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PinePhone Keyboard: first impression is very positive

A few days ago, during the Pine64 Community Update, Lukasz Erecinski showed pictures of the keyboard for Pinephone. It’s not for sale yet, but we could see what the keyboard would look like. Many questions appeared on social channels about the keyboard, so we decided to talk about it with Lukasz (community manager for PINE64).

We understand that the keyboard is not yet “ready for sale”, but what are your first impressions from using the keyboard?

Lukasz Erecinski (Pine64): I received the keyboard alongside a handful of other people with different types of expertise. The purpose of the current pre-production units is to evaluate the electronics and overall fit and finish. My focus was the fit and finish of the accessory, since my knowledge of code and electronics is limited. The first impression is very positive – the keyboard is very sturdy, hefty and well built. When mounted inside it, the PinePhone feels like it was always intended to be used this way. The keyboard is also well molded and nicely finished, although component tolerances – especially the key cap assembly – need to be tightened up. There are also a few minor issues that need to be sorted – such as key cap membrane and hinge stiffness, as well as various little omissions in the molding. I think it’s safe to say we’re 95% there already.

Will it be possible to pick up a voice call when the keyboard will be connected?

LE: It will be possible to place and receive calls, but you will likely want to use a BT or wired headset for phone calls. When the PinePhone is paired with the keyboard it should be thought of as a PDA with a modem. At any rate, attaching the keyboard doesn’t change the phone’s core functionality, including the modem.

When can we expect the possibility of buying a keyboard and do we know the price?

LE: I am acutely aware that many people want to get their hands on the PinePhone keyboard, but it may be a little longer before it lands in the Pine Store. We’re probably going to have one more batch of prototypes created prior to launching a production run. This will likely involve at least one more electronics revision, to accommodate as many suggestions from the developers as possible. Regardless, I am confident it will be available for everyone to purchase this summer. As for the price-point, the bill of materials isn’t yet complete, so we don’t know the asking-price. That said, it should be somewhere in the $50-60 price-range.

What is the first response of developers about the keyboard?

LE: The reaction was very positive. For starters, all core electronics all work – which isn’t always the case with an engineering unit. Moreover, getting the i2c HID driver to work took less than a day, and in my testing the keyboard has been working flawlessly. Martijn Braam made a video and talked about his initial impressions, which I encourage everyone to watch. The challenge ahead of us and developers is to program the keyboard with an appropriate firmware. This should be happening as soon as next week when we receive the source code from the vendor. At this point we’ll be able to proceed with further testing and developers will be able to start integrating the driver into existing OSes.

What do you think about the keyboard? Maybe you have any questions about it? Write a comment. Thanks.

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