The dream of getting mobile devices and wearables running open-source software hasn’t precisely died out, but neither has it reached any commercial success, for better or worse. Some companies still push niche devices that focus on more tech-savvy users willing to sacrifice some conveniences in exchange for more freedom within the software they use. Pine64, perhaps better known for its ARM Single-board Computers (SBCs), is among only a few supporters of that movement, and it’s just launched what could also be the world’s first commercial open source smartwatch, the PineTime.
Pine64 has long been a Raspberry Pi competitor within the SBC market but recently branched bent new products that utilized its experience in creating ARM-powered boards and running open-source software on them. They started with Pinebook in 2017, offering a low-cost consumer Linux laptop running on an Allwinner ARM chip. However, its name rose to fame with the PinePhone that has garnered the interest and support of several Linux users and open source communities.
The company also dabbled during a PineTab tablet, but it had been the PineTime smartwatch that caught attention. It began as an almost random side project in 2019 but became a politician endeavor after a massive show of interest. After quite a year of development, the PineTime is finally on sale to the general public.
It’s not getting to compete with even entry-level smartwatches from big brands in both hardware and software. It runs on a 64MHz Cortex-M4F from NORDIC with only 64KB of RAM and features a 170-180 mAh battery. The 1.3-inch square display features a 240×240 pixel resolution and supports only 65K colors. It supports Bluetooth 5 LE but has no Wi-FI and includes a PPG pulse Sensor.
Those greatly disappointed by those specs could be missing out on the purpose of the PineTime, which is to supply a basic smartwatch that runs an open-source OS, specifically the Infinitime RTOS. Unlike most smartwatches, however, the PineTime is additionally hospitable, getting used with the other OS designed for it. In other words, you’ll be getting what’s perhaps the world’s first open and hackable smartwatch for less than $26.99.