One of the key selling points of Linux smartphones like the PinePhone and Purism Librem 5 is that they’re designed to run free and open source GNU/Linux-based operating systems rather than partially open software like Google Android.
But there’s an app gap — sure, both Android and Linux support millions of apps. But most Android apps are optimized for smartphones. Linux apps? Not so much.
So it’s nice to know that you might be able to run some Android apps on Linux phones thanks to a tool called Anbox.
Anbox is an Android compatibility layer for Linux that’s been around for a few years, and now the developers of the Linux-based postmarketOS note that recent progress porting Anbox to new platforms could be good news for folks that want to run Android apps in the operating system.
In a nutshell, postmarketOS was originally designed to breathe new life into older Android phones by giving users an open source alternative to Android-based custom ROMs.
It’s still very much a work in progress, but now that phones like the Librem 5 and PinePhone that are designed to run Linux, postmarketOS is expected to be a stable/daily driver-ready operating system for those phones by the end of the year, while it will probably remain more of a beta/bleeding edge operating system for other phones like the Google Nexus 5.
At this point, Anbox on Alpine/postmarketOS can run on computers with x86_64 (Intel or AMD) processors, but does not yet support smartphones with ARM-based chips. But those are long-term goals for the project, which means that postmarketOS developers are hoping to let you run Android apps without actually installing Google’s Android operating system.
In the meantime, here’s a recent video showing postmarketOS running on a Pinephone while using the Phosh shell (a GNOME-based user environment developed by Purism for the Librem 5 smartphone).