to get it to work than most people ever would. The Nova 7i is a very slick phone, faster and nicer than the Mate 10 Pro (as expected being 2 years newer) while also having ridiculously long battery life. The Nova 7i when always on running the SchildiChat Matrix client and the Conversations Jabber client it will use less than 10% battery in a 8 hour work day.

As nice as the Nova 7i is for the core functions I still need to have Play Store apps for LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Zoom, etc. Which meant connecting the Mate 10 Pro via Wifi. As slick as the Nova 7i is for non-Google stuff running it and the Mate 10 Pro is a medium amount of pain for a small amount of freedom.

So now I have for the moment abandoned the Nova 7i and gone back to the Mate 10 Pro. What I will try to do is to either forcibly install Google Play on the Nova 7i to make it my proprietary phone or to install an open distribution of Linux (IE not Android) to make it at least a small tablet which incidentally is much more powerful than a PinePhonePro.

Issues With the PinePhonePro

The battery charges very slowly (as much as 50 hours estimated charge time) and discharges fast. When used in a typical way in “Caffeine” mode to stop suspend so I can ssh to it etc it won’t come close to lasting an 8 hour day. Also it will only take 5V charging and ideally wants 5V 3A charging which most chargers won’t do. The charging speed over regular USB ports is very slow, sometimes stating it will take as much as 50 hours to charge. A phone that gets below 50% charge in less than 4 hours and can’t be charged at a reasonable speed from a USB port on a laptop or monitor is going to be a major pain to use in the office. I don’t think this can be fixed in software, we can alleviate it by making software more CPU efficient and by enabling various hardware sleep modes more effectively but the slow charging is a hardware issue that can’t be fixed.

The phone call quality is poor. Usually when on a call I hear static and sometimes the person at the other end appears to hear nothing. Also the UI for calls is different from Android which makes it take longer to answer a call and gives more missed calls. The UI issue is a combination of software and habits, both of which can be changed. But the call quality may be a hardware issue. I don’t know if it’s a hardware issue specific to my phone or something related to the PinePhonePro on the Telstra network.

Clicking on notification in the drop-down doesn’t take me to the app. I don’t know if this is regarded as a bug by the Plasma-Mobile developers. Also notifications aren’t displayed on the lock screen and there doesn’t seem to be a configuration option to enable this.

The Plasma-Mobile configuration for the wifi hotspot is difficult. There is no button for it in the drop-down menu (called Quicksettings in Plasma-Mobile) and no way of easily determining whether it’s in hotspot or wifi client mode. This isn’t an insurmountable problem and the worst-case is that I could write a script to do it, but it’s still annoying.

There is apparent support in the desktop version of KDE for syncing contacts from Google and I could probably get that working (although I failed last time I tried on the desktop), but it is a pain.


Most of the problems are software related and therefore I can get involved in solving them. I plan to keep working on these things. If all the software had worked in an ideal manner then I would have spent more time investigating the hardware issues of battery life and charge time and the quality of calls.

I now have my Librem5 [4] running Debian so I will be able to compare call quality with the PinePhonePro. If I’m unable to get the PinePhonePro working adequately then maybe making the Librem5 my main phone will be an option.

I hope that by early next year I will be able to make another test at using a FOSS phone my main phone. In the mean time I can still work on convergence and other things.

4 comments to PinePhone Status

  • Karl

    Have a go at mobian, at least UI wise that is quite solid and linking to nextcloud is a breeze.

    However, like you i have abandoned my efforts to switch to linux phone several times.
    I used the PinePhone (not Pro) and it is around 95% feature compete for me.

    What does not work is reliable wake from sleep on alarm clock triggers, and surprisingly reliable phone calls.

    I have followed the mobian space for 2 years, and they are getting very close. However, its really annoying that something so basic as working alarms and phone calls is still not there. This project need just one final push to get rock solid and apparently its not happening.

    I then look at the billions of euros the EU is spending for whatever causes, but we cant get a bloody phone working. Makes me want to scream.

    Anyway, i can recommend the #mobian matrix channel, friendly people and good philosophy.

  • I have Mobian running on the Librem5 and the PinePhonePro. I haven’t got to the stage of NextCloud integration, hopefully that works better than Android.

    I gave up on sleep early on and just ran it in Caffeine mode all the time.

    It would be good if the EU could put in some money towards this.

    #mobian on Matrix is good.

  • > The battery charges very slowly … charging speed over regular USB ports is very slow, sometimes stating it will take as much as 50 hours to charge.

    Have you tried to manually set the charging current? I have an alias for doing that so I can develop on the PPP while using it an a modem, and the battery can still charge at a reasonable speed from my laptop.

  • For charging, try a dumb USB A charger (several are able to deliver 2A or more at 5V, which will not take 50 hours to charge the battery) or, on the road, a power bank. Those are all faster at charging than the typical computer’s USB ports.

    For the missing quick setting, it is possible to write custom quick settings with some QML and JavaScript, and if necessary shell scripting, see, e.g., my VPN one: