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.

via Softpedia, Linux Gizmos, and UBPorts

 



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6 Comments

  1. I would very much like a more privacy focused version of Android. Lacking Google services is a positive for me, as I’d like to get away from all Google services.

    I would really like a build of AOSP that offers a really advanced App sandbox. I want to be able to spoof all permissions to apps. For example, I’d like to make the Facebook messenger app live in a secure sandbox that feeds fake microphone audio, fake GPS data, a fake video feed from both cameras, fake phone contacts, etc.

    I also would love the ability to set VPN connection info per-app (let some apps use my real connection, but set specific apps to use a VPN).

  2. This is scam, it has to be.
    If the founders are so passionate about privacy, they would join the range of other AOSP programs (eg/ postmarketOS, ello, Omni, LineageOS). And even if you gave them $500k, they don’t have the capability of building a Linux Mobile Distro. So don’t donate, and hopefully it will go away. There’s no need for people in the open-source community that act in bad-faith. If these guys want to redeem themselves, they should make most of the leg-work for a competitive Operating System before asking for money… otherwise it only proves they are leachers.

    And the hardware they threw in there at the end like an after-thought. It’s probably a rebadged Chinese phone. And if it is not, then its a questionable build anyway. The conspiracy theory part of me thinks this is just a “shell company” for Purism to dig themselves out of the financial problems they’re in with the Librem5. Why must +95% of crowdfunding projects be utter failures or scams, and when will people learn?

  3. Ok, so they’re using Gigaset GS290 phone you can buy for 270 euros (with 19% VAT), for example, here — https://www.gigaset.com/de_de/gigaset-gs290/
    Gigaset is yet another company that tries to milk “made in Germany” meme, while having close financial ties to the SEA region.

    The screen design looks identical to generic 6.3″ smartphones with Helio P23 onboard, though the camera arrangement is different.
    Though, bona-fide Chinese smartphones with almost the same specs tend to cost around 160 euros (before VAT).

    So, in essence the campaign owners charge a bit more than 100 euros (as they need circa 1100 phones for the campaign to succeed and the vendor is going to give them some discounts) for the value they add to the phone.
    That results in about 130000-150000 euros that can be put into the development of a daily driver mobile OS and that’s, unfortunately, a laughably tiny budget.

    I don’t think that’s a scam on the hardware side, it’s just the attempt at an OS is most likely to be half-assed at this budget. At best, it’ll be a glorified launcher plus a trial for a VPN service.
    So the backers will most probably receive their phones if the campaign succeeds, it’s just that the “value” added won’t be valuable and they’ll end up having paid the doubled price for a pretty mediocre phone.

    1. After reading into it some more, I can see your point. They’re just selling you a chinese smartphone for twice its value, and using the huge profit margin to fund their software.

  4. Sounds like a nice idea but I don’t see any reason for it since there is already /e/ OS. I am using it and it already does what Volla want to create. So for me there is no point in doing the same thing again, If they use /e/ on their phone they will already have a phone with privacy.

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