Among the 15 million developers, hackers, and tinkerers who visit XDA Developers every month, there’s a recurring joke that the site should just build its own smartphone.
XDA hosts one of the largest online forums for Android enthusiasts, and it’s often the first stop for users who want to modify their phones in ways that the manufacturer never intended. Wouldn’t it be easier to just make a phone where the hacking was the point?
Now it’s not such a joke anymore. This week, XDA announced a partnership with a startup called F(x)tec, and together they’re collaborating on a new smartphone called the Pro1 X. It has a built-in physical keyboard, and it’s designed to boot into either Android or Ubuntu Linux. Nirave Gondhia, XDA’s chief content officer, says his editorial team provided input on the phone’s features and will also be promoting it on the site’s forums.
“We want to build something that’s designed for the enthusiast community,” Gondhia says. “We’re also really going to be driving a lot of the interest behind it through our community.”
From left: F(x)tec’s Erkan Saliev, operations lead; sales marketing executive Elysia Hodgson; cofounders-directors Adrian Li Mow Ching and Liangchen Chen; and Nirave Gondhia, chief content officer at XDA Developers [Photo: courtesy of F(x)tec]While the partnership would be unusual for any phone maker, it’s also a leap of faith for XDA Developers, which has to please an audience that is notoriously finnicky about its phones. Playing the role of product developer could be a lucrative new business for the site, but not without some risk of alienating the community that it’s trying to court.
The pocket PC
The Pro1 X is technically a variant of F(x)tec’s first phone, the Pro1, which launched in late 2019. While both phones have physical keyboards and similar specs, the new phone has twice the storage (128 GB) and more RAM (8 GB). Those tweaks will help accommodate an even bigger difference on the software side: The phone supports dual-booting, so users can load two operating systems on the same phone.
For Android, the Pro1 X will ship with LineageOS, a popular aftermarket firmware (or ROM) for those who like to tinker with their phones. It’s more customizable than the Android software that Google puts on its Pixel phones, but lacks the preloaded apps and superfluous features that manufacturers like Samsung install on their phones.
As Gondhia points out, the histories of Lineage and XDA…