Now that there are a handful of smartphones designed to run GNU/Linux distributions, there are a growing number of developers creating phone-friendly operating systems.
One of the latest is called Mobian, and while it’s not exactly a brand new distribution, it is a set of software that makes it possible to run the popular Debian operating system on a smartphone or tablet.
The developers did that by adding the Phosh user interface to Debian to make it look and feel more like a smartphone operating system and also by adding a set of mobile apps for web browsing, file management, gaming and communications.
There are already Mobian images available for the Pinephone, and there are plans to bring the software to the Librem 5 smartphone and PineTab tablet as well.
The latest nightly builds of Mobian for the Pinephone support WiFi and mobile data as well as Bluetooth and GPS. Hardware-accelerated video is working, as is audio. But there are still some hardware features that Mobian doesn’t yet support including the camera, full disk encryption, USB networking, and USB OTG.
Mobian is still very much a work in progress, and the developers note that the phone can take a long time to wake up from a phone call, GPS doesn’t work with web apps, and users may experience random crashes and/or WiFi instability, among other issues. But there are troubleshooting tips in the Mobian Wiki.
Supported apps include Chromium, Firefox, Calls, Files, and Telegram. There’s also a media player, a Mastadon client, a text editor frontend, a time tracker, authenticator, and Manga reader.
I bought a limited edition Manjaro Pinephone a few days ago. I immediately installed Mobian and this has been a good choice. I would like to see some screen resolution flexibility in the future as Evolution and Libreoffice Calc could use some screen improvements in my opinion. Overall looking good.
Have been using mobian for several weeks on the pinephone and it is absolutely great. It is pretty stable if a little ‘laggy’ but wonderful to have a robust CLI on a working linux phone. Hoping this will be very successful!
To be fair, this is a pretty decent OS so far.
Of course, it’s going to be (very) rough around the edges, but that’s only because it has limited amount of developers/development and funding.
Too bad these things never end up making waves in the mainstream. The closest we got was with Nokia making Maemo, but that got axed very swiftly, leaving the N900 and the N9 stranded. I’m not sure if Samsung’s Tizen efforts count. Even the impressive Jolla SailOS is nothing more than a tinkerer’s toy.
To get a Linux Distro into the mainstream market, it requires funding and a corporation to rely on. The strongest ally would have been Nvidia, they’re beasts when it comes to R&D, in 3D graphics, after-sales support, and not gimping products cheaply (see the Shield Handheld, Shield Tablet, Shield TV).
No corporations! I’m serious about this! At most – Canonical or Novell. Linux foundation that sort of thing. If the teams building these distributions would work together, we’d have at least a clear candidate for a total Linux phone. There also is the Android market, which can relatively easily be replaced by Linux, because Android is based on Linux. But it needs a lot of directed, non-fragmented work.
And Android would be perfectly fine if Google would have never bought it. Look what happens when corporations are involved!
I’ve been using Mobian for a week or two on my pinephone… it’s hands down the most stable and usable distro for the pine right now. Ubtouch is a close second… but… odd bugs.
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