Manjaro is one of the most popular desktop Linux operating systems, and it’s increasingly becoming one of the most versatile GNU/Linux distributions for smartphones as well.
The PinePhone Manjaro Community Edition smartphone that shipped a few months ago came with Manjaro ARM software featuring the phosh user interface pre-installed. The PinePhone KDE Community Edition phone that will begin shipping this month comes with Manjaro featuring the KDE Plasma Mobile UI.
And the Manjaro ARM team is also developing a branch of the operating system featuring the Lomiri user interface borrowed from the UBPorts/Ubuntu Touch team. Now there’s a new developer build of Manjaro ARM with Lomiri available for testing.
The new January 8th, 2021 dev build features an updated Linux 5.10 kernel and comes with a handful of apps pre-installed including the Morph web browser, Megapixels camera application, a file manager, contact manager, phone dialer, messaging app, music player, flashlight, and terminal.
It’s still very much a work in progress – some features aren’t working yet. For example, there’s no support for Bluetooth and while audio and video are working, when I tried streaming content from YouTube, the playback got choppy at resolutions higher than 480p.
But for a developer build, Manjaro ARM with Lomiri runs pretty smoothly on the PinePhone. Automatic screen rotation is supported. And Lomiri is one of the most phone-friendly user interfaces available for smartphones.
Initially developed by Canonical when the company behind Ubuntu had dreams of bringing the operating system to phones, the project was eventually abandoned by Canonical and picked up by the folks at UBPorts who continued to develop Ubuntu Touch and who recently renamed the Unity user interface as Lomiri.
The UI relies heavily on gesture navigation. You can swipe from the left edge of the screen to bring up bar with shortcuts to apps that are currently running or which have been pinned to the menu. Or you can tap the Manjaro (or Ubuntu Touch) button to view all apps.
Swipe from the right edge of the display to switch between apps, or swipe and hold for a moment to bring up a task switcher with a card view of currently running applications.
And swipe down from the top of the display for quick access to network, sound, battery, and system settings as well as notifications, downloaded files, and more.
There are still a few quirks though – the on-screen keyboard stretches to uncomfortable proportions in landscape mode, for example.
Manjaro is one of the first operating systems other than Ubuntu to support Lomiri, bringing the experience to users who may prefer an OS that takes a different approach to mobile Linux.