The dream of having mobile devices and wearables running open source software hasn’t exactly died out, but neither has it reached any form of commercial success, for better or worse. Some companies continue to push niche devices that target more tech-savvy users that are willing to sacrifice some conveniences in exchange for more freedom in the software they use. Pine64, perhaps better known for its ARM Single-board Computers (SBCs), is one of the very few supporters of that movement, and it has just launched what may be the world’s first commercial open source smartwatch, the PineTime.
Pine64 has long been a Raspberry Pi competitor in the SBC market but recently branched out to new products that utilized the company’s 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. Its name rose to fame, however, with the PinePhone that has garnered the interest and support for many Linux users and open source communities.
The company also dabbled in a PineTab tablet, but it was the PineTime smartwatch that really caught attention. It started out as an almost random side project in 2019 but became an official endeavor after a massive show of interest from people. After more than a year in development, the PineTime is finally on sale to the public.
It’s not going 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 has a 170-180 mAh battery. The 1.3-inch square display has a 240×240 pixel resolution and supports only 65K colors. It supports Bluetooth 5 LE but has no Wi-FI, and includes a PPG Heart Rate Sensor.
Those greatly disappointed by those specs might be missing out on the point of the PineTime, which is to offer a basic smartwatch that runs an open source operating system, specifically the Infinitime RTOS. Unlike almost all smartwatches, however, the PineTime is also open to being used with any other OS that will be designed for it. In other words, you will be getting what is perhaps the world’s first open and hackable smartwatch for only $26.99.