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Pocket-sized Linux server doubles as a smartphone power pack

Jan 18, 2016 — by Rick Lehrbaum — 2,928 views

[Updated: Jan. 20] — iCracked’s “Ocean” is a tiny battery powered microserver and power pack that comes with Debian but also supports Android, Raspbian, and other Linux builds.

You might call iCracked the “Uber” of the iOS device repair market. Founded in 2010, the company has since grown into a network over 4,000 “certified iTechs” located in a dozen countries, and claimed to be “the world’s largest on-demand repair and trade-in network for iOS devices.”

In an effort to enhance the efficiency of its distributed network of technicians, the company created a tiny, pocket-sized Linux computer that can quickly provide recharging, testing, and external control of iPads and iPhones in the field. The device, known as the “Ocean,” is now being marketed to the general public, as a general purpose mobile server and power pack, with beta units going out next month and production shipments planned in April.

Ocean, the pocket-sized Linux microserver
(click images to enlarge)

The 150 x 78 x 12mm Ocean is built around an unspecified dual core Cortex-A7-based system-on-chip, clocked at 1GHz. Its memory resources include 1GB of DDR3 RAM, plus 4GB of flash for the bootloader and Linux filesystem. There’s also an internal micro-SD slot, for up to 64GB of flash storage.

For connectivity, the Ocean offers WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 with BTLE support, plus a single USB 3.0 port. Despite the use of a highly integrated SoC that no doubt includes a graphics controller and one or more video output interfaces, the device is headless, leaving its graphics subsystems dormant. The main reason for omitting A/V ports “was to save power, but also to provide an additional level of security.,” says iCracked.

Another view of the Ocean, and a glimpse of its internal electronics

We initially assumed the Ocean’s SoC was the Allwinner A20, based on a mention of “A20” in a post by iCracked Engineer David Petrie at However, a LinuxGizmos reader comment correctly pointed out that the A20 SoC’s USB port is 2.0, not 3.0. Consequently, we searched for an alternative possibility, and came up with the NXP (formerly Freescale) NXP LS1020A, which is also based on a 1GHz dual-core Cortex-A7 CPU, but includes a single USB 3.0 interface.

An internal 4200mAh rechargeable battery powers the Ocean, and also can be used for charging a smartphone or tablet. You can charge the Ocean either through its micro-USB port, or via wireless Qi Charging.

What can I do with it?

Since the Ocean is essentially a smartphone without A/V I/O. but with a hefty battery and a built-in Linux OS, you’re not likely to be using it for listening to music, watching videos, browsing the web, or reading email. Instead of those typical smartphone applications, iCracked suggests the following possibilities:

  • Collecting ambient data — in conjunction with several open source libraries for Bluetooth, Ocean can detect Bluetooth Low Energy sensors and devices around your home or office.
  • Mobile USB interrogation tool — with a USB port that provides enough power to charge any iOS and Android devices, Ocean can be used to read information about devices that are attached to it.
  • Prototyping BTLE applications — Ocean can behave as an iBeacon, Eddystone, or more complicated BLE device.
  • Headless mobile Linux server — build and deploy your own web applications on the go using popular frameworks like Node.js or Ruby-on-Rails.

According to the Ocean’s product page, the device includes a “web dashboard” that lets you “fully control your Ocean,” plus a REST API through which you can easily “access all your data.” Unfortunately, the code for those functions is not currently released as open source, however, leading to a likely concern from developers who want to know what their Ocean is up to.

In a Q&A thread at, iCracked Engineer David Petrie writes, “We actually hadn’t considered open sourcing the web UI and dashboard. It’s not a bad idea, I’ll have to discuss it with the others on the team. We will be open sourcing almost everything else we can.”

Summary of Ocean specs

These specifications are listed for the Ocean device:

  • Processor — unspecified dual-core ARM Cortex-A7 SoC, clocked at 1GHz
  • Memory/storage:
    • 1GB DDR3 RAM
    • 4GB flash
    • Expansion — 1x internal micro-SD slot for up to 64GB flash
  • Wireless:
    • Wifi 802.11b/g/n
    • Bluetooth 4.0 with BLE support
  • Other I/O — 1x USB 3.0 port (micro-USB)
  • Power:
    • Internal battery — 4200mAh
    • Power input:
      • Mini-USB charging port, supporting up to 2100mA
      • Wireless Qi charging, supporting up to 1000mA
    • Power output — 500-200mA in power bank mode
  • Dimensions — 150 x 78 x 12mm
  • Enclosure — brushed aluminum frame with composite plastic panels
  • Weight — 170gm
  • Operating system — Debian Jessie (Linux 3.4.105+) preinstalled; also supports other ARM Linux distros including Raspbian, Ubuntu, and Android

Further information

iCracked is currently accepting orders for a limited number of Ocean beta units, priced at $149, equipped with a 16GB micro-SD card, and expected to ship in February. Alternatively, pre-orders are being accepted for Oceans equipped with 32GB or 64GB micro-SD flash, priced at $179 and $199 respectively, and delivery scheduled for April. All models also include the 4GB flash, which contains the preinstalled Debian-based filesystem. More details may be found at iCracked’s Ocean purchase page.

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4 responses to “Pocket-sized Linux server doubles as a smartphone power pack”

  1. Verrm says:

    Can I understand that I can plug in ethernet usb dongle + external drive and make from this small computer a home file server with a built-in UPS?

  2. chip says:

    This product shows why being open is so important.

    Over 2 years ago I bought an EDUP EP-9511N Cloud Assistant, which is a Linux based power bank working also as WiFi 3G hotspot and file server. It worked great both as an external battery (cells are of good quality) and as a hotspot, but as a file server it sucked badly: not only it supported only ftp, but could not sustain a file transfer without disconnecting, to the point it was completely unusable. If only it was open I could flash a Linux distro with support for SMB and give new life to something that today is essentially just a battery, albeit a good one, but no way.

  3. LinAdmin says:

    According to my understanding of the A20 specs the USB ports must be USB 2 and not USB 3??

    • LinuxGizmos says:

      Thanks for catching that. I’ve modified our article accordingly. My best guess is the NXP LS1020A at this point, but it sure doesn’t square with (iCracked engineer) David Petrie’s post at Perhaps the initial prototypes were built around the Allwinner A20 and they switched to the LS1020A for its USB3.0 and possibly other benefits in the final version? An obvious advantage of using an NXP SoC might be the long lifecycle mentality of embedded-oriented companies like NXP, vs. Allwinner’s focus on the rapidly evolving requirements of smartphones and tablets, and their very short lifespans.

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