282: Linux on Smartphones & GNOME Shell on Mobile

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One comment on the Linux for Mobile topic.

I think that the main reason why there is not many high-end Linux phones, is because no company has yet to set out to make one. Main reason is likely that upstreaming support to the Linux kernel for new hardware, can take months, even years to get completely accepted and released into a mainline kernel. So by the time the company is done creating the drivers for the high-end hardware, it will likely have been superseeded by better android phones and now classed as mid-tier.

The reason for Purism and Pine64 to go with low-end hardware, was not that the specs where low, but because the Linux kernel already had most of the drivers, so the volunteers in the community, only had to write drivers for a few components. And even that has taken time.

So until some big company steps in and and drops a ****-load of cash on developers and hardware alike, a high-end Linux phone is likely not gonna happen any time soon.

The interfaces themselves are pretty good these days. Most issues are dealing with the modem and suspend/power management.


Ryan can use his Steam Deck as a phone, similar to a previous mobile gaming solution, and bring back sidetalkin’.

I’m ready for a Linux phone when they’re ready for me. I just need the basics to function reliably.

I disagree with @dasgeek , Android is not gross. I know he means the junk versions that ship with most phones but the privacy respecting distributions of Android like GrapheneOS, CalyxOS, LineageOS, or eOS are the best phone operating system options we have at the moment. Sure they have to be installed by the user but that was true for desktop Linux for most of it’s history as well. I think that’s an important distinction because there are still many in the open source community that think they have no option but to use an iPhone.

For most users getting unhooked from the proprietary apps and services they use will be the real challenge. Unless they can do that they won’t be ready for a Linux phone. Not that the Linux phone has to necessarily be FOSS only but I don’t see those proprietary services porting to our niche phone OS.

You disagreed with me but also agreed with exactly what I’ve always said. Android is gross. Alternatives are cool but limited. I know people think their phone is safer simply because you utilize an alternate version of Android, however, what you aren’t considering is that the carriers themselves are selling your data. They use many different means to get this data (most methods they use are searchable on the internet). GrapheneOS, Calyx, Lineage OS, are all great options for those who have to use Android or just use their phone for personal use. However, in many professional settings you simply can’t use these operating systems because of requirements for employers to have certain software and security hardening. There are workarounds but they require connections to the Google Play Store and we’re right back to Google having access to your phone and data. Apple is mildly better with their app tracking transparency. Carriers also have a much harder time getting Apple to allow any behind the scenes tracking apps to be placed within their OS. It’s a closed garden at Apple but it is even closed off to carriers. Apple doesn’t however apply this to their own apps. So you’re stuck between Apple having some of your data or Google and every marketing affiliate they work with and partner of the partner of the marketing affiliate having all your data on Android. Between the two terrible options, Apple is better. I know it’s hard for people to accept because there is this dislike for Apple in the Linux community. However, it’s indisputable to those of us who know how these things work in the industry. With that said, if you can get away with using Lineage and avoiding the Play Store altogether…that is the best option for some BUT only if you’re utilizing other security precautions like using a secure VPN so the carrier isn’t watching/selling your traffic and making sure you don’t install any carrier specific apps. Additionally, you need to look over the code of every app you’re installing to make sure it’s truly open source and private. We had experiences on this forum where individuals had malware on their LineageOS device because they install apps thinking they’re safe without validating. In other words, it’s a lot of work even with an alternative Android OS. I dream of the day when we have a viable 3rd option that respects privacy and has the security protocols in place to properly protect users from apps and carriers. It’s not likely to come from a small development team as the biggest reason these alternatives don’t become mainstream is the lack of apps and getting companies to port their app to another OS would require that other OS to have a lot of marketing power.


Your job makes you use and carry a Google or Apple controlled phone. Between those two evils, you’ve decided Apple is the lesser. Fair enough. That’s between you and your employer. What happens between two consenting adults is none of my business :slight_smile:

Not to go off in the weeds, but if I was forced to run Play Store apps, I’d use a GrapheneOS user sandbox and install the Play Store and all the junk I needed in it. I think a lot of your concerns about wanting or needing to run Play Store apps could be solved with GrapheneOS sandboxes.

I was stating that it’s not fair to call Android gross when there are distributions that aren’t gross. I’d go as far as to call GrapheneOS awesome for all the things it does to protect users. Calling Android gross is similar to calling desktop Linux gross because the most popular distribution is ChromeOS. I mean, the fact that Android is the thrown over the wall type of Open Source does make it less than ideal, but still.

Your bar for what is a viable 3rd option seems oddly placed to me. Community distributions of Android are a viable option today for people that want an Open Source mobile OS with an Open Source repo of apps (F-Droid). The idea that a viable option would have to have all those proprietary apps and services easily available is… hard for me to compute. What kind of mobile future do you want to see? It doesn’t matter what the platform is if we’re just installing junk on it. I think you made the same argument about telemetry-heavy apps on the Linux desktop. What’s the point of an open and secure OS if we’re just going to give it all away at the app level? Also, I don’t think reaching the mainstream is particularly important if it means compromising values. People are free to use what they want based on their values.

You seem concerned with users thinking they’re safer just because they’re running a good distribution of Android. I’ve never heard the sentiment. I think I’m safer on GrapheneOS because it’s FOSS, has a lot of nifty features to protect me, and because my apps come from a vetted open source repo just like on desktop Linux. Not to say it’s perfect. When connected to cell networks they track your location and if you send data over their networks they’ll snoop on your data unless you protect it. Worst of all, the proprietary modem has RING 0 control over the device. As far as I know, none of those things are better on iOS. The RING 0 problem is better on Pinephone though :).

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I think this GrapheneOS feature is absolutely brilliant. I really hope it catches on and gets adopted by other custom ROMs (looking at you, LineageOS :eyes:).

The standard method for running Play Store apps (including G-apps) on a device that does not have Google Services running is to use MicroG. I think MicroG is awesome, but I don’t think it is a good solution for the mainstream. The whole idea of signature spoofing is a little hacky to begin with, and could potentially be a bit of a Pandora’s Box. For the very cautious I think MicroG is fine, but GrapheneOS’s sandboxed Play Store seems much better.

Where GrapheneOS falls down is the device support. It’s frankly a little pathetic; only a dozen devices are supported, and they are all Pixel phones! This unfortunately means the majority of users who would like to give GrapheneOS a shot are excluded from doing so.

Not for nothing, but this is a very silly thing for an iPhone user to say. Let’s face it–you have no idea what your phone is doing.

My wife has an iPhone, and when I look at my network traffic on my PiHole dashboard, her single device has more queries than the rest of the devices on my network combined–which includes my LineageOS phone, two servers (one of them running our DDNS service), a desktop, and a laptop all running Linux. Alarmingly, her device has more network queries whether or not she is actively using the phone. :thinking:

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Ryan, thanks for the info. Can you give some recommendations of secure VPN’s?

Just a little tip by @dasgeek himself:

I personally use ProtonVPN.

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Thanks! :slightly_smiling_face: :computer:

Thanks, everyone :slight_smile: I’m way behind on DL podcasts. Might have some time to binge on a few some times soon. Meantime, I wonder what presenters’ views are on which Mobile Linux OS is closest to being ready as a daily driver for ordinary use, without proprietary apps?

A major limiting factor is what OS will work with your device.

In general though, or if you are going to get a new device for this purpose, I would say Ubuntu Touch seems the most polished (out of the truly Linux phone OS’s).


For me it is also Ubuntu Touch.