2020 The year of the Linux Phone

I put Linux on an old phone. Specifically, UBPorts Linux.

For those who think: What’s the big deal my phone can do everything already? Yes, you are right. But: Current phones are designed to have reduced capabilities due to their form factor and business model. A lot of common features a computer can do are not possible on a phone. But we were promised a computer, in your pocket. And that’s not what we got. At least, not a full functioning PC experience. Linux can offer more. Example: Linux Phones, once connected to your monitor present a full fledged desktop experience (picture to the right – It seems Apple is also heading this way with iPad pro). You can also run software, or change core features – stuff you normally only can do on a desktop computer.

In the words of UBPorts:

Ubuntu Touch offers a completely different approach to using your smartphone or tablet than using other mainstream operating systems. The OS is built on Ubuntu, which provides us with a secure and stable base  system used by millions of people across personal computers, servers, IoT devices and even the international space station.

The intuitive user interface allows you to access all of your phone’s features by swiping from the edges of the screen to access your apps, tools and settings all with one hand and no on-screen buttons. It looks great and feels smooth.

Linux on the phone is a project that goes back to 2011, there have even been some retail versions, but since late 2019 there seem to be a real drive with hardware projects like Librem 5 ($790) and recently Pinephone (~$150) – I suspect that COVID-19 also gave a boost to this project more recently. This year has been excellent for the Linux Phone.

After installation, I set up my calendar and address books, I sync over files to my desktop with Syncthing. I can call, chat and browse the web, you can find apps on the openstore. What’s more exciting is that UBPorts embraced AnBox, it is also been possible to run Android apps natively. Don’t expect to run (non-Chinese) bank apps though, as those are tightly coupled to Google’s framework in the Android system. But simple games and such should work. In short: It’s exciting to see where this space will go, this OS is not my daily driver as it’s not mature enough… yet (Reminds me of my first Android phone, the HTC Dream). But it’s real fun to play with.

Want to learn more? Find UBPorts here: https://ubports.com/ and there is an excellent blog that keeps track of all the developments in this sphere: tuxphones.com there is also reddit.com/r/LinuxPhones/

Screenshots: