The PineTime

I have just got a PineTime smart watch [1] from Pine64. They cost $US27 each which ended up as $144.63 Australian for three including postage when I ordered on the 16th of September, it’s annoying that you can’t order more than 3 at a time to reduce postage costs.

The Australian online store Kogan has smart watches starting at about $15 [2] with Bluetooth and support for phone notifications so the $48.21 for a PineTime doesn’t compare well on just price and features. The watches Kogan sells start getting into high resolution at around the $25 price and many of them have features like 24*7 heart monitoring that the PineTime lacks (it just measures when you request it). No-one would order a PineTime for being cheap or having lots of features, you order it because you want open hardware that allows you to do things your way. Also the PineTime isn’t going to be orphaned while it’s likely that in a few years most of the cheap watches sold by Kogan etc won’t support the new phones running the latest version of Android.

The screen of the PineTime is 240*240 resolution (about 260dpi) with 64k colors. The screen resolution is lower than some high-end smart watches but higher than most phones and almost all monitors. I doubt that much benefit could be gained from higher resolution. Even on minimum brightness the screen is easy to read on all but the brightest sunny days. The compute capabilities are 4.5MB of flash storage, 64k of RAM, and a 64MHz CPU – this can’t run Linux and nothing like it will run Linux for a long time.

I’ve had the PineTime for 6 days now, I charged it once and it’s now at 55% battery. It looks like it will last close to 2 weeks on a single charge and it’s claimed that a newer firmware will make the battery last longer.


The main Android app for using with the PineTime is GadgetBridge which I installed from the f-droid repository. It had lots of click-through menus for allowing access to various Android features (contacts, bluetooth, draw over foreground, location, and more) but after that it was easy to setup. It was the first bluetooth device I’ve used which had a 6 digit PIN for connecting to a phone.

Initially I used the PineTime with my Huawei Nova 7i [3]. The aim is to eventually have it run from my PinePhonePro but my test of the PinePhonePro didn’t go as well as hoped [4]. Now I’m using it on my Huawei Mate 10 Pro.

It comes with InfiniTime [5] installed as the default firmware, mine had 1.11.0 which is a fairly recent version. I will probably upgrade it soon to get the better power optimisation and weather alerts in the watch face. I don’t have any plans to use different watch firmware and I don’t have any plans to contribute to firmware development – I just can’t hack on every FOSS project around it’s better to do big contributions to a small number of projects.

For people who don’t want the default firmware the Wasp-OS project seems interesting as it’s written in Python [6], I don’t like Python but it’s very popular. Python is particularly popular in ML development, it will be interesting to see if Wasp-OS becomes a preferred platform for smart watches that talk to GPT servers.

Generally the software works well, one annoyance is that when a notification goes away on the phone it remains on the PineTime and has to be manually dismissed. It would be nice if clearing notifications on the phone would clear them on the PineTime too.

The music control works with RocketPlayer on Android, it displays the track name and has options for pause/play and skipping forward and backward one track. Annoyingly the current firmware doesn’t allow configuring the main screens, from the primary screen you swipe down for notifications, right for settings, up for menus, and there’s nothing defined for swipe left. I’d like to make swipe left the command to get to music control.


It has a detachable band that appears to be within the common range of watch bands. According to the PineTime Wiki page [7] there are a selection of alternate bands that will fit it, but some don’t because the band is recessed into the watch.

It is IP67 rated which means you can probably wear it while swimming. The charging contacts are exposed on the bottom of the case which means that any chemicals left by pool water can be cleaned off and also as they are apparently not expected to be harmed by sweat and skin oil there shouldn’t be a problem charging it. I have significant experience using a Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini which is rated at IP67 in swimming pools. I had two problems with the S5 Mini when getting out of the pool, firstly water in the headphone socket made the phone consider that it was in headphone mode and turn off the speakers and secondly it took hours to become dry enough to charge and after many swims the charge rate dropped presumably due to oxide on the contacts. There are reports of success when swimming with a PineTime.

Generally it feels well made and appears more solid than the cheapest Kogan devices appear to be.


If I wanted monitoring for medical reasons then I would choose a different smart watch. I’ve read about people doing things like tracking their body stats 24*7 and trying to discover useful things, the PineTime is not a good option for BioHacking type use. However if I did have a need for such things I’d probably just buy a second smart watch and have one on each wrist.

The PineTime generally works well. It’s a pity it has fewer hardware features than closed devices that are cheaper. But having a firmware that can be continually improved by the community is good.

The continually expanding use of mobile phone technology devices for custom use in corporations (such as mobile phone in custom case for scanning prices etc in a supermarket) has some potential for use with this. I can imagine someone adding some custom features to a PineTime for such use. When a supermarket chain has 200,000 employees (as Woolworths in Australia does) then paying for a few months of software development work to make a smart watch do specific things for that company could provide significant value. There are probably some business opportunities for FOSS developers to hack on extra hardware on a PineTime and write software to support it.

I recommend that everyone who’s into FOSS buy one of these. Preferably make a deal with two friends to get the minimum postage cost.

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