Smartphones are basically pocket-sized computers running mobile-friendly operating systems. And folks who want to run a free and open source GNU/Linux distribution on their phones get the advantages of a hackable, customizable OS that can run desktop Linux applications as well as mobile apps.
But the selection of mobile-optimized Linux apps is still rather small, which is why some folks have been using tools like Anbox to run Android applications on Linux phones. But now there’s a new work-in-progress alternative to Anbox called WayDroid which offers smoother performance on supported devices.
Like Anbox, WayDroid basically puts a complete Android operating system into a container that can run on Linux devices, allowing users to install and run Android apps from a Linux host environment.
Unlike a typical emulator, WayDroid uses the same kernel as the host operating system, allowing the Android apps to interact with a device’s hardware almost as if they were native apps, with very little additional strain on your system’s resources.
The software, which was formerly known as Anbox-Halium recently changed its name to WayDroid to make it clear that the new project is not related to the existing Anbox project. It’s also not just for devices that use Halium, a service that allows Linux to run on phones that shipped with Android by using the same Linux kernel that the manufacturer provides for Android.
WayDroid can run on Halium 9 devices running operating systems like Ubuntu Touch or Droidian, but it also works on devices that can use mainline Linux kernels including the PinePhone, Librem 5, and the OnePlus 6 series.
Here’s a short video that @calebccff posted showing WayDroid running on a OnePlus 6 with postmarketOS using the Linux 5.14 kernel:
here I fixed the scaling pic.twitter.com/DPvFuGz33V
— caleb 🐧📱 🏳️🌈 (@calebccff) July 24, 2021
And here’s a slightly longer video showing Crossy Road running in Anbox on the same phone:
WayDroid is a portmanteau or “Wayland” and “Android, ” and it installs the open source, Android-based LineageOS in a container, allowing you to launch an Android user environment as if it were an app on your Linux phone. From there, you can run Android apps that may not otherwise be available for Linux.
Eventually the plan is to let Android apps run as if they were native apps, without the Android user interface elements (so you can use the host Linux distribution’s navigational gestures, for example, rather than Android buttons).
As the name suggests, that means it’s only compatible with operating systems using the Wayland display server, so it won’t currently work with all mobile Linux distributions. And development is still in the early stages – right now it takes a fair amount of work to get WayDroid up and running on any device. But eventually it will be available as an installer, making it an easier-to-use option for end users.
You can find source code and more details at the WayDroid GitHub repository (where it’s still referred to as anbox-halium), and if you’d like to support the project, you can make a donation to its fundraising campaign.
For a more in-depth look at an early build of the software, check out this video from May:
August 6, 2021 Update: And here’s one more short video showing Waydroid running in a build of Arch Linux for the PinePhone:
— Danct12 (@RealDanct12) August 6, 2021