2020, the year of Linux on the smartwatch

2020, the year of Linux on the smartwatch

I apologize for the headline. I had to do it. For years, devotees have been talking about how this year will be the year of Linux on the desktop. But for true believers, I think we’ve moved past that in some ways – now it’s all about mobile and wearable computing. There’s this $25 PineTime watch: what are we talking about?

What is a PineTime?

PineTime is a $25 smart watch for hobbyists running a FreeRTOS or ARM Mbed OS, designed to be a Linux phone companion. People are also expressing interest in making it compatible with Android, and porting ZephyrOS to it.

PineTime has a full touch screen, 10 days of battery life, and an IPS display for visibility in sunlight. More information will be available in October, but if you want to tinker with wearables and you already know a little about the SWD debugger and FreeRTOS, this could be for you.

Should you get one?

Almost certainly, no. If you are an open source advocate, by all means, get one. If you are also getting the $150 PinePhone Linux Smartphone, go right ahead. But expect these things to be for hobbyists and tinkerers, and that you may need to be patient with bugs, and willing to compile things from source, or flash the whole OS at some point. We have yet to see a mobile offering based on Linux that really goes anywhere outside of Android.

Firefox phone didn’t do it. UbuntuPhone didn’t get there. Maybe this one should? Pedagogically, if you want to learn and experiment, open source makes a lot of sense, even if things don’t necessarily become stable projects for years, if ever. Personally, there are videos of the PinePhone running LunaOS (which is what’s become of WebOS for phones.) For this reason alone, I’m tempted.

If you want a $25 PineWatch or PinePhone, feel free to go to Pine64.org to learn more.

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