Mission: Pinephone as Daily Driver
Now that my Pinephone is here and I’ve tried a few distros, it’s time to try and make it my ‘daily driver’, or at least maybe use as a weekend phone*
Everybody will have a different idea about what they need for a phone they will use everyday. Currently, I’m using a cheap Asus phone with LineageOS 18.1. I didn’t install Google Services on my phone. If it doesn’t work on my phone, it is a good indicator to me that too much Google crap is baked into it.
One day, or in an ideal world, I hope to fully transition to a Linux or 100% free hardware phone. I detest giving money to smart phone companies. I don’t want them to think that me buying a phone from Asus is a thumbs up to their business model. I would rather give them the finger and support a company like Shift phones, Fairphone, or Pine64.
So how do I get there? Slowly, apparently. First I need to define what I need, ranked by how often I use the functions, and which app currently gives me this functionality in Android. Then, I need to look for alternatives on my Pinephone.
- basic XMPP chat (Conversations)
- work chat (LINE*)
- browse the web (Bromite/Firefox)
- file sync (Nextcloud)
- calendar sync (Nextcloud)
- contacts sync (Nextcloud)
- listen to podcasts (AntennaPod+)
- listen to music (NewPipe)
- take photos (OpenCamera)
- watch movies/TV (NewPipe/Netflix)
- encrypted chat/video (Signal)
- phone calls
- look at maps (web browser Google Maps website/OsmAnd~)
- LINE will be the most difficult app to be able to get onto a Linux phone. It is already impossible to get on Linux unless you use WINE or run a VM. I am not sure it is realistic to ever expect that this Android app, or others will work easily on Linux mobile. I only really need it for work so I might be stuck keeping a cheap Android phone around as a junk phone for a few terrible apps like this.
Nice to Have Functions
These are a few other things I occasionally do on my phone and would be ’nice to have’. Again, they are ordered by importance to me and what I currently use.
- Mastodon app (Tusky)
- Android app store (F-droid/Aurora) (wow that’s it? My needs are pretty modest as you can see)
Here is what I’ve done so far to try to tick the boxes in the essential apps I need for a ‘daily driver’ phone.
I’m using Mobian+Phosh because of my familiarity with Debian/Ubuntu command line, and the ease in which I can update the whole distro without flashing with an SD card.
Basic Chat = Dino-im* ✔
Chatty is the default app in Phosh. It is just OK. It works really well for the small screen but OEMO encryption doesn’t seem to work at all. They seem to use some libpurple plugin?
I am waiting for Dino-im to be patched and work for Mobian. I tried Dino-im on postmarketOS and it was beautiful and encryption worked.
After waiting awhile and failing to compile dino-im, I installed it from Debian experimental repository by making these changes.
/etc/apt/sources.list deb http://deb.debian.org/debian experimental main /etc/apt/preferences.d/00-mobian-priority.conf Package: dino-im Pin: release a=experimental Pin-Priority: 800'
Info on this repository stuff: https://wiki.debian.org/DebianExperimental
Work Chat = ✘
I need LINE app for work.
Waydroid is being played with on mobile phones but it is in the alpha stages. I honestly won’t even try with this at the moment. I will focus on the other winnable battles.
I did find a LINE Chrome extension that lets me use LINE but it won’t function as a primary device. I have to login using my Android phone. It ‘forgets’ my password everytime I shutdown Chromium.
Browse the Web = Firefox ESR ✔
Firefox is already pre-installed on Pinephone. I made a few tweaks as directed from Mobian.
Chromium is also quite good and handles multiple tabs much better, too!
Listen to Podcasts = Podcasts ✔
I tried a few podcast apps but settled on the appropriately named Podcasts installed with Flatpak.
I was using gPodder for a bit but I didn’t like how it opened a separate media player app to ‘play’ the podcast. I do like the interface of gPodder better but convenience and performance wins out on this one.
Listen to Music = ✘
I want something that I can load up YouTube playlists and listen to music in the background. I used to use Spotify but have recently canceled the service so I need an app that lets me access YouTube without logging into YouTube.
I tried TubeFeeder but it seems to want me to login to Google YouTube. Umm..NO! I also tried the FreeTube app but it is slow and doesn’t work well.
I’m still looking for a good app. For now I will just browse to an Invidious instance like https://yewtu.be to watch/listen to music occasionally.
Take Photos = Megapixels ✔
The camera hardware is only 5 MP. There is not much that can be done about the quality of the images it takes but I hope that the speed and usability of Megapixels will improve in the future.
Watch Movies/TV = ✘
I don’t watch many movies/TV shows on my phone. I doubt the Netflix app will ever be released for Linux.
Encrypted Chat/Video = ✘
I haven’t started trying to meet this need yet. They are two apps that might work: Axoltl and the official Signal-desktop app
Nice to Have
Mastodon = Pinafore.social webapp ~
I made Pinafore.social a webapp because Tokodon and Tootle don’t seem to work with my self-hosted Gotosocial Mastodon instance.
I made the web app using Epiphany (web) but it is not as nice as Firefox. Pinafore.social doesn’t go all the way to the sides of the phone and scrolling is not smooth.
Nextcloud Contacts, Calendar, Files = Nextcloud-desktop ✔
Nextcloud was a bit annoying to get working but it is now working. The scaling is very terrible on the app so go to Gnome Settings and set the display size to 100%. Everything will be tiny but you can setup the app how you like. After it is setup, go back to displays and set it back to 200%.
I was having a “credentials expired” error for a while. I fixed it by deleting ~/.config/goa-1.0/accounts.conf. Then I added my account again and restarted. Calendar works pretty quick. However, to get Contacts to work I had to add a contact on the Nextcloud web interface to ’trigger’ the Pinephone to update my Contacts.
Mission: Ready for launch!
Now that I have all my apps and core services ready I will put my SIM card in my phone and try it out for a week. I am excited to see how it will work.
I stil will have to check my Android phone for LINE messages but that can’t be helped for now.