There are a handful of companies working to bring GNU/Linux smartphones to market. The Volla Phone is a little different.
The folks behind the phone have launched a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of building a privacy-focused smartphone that ships with a Google-free version of Android.
But if the team reaches a stretch goal, the Volla Phone will also be available with an alternate operating system based on GNU/Linux software.
It’s not at all clear that the team will reach its stretch goal… or even its initial goal. The crowdfunding campaign has been live for nearly a month, and has only raised $15,000 toward a goal of over $385,000.
Smartphone projects don’t often do well on crowdfunding campaigns, and with a starting price of about $329, the Volla Phone isn’t exactly an impulse purchase.
But the Volla Phone is interesting for a few reasons. The developers of the project have a working prototype running a custom version of Android called Volla OS. It’s based on Android Open Source Project Code, but lacks Google apps and services.
What it does have are some interesting features including a Springboard that lets you start writing on the home screen to get predictions for actions you might want to complete. For example, you can start writing a name of a contact to bring up the Dialer and place a call. Or start typing a search term to open a web browser and begin a search.
I’m not convinced that would be faster than just launching an app from its shortcut, but it’s interesting to see a project that not only aims to offer an Android phone without Google services, but which does build upon AOSP by adding new features.
The phone also comes with a VPN service pre-installed with free and paid service tiers.
What may be more interesting are the plans to offer optional support for non-Android operating systems. In the event that the Volla Phone meets its stretch goal of 490-thousand Euros (about $539,000 US), the team plans to offer optional support for one of two GNU/Linux-based operating systems:
The developers already have Ubuntu Touch up and running on a prototype Volla Phone.
In terms of hardware, the Volla Phone would have a 6.3 inch display, a MediaTek Helio P23 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a 5,000 mAh battery, 16MP + 2MP rear cameras, and a 16MP front camera.
Other features include a fingerprint sensor a USB-C port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a microSD card reader, and wireless charging support.