Version 5.0

Finally, a phone that does not inform on me.

I replaced my android phone w/a Pinephone. My intent is to use it as my primary phone, not just as a toy. I can tell already that it is going to be a bit of a slog.

The phone is a bit slow, which I expected. That's not a deal breaker for me, generally speaking. Its performance is tolerable.

The battery life is again, tolerable. However, phone calls drain the battery quite quickly. I don't make tons of phone calls, but with active usage, including a short phone call or two or three, I must recharge every 12-16 hours or so or risk the phone dying. Running waydroid (see more below) cuts my battery life to around 4-5h.

There are a variety of Free software operating systems that can be installed on the Pinephone, with varying levels of maturity. I installed PostmarketOS because reasons. Basically, I kinda like alpine linux - I use it in other contexts. Additionally, it uses GNOME desktop components primarily, which I prefer over available alternatives. I like the promise of continuity between my mobile and desktop environments.

Phone calls work fine - I actually have significantly better reception than my old phone. However, when recieving calls, the phone is slow to respond, and I frequently worry I'm going to miss the call. I've had (rare) instances where the phone ring/vibrate doesn't terminate when the call is picked up, which makes conversing impossible. Receiving a phone call while a call is in progress often effectively terminates the current call.

PostmarketOS uses Phosh, a GNOME based graphical shell. While some of the standard apps work, many of them do not scale well to a phone sized screen. Even for those that do, dialogs are awkward. Some are not properly scaled, which in some cases, means that they are unusable, and in most cases, dismissing them is often impossible without - I don't know the correct terminology - switching to app card-view, and swiping up, in the way that one terminates whole applications in Phosh.

I've invested some effort in convincing many of the people I communicate with to use Signal. There really is no better (usability, security, and privacy respecting) alternative for secure communications with your average person. Unfortunately, Signal actively discourages alternative clients, and does not provide a decent lightweight client for linux. It uses electron. :-/ Of course it does not run on PostmarketOS. The primary alternative (axolotl) also uses electron, and also does not currently work. The only workable (debatable) solution is to use waydroid, which is basically an android installation run in a container on the phone. It is not lightweight, and in my experience so far, quite unstable. That said, it's better than not being able to communicate w/my family. The use of waydroid also seems to impact battery life, and use of the space or enter key with a connected external keyboard triggers the waydroid UI to be launched. This basically renders any use of a text based shell unusable. Finger-typing is just way too slow and inaccurate.

I've not yet found a viable TOTP "Authenticator"-style app. GNOME's authenticator app looks promising, but fails to run. CLI tools really aren't practical for this usecase. Even if I primarily used TOTP with a keyboard connected, the use of waydroid makes that intolerable. I can't quite stomach the thought of using an android app in waydroid.

Waydroid has been mentioned several times now. If various issues with it were resolved, it could be an acceptable workaround until other native tools appear or reach basic levels of usability. As it exists, it is really very frustrating. Not only does it consume a lot of resources, it is unreliable, and makes other positive aspects of my chosen phone environment unusable.

Firefox works. It works well, and fairly efficiently. However, the UI is not as touch friendly as the Android version. This is just a papercut though. I'm quite happy to have a working, mainstream browser. The GNOME Web browser has a better UI, but isn't quite as smooth scrolling, etc.

To be clear, I am not really complaining. Or I don't intend to be overly negative. The fact that any of this works, and that it works as well as it does, represents a huge amount of ingenuity and hard work. It's amazing. However, there is still a long way to go. I am motivated enough to work around or solve whatever issues I describe as best I can. It is nowhere near the point that I could migrate my wife to a pinephone, and she has been running Debian on her laptop for the last 10 years. She is smart and adaptable, but the pinephone (or at least PostmarketOS) requires additional, (perhaps ideological?) motivation that most people lack, in order to overlook its current limitations.

I'm really hopeful that we'll get there, at some point. Nevertheless it does not appear that this year, is going to be the year of the (Free) Linux phone.