You’ve been able to watch videos on a PinePhone for a while, but up until recently most of the video players available for the phone have relied on software to render videos. That means they hammer the phone’s limited CPU resources, causing video to occasionally look choppy and often limiting playback to low resolutions.
Recently Brian Daniels discovered a method for enabling hardware-accelerated video playback using command line tools. Now support is baked into a media player called Clapper. There’s no more need fire up a terminal to start your video playback.
Update: Another app, called µPlayer is even easier to use. More on that at the bottom of this article.
Hardware acceleration basically means that rather than relying on the general-purpose CPU to handle video playback, Clapper (and theoretically other applications) can leverage the PinePhone’s GPU (an ARM Mali-400 MP2 graphics processor). This leads to both smoother video playback and improved efficiency – playing videos won’t run down the phone’s battery as quickly or cause other processes that may be running in the background to slow down.
It’s still early days for hardware-accelerated video on the PinePhone. Right now enabling the feature isn’t as simple as installing an app. Instead you need to:
- Compile from source a version of GStreamer with the necessary features.
- Build and install Clapper and then add environmental variables.
This may be the latest example of why the PinePhone isn’t really ready for the general public yet, but it makes an excellent device for hackers and Linux enthusiasts. A small team of developers figured out how to do something new with the phone to make it a little more usable… and it’s something that knowledgeable folks should now be able to replicate fairly easily.
But it will likely be a little while before installing this particular app is as simple as downloading it from an app store or repository. Peter from LINMOB.net, for example, has already compiled a set of scripts that you can use to build Clapper and its dependencies into a flatpak that can be easily installed or removed.
It takes about an hour to build and install on a PinePhone, so it’s not quite as simple as installing a pre-compiled app, but it’s something you can do by running just a few commands on the phone.
Meanwhile, if you have a Librem 5 smartphone, it’s now possible to use the new the µPlayer video player for hardware-accelerated video playback. It’s available as a flatpak, and the source code is online at GitHub.
Update: Want a simpler way to get hardware-accelerated video playback on a smartphone running Linux? The new µPlayer app is a simple GTK4 based application that uses the latest version of GStreamer to support hardware-acceleration. It’s available as a Flatpak that can be installed on the Librem 5 (and probably the PinePhone and other Linux phones).