PinePhone’s official keyboard add-on will turn it into a tiny Linux PC

PinePhone’s official keyboard add-on will turn it into a tiny Linux PC

Pine64 is a tech company that has been selling Linux-powered hardware for years, including the entry-level PinePhone and upcoming PinePhone Pro. An official keyboard add-on for the PinePhone and PinePhone Pro has been in development for months, as Pine64 and its community work together on the best-possible design, and now it’s nearly ready for production.

Lukasz Erecinski, Community Manager at Pine64, revealed in the company’s November update blog post that the PinePhone Keyboard will be released next month for just $49.95. A last-minute adjustment to the keyboard’s membrane material caused the release date to slip to December, but the company said in the post, “we want to make sure to both account for developers’ feedback and to deliver the best possible PinePhone (Pro) keyboard that is possible.”

Photo of prototype and final PinePhone keyboards

Prototype keyboard (left) next to final keyboard (right)

The keyboard has a matte black finish across the casing and keys, and uses the PinePhone’s internal pogo pins for the connection, so the phone’s USB connector remains accessible. Earlier prototypes used the same basic design, but Pine64 has been improving the build quality and adding additional dropout regulators to the internal circuitry (to prevent overcharging the PinePhone’s battery). Erecinski also noted that the keys need “a few minutes of break-in time,” which sounds similar to how BlackBerry smartphones and other similar devices behave.

The keyboard reportedly works out out of the box with the Manjaro Plasma Mobile and Arch Phosh Linux distributions, and might also work with other operating systems (if not, the developers likely only need to implement a few patches). With the keyboard, the PinePhone turns into something closer to a GPD Pocket or Planet Gemini PDA. The original PinePhone is definitely slower than most Windows/Android keyboard portables, but it has other benefits, like dozens of operating systems to choose from and an increased focus on privacy/hardware controls. The keyboard will also work with the PinePhone Pro, once that phone becomes available.

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Corbin Davenport
Corbin Davenport

Corbin is a tech journalist and software developer based in Raleigh, North Carolina. He's also the host of the Tech Tales podcast, which explores the history of the technology industry. Follow him on Twitter at @corbindavenport.