Linux mobile operating systems and graphical environments continue to improve, but it's a long-distance race

Linux for mobile

In the last few weeks I have been trying to imagine a future where Linux phones and tablets are a real option. Right now they are not, or not if we want to not depend on other devices and not run into many problems, but everything is improving in ways that even the interface of Linux for mobile that I like least has started to make me change my mind.

What we are going to do here is a small review of what a server has been able to verify for itself and has listened to other users of the community, mostly from the PINE64 community. The company of the pineapple (pine) and its partners are the ones who are putting the most effort in making Linux for mobile phones and tablets improve, and many of the tests are being done in the PinePhone and PineTab, tablet that I bought as soon as possible.

Linux for mobile today

Phosh: from bad to better


So and how we explain In early September, the first two operating systems that could be officially installed on the PineTab were Mobian and Arch Linux. They both released their image with phosh, Purism interface whose name comes from Phone Shell. It's based on GNOME and I didn't like it. In fact, I'm still not his biggest fan, but things are looking up in a way that I personally wasn't expecting.

Phosh has made two major improvements in the last few weeks. The first is an option they call "Docked", which displays windows in a way that is more similar to how they are displayed on a computer and is partly designed with mobile devices connected to external monitors. The second improvement seems more important to me: desktop applications, such as GIMP or LibreOffice, now they open filling the screen, so we can access all its menus and functions just as we do on a computer, similar to that it goes to more if we connect a keyboard and a mouse.

Moreover, performance has improved, something that is especially noticeable in an Arch Linux whose image is 60% of that of Mobian. No, it does not work as smoothly as an iPad or an Android tablet, but the improvements have been very important in a few weeks not to take them into account.

Plasma Mobile and Manjaro

Plasma Mobile, Linux for mobile

In my opinion, one of the winning bets in the future will be Manjaro with Plasma interface. In fact, when Arch Linux and Mobian fought with the windows of apps like GIMP or Libre Office, Manjaro already filled his screen with them ... but it has a problem for tablet users: it cannot be turned horizontally, and in my last tests not in Spanish either. It works very smoothly, the design is very attractive and points out ways, but in the present it has to improve.

Yes, Plasma can be installed on other systems, but taking into account the early phases in which we are, I would not recommend it to non-expert users.

Lomiri, Ubuntu Touch and, again, Manjaro


What the Linux mobile community likes the most is lomiri. It should not surprise anyone, since Lomiri is Unity8, or what is the same, a graphical environment that has been in development for much longer than Phosh. We cannot say the same about Plasma, but today's Plasma is not the same as a few years ago, when we encountered more flaws than expected.

Lomiri is very well thought out. Its interface looks like a real mobile interface, and the gestures are the most natural that we will find in touch mobile devices with Linux operating system. The problem is that, at present, they are only betting on Ubuntu Touch and Manjaro. Ubuntu Touch It is developed by UBports, and it seems that they are focusing more on the environment than on the operating system, the one that is still based on Ubuntu 16.04 Xenial Xerus and whose latest versions still do not allow us to run apps from official repositories with a graphical interface.

Manjaro has already released its version with Lomiri, but it is in a very early phase and at the moment only for the phone. Without a doubt, as long as they do not restrict it as much as the UBports version, Manjaro + Lomiri will be another of the winning bets, but this is something that I have not been able to verify because there is nothing compatible with the PineTab.

Sailfish also improves

Sailfish is another Linux mobile operating system that wants to be a part of this. In fact, he is an "old rocker", since his first version was launched in 2011 as MeeGo. Currently, few users are opting for Sailfish, but in this link we can see a mini-demonstration of a couple of interesting points: its fluency is very good, and it can be used with bluetooth speakers, something that other systems continue to struggle with.

Linux for mobile has the future assured, if nobody lets go of the accelerator

With all that the community is working on and the progress seen in recent weeks, I am personally more optimistic than ever. See how Arch Linux moves more fluidly, its new Docked option, that desktop applications fill the entire screen and that we can install flathub softwareNow I can imagine that future in which we can consult the web with Firefox, enjoy multimedia content with Kodi, edit images with GIMP or simply make normal use of a tablet and smartphone, and all this with devices much cheaper than what We are offered by famous companies such as Apple, Microsoft or Samsung. It will not be today, nor tomorrow, but in the future it looks good, and this I say with total sincerity. Let's hope no one abandons and they don't leave us with this honey on our lips.

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  1.   Miguel said

    Thank you very much, I look forward to future articles about our pinetab.

    I am testing Manjaro phosh installed - even the horizontal screen is turned upside down (because of the keyboard) and Plasma from microsd.

    I discarded the Lomiri from UB ports for lack of programs.

    Kodi does suit me, with the trick of trying to configure it in window mode - and not full screen - which I hope is no longer necessary with what you say about arch, which will arrive in Manjaro in two weeks, I hope, as usual.

    What does not suit me with Manjaro phosh is the sound of the tablet, but if via bluetooth, on the other hand in Plasma it is the other way around.

    My main use is to read e-books but it is a pity that it does not support widevine to see something online with DRM, and that chromium can be installed from repositories, but it does not start despite having a version for developers with an almost widevine patch that does not it is public or at least not from repositories.

    Hoping that you share the progress that you discover, - at the moment the only one doing it in Spanish - and comment on what I am doing, thanks again and until next time.

    1.    pablinux said

      Hello: what you say about the windows is from Phosh, not from Arch. It is also like that in Mobian now, like closing programs, which is now sliding the "cards" up. I imagine it will come when they update Phosh.

      A greeting.