Developer Martign Braam, who created the Megapixels camera app and many other Linux apps for the PinePhone, PineTab, and other mobile Linux devices, recently wrote an article asking whether folks who are buying Linux phones really want Linux phones.
As I’ve mentioned, folks who are looking for an Android or iOS-like experience with access to millions of apps that “just work” will probably be disappointed by the current state of software for phones like the PinePhone and Librem 5.
They’re not just phones that ship without Apple or Google software. They’re open platforms that allow anyone to create their own apps, operating systems, bootloaders, and more. If that’s a little too ambitious, you can also contribute to existing projects. If you’re not happy with what the phones can do, you can roll up your sleeves and try your hand at making them do something else by writing code.
That’s not something everyone is going to want to do. I’m personally much more of a beta tester than a coder when it comes to Linux phones – I bought a PinePhone and started this website to keep track of the developments made by others rather than to write my own software.
Maybe one day casual users who don’t know how to code and who are scared by the command line might find Linux phones to be as user-friendly as Linux desktops running Ubuntu, Debian, Mint, or Fedora. But right now these are phones for hackers/makers/and early adopters.
Here’s a roundup of news, opinion and how-to articles about Linux phones and related devices from the past week or so.
Do you really want Linux phones [Martjin Braam]
Developer Martijn Braam wonders whether the people buying Linux phones actually want what Linux phones today have to offer.
Glacier user interface for Nemo Mobile on Manjaro (work in progress) [@NeoChapay]
Nemo Mobile is now based on Manjaro, and developers are working on porting the Glacier user interface to work with the new base operating system. There are still some kinks to work out, but recent builds are available for download if you want to try it out and/or contribute.
— neochapay (@neochapay) March 22, 2021
Librem 5 camera is now working [@dos1]
When the Librem 5 smartphone began shipping to customers, the phone’s software couldn’t actually make use of the rear camera, so there was no way to take pictures. Now there is.
— dos (@dos1) March 21, 2021
Precursor open mobile hardware device delayed (latest casualty of the chip shortage) [Liliputing]
The global chip shortage is taking a heavy toll on smaller companies and independent projects like bunnie Huang’s Precursor, a pocket-sized communications device built around an FPGA. It’s likely to be delayed by at least 2-3 months.
Fedora Release #9 for the PinePhone [nikhiljha / GitHub]
This build is based on Fedora Rawhide, has a pre-release version of the Linux kernel 5.12, and attempts to scale applications with non-adaptive user interfaces to fit on a phone-sized screen.
Installing Gentoo on a PinePhone pt 1 [Stealthgun’s Blog]
Unlike some Linux distributions for the PinePhone, Gentoo doesn’t generally offers pre-built images. So you need to build the OS from source and install it. The official documentation is a little light on details, so this blogger helped fill in the blanks.
Installing Gentoo on a PinePhone pt 2: making it usable [Stealthgun’s Blog]
Once Gentoo is up and running, the next step is to install a mobile-friendly user interface like Phosh and then load some phone apps.
Gnome 40 on the PinePhone [Martign Braam / YouTube]
When he’s not coding camera apps for the PinePhone or wondering why people who don’t seem to want it are buying it, sometimes he posts videos — like this one showing postmarketOS running on the PinePhone with the new GNOME 40 desktop environment. It’s not explicitly designed for phones, but some of the elements actually scale pretty well to small screens. There’s some problem with touch responsiveness in certain spots though.