Linux phones in 2022

Monday, January 3, 2022    Post   1260 words   6 mins read

We all know that 2022 is the year of the Linux Desktop on mobile but on what phones can we run the said Linux? Remember there are many alternatives, like Meizu MX4, OnePlus 6 or 6T, Volla Phone, Fairphone 2 and 3, Google Nexus 5, Xiaomi Mi A2, Xiaomi Pocophone F1, SHIFT6mq, Google Pixels, etc, but those below are my favorites; order is random, first doesn’t mean best.

F(x)tec Pro¹ X
F(x)tec Pro¹ X
  • Website: Official, store, forums
  • Company: F(x)tec, headquarters in London, United Kingdom
  • Launched: 2021
  • Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 662
  • GPU: Qualcomm Adreno 610
  • RAM: 6GB LPDDR4 or 8GB LPDDR4
  • Storage: 128GB, expandable via microSD card up to 2TB
  • Operating Systems: Android 11, LineageOS, Ubuntu Touch
  • Price: €684 or €741

The F(x)tec Pro¹ X is based on the F(x)tec Pro¹ that was originally announced in 2019, features a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, a 5.99" FHD+ AMOLED display, Snapdragon 662 chipset and a 3,200mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0 support. The front of the phone houses an 8MP camera while the rear has a 12MP f/1.8 shooter paired with a 5MP depth sensor.

ProsCons
  • 👍 Keyboard!!!
  • HDMI port, USB-C port, 3.5mm jack.
  • Battery life.
  • Price.
  • Performance.
  • Bit chunky.
  • 👎 No mainline Linux kernel support.

Pine64 PinePhone Pro
Pine64 PinePhone Pro
  • Website: Official, forums, docs
  • Company: Pine64, headquarters in Hong Kong, China
  • Launched: 2022
  • Chipset: Rockchip RK3399S
  • GPU: ARM Mali-T760 4-cores
  • RAM: 4GB LPDDR4
  • Storage: 128GB, expandable via microSD card up to 2TB
  • Operating Systems: Manjaro
  • Price: €351

The PinePhone Pro looks virtually identical to the original PinePhone, but under the hood it is powered by a Rockchip RK3399S hexa-core processor which should bring a significant performance boost; also it has more RAM and storage, better cameras, and faster WiFi.

It’s still a mobile device aimed at tech-savvy early adopters rather than the general public. But with significant hardware upgrades, it’s capable of delivering a better user experience for folks interested in running work-in-progress mainline Linux-based software on a phone.

The new model also keeps some of the features that made the original PinePhone special, including a removable battery, hardware kill switches for the cameras, microphones, and wireless, pogo pins for optional add-ons and the same 4G LTE modem that hackers have already developed open source firmware for.

ProsCons
  • Performance.
  • 👍 Mainline Linux kernel support.
  • Good camera (if it's important).
  • USB-C port, 3.5mm jack.
  • Hard to get.
  • 👎 No keyboard.

Pine64 PinePhone
Pine64 PinePhone
  • Website: Official, store, forums, docs
  • Company: Pine64, headquarters in Hong Kong, China
  • Launched: 2020
  • Chipset: Allwinner A64
  • GPU: ARM Mali-400MP2
  • RAM: 2GB LPDDR3 or 3GB LPDDR3
  • Storage: 16GB or 32GB, expandable via microSD card up to 2TB
  • Operating Systems: Manjaro, Ubuntu Touch, Sailfish OS, postmarketOS, LuneOS, Arch Linux, Fedora, Gentoo, Mobian, Maemo Leste
  • Price: €128 or €175

The hardware in the PinePhone is pretty low powered, but it definitely can do the job; the device sports a Allwinner A64 chipset by SUNXI, it has 4 A53 cores clocked in at 1.2Ghz. The Allwinner A64 includes the Mali 400MP2 which was released in … 2008. The reason why Pine64 chose this chipset was because it has very good mainline support, so it does make sense.

While individual phones may find quick support from individual operating systems, the PinePhone feels like it sets a larger ideological precedent. What the PinePhone represents is a very solid reference system for development of mobile operating systems, rather than something that’s a head-turner on its own.

ProsCons
  • 👍 Mainline Linux kernel support.
  • Affordable.
  • Large community.
  • Hackable.
  • USB-C port, 3.5mm jack.
  • Outdated hardware.
  • Performance.
  • Camera (if it's important).
  • Battery life.
  • 👎 No keyboard.

Purism Librem 5
Purism Librem 5
  • Website: Official, store, forums, docs
  • Company: Purism, headquarters in San Francisco, USA
  • Launched: 2020
  • Chipset: NXP i.MX 8M
  • GPU: Vivante GC7000Lite
  • RAM: 3GB LPDDR4
  • Storage: 32GB, expandable via microSD card up to 2TB
  • Operating Systems: PureOS
  • Price: €1055

The Librem 5 is a smartphone by Purism, a computer company that already makes laptops and servers – running a Linux based operating system called PureOS. It’s built around an open-source philosophy protecting users’ digital rights with a focus on privacy; because of that it has three kill switches on the side, to insure your devices bluetooth, Wifi and cellular connections are off when you expect them to be.

ProsCons
  • 👍 Mainline Linux kernel support.
  • Modular hardware.
  • Good camera (if it's important).
  • Strong privacy focus.
  • USB-C port, 3.5mm jack.
  • Expensive.
  • Flimsy backcover.
  • Battery life.
  • 👎 No keyboard.

Fairphone 4
Fairphone 4
  • Website: Official, store, forums, docs
  • Company: Fairphone, headquarters in Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Launched: 2021
  • Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G
  • GPU: Adreno 619
  • RAM: 6GB or 8GB
  • Storage: 128GB or 256GB, expandable via microSD card up to 2TB
  • Operating Systems: Android OS 11, Fairphone OS, /e/ OS
  • Price: €579 or €649

The Fairphone 4 is not a compact smartphone by any means with dimensions that measure 156 x 75 x 11 mm, but, for once, this is not due to a huge display, but to the modular casing. The smartphone can be disassembled in order for it to be repaired easily and receive upgraded components. While smartphones from other manufacturers are already equipped with high-performance chips and have very slim bezels at prices hovering around €500, you will have to be satisfied with less in the case of the Fairphone 4.

ProsCons
  • Sustainable material sourcing.
  • Modular hardware.
  • Powerful.
  • Battery life.
  • Expensive.
  • Camera performance.
  • No 3.5mm jack.
  • Weird vibration motor.
  • 👎 No keyboard.

Cosmo Communicator
Cosmo Communicator
  • Website: Official, store, forums, docs
  • Company: Planet Computers, headquarters in London, United Kingdom
  • Launched: 2019
  • Chipset: MediaTek Helio P70
  • GPU: Mali-G72 MP3
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 128GB, expandable via microSD up to 2TB
  • Operating Systems: Android OS 9, Debian, planned support for Sailfish OS and Kali Linux.
  • Price: €713

The Cosmo Communicator is 171.4mm long, 79.3mm wide, and 17.3mm thick, therefore it is not a small device; it weights 326g, so it’s not light either. It’s got a 4220mAh battery with fast charging, 5.99" FHD 2160x1080 pixel main display, 1.91" external OLED touch display, 24MP external camera with LED flash, and 5MP front-facing video call camera. Supports all of the GSM, CDMA, and 4G LTE radios and has dual nano-SIM card slots and eSIM support as well.

ProsCons
  • Powerful.
  • 👍 Full-featured keyboard!!!
  • Two USB-C ports, 3.5mm jack.
  • Two displays.
  • Small community.
  • Expensive.
  • Big and heavy.
  • No wireless charging.
  • 👎 No mainline Linux kernel support.

Nokia N900
Nokia N900
  • Company: Nokia, headquarters in Espoo, Finland
  • Launched: 2009
  • Chipset: Texas Instruments OMAP 3430
  • GPU: PowerVR SGX530
  • RAM: 256MB
  • Storage: 32GB, expandable via microSD up to 16GB
  • Operating Systems: Maemo 5, Maemo Leste, MeeGo, postmarketOS
  • Price: €160 (at launch, now you can only get used phones).

Nokia likes to call the N900 a “mobile computer” and part of this is due to the hardware of the device. There’s a 600 MHz ARM Cortex A8 processor (pdf file), 1GB of application memory (768MB swap included) and a 3D graphics accelerator with OpenGL support. The 3.5" screen has a resolution of 800x480 and there’s a 5MP camera with flash and autofocus for photos and videos.

The N900 would be the first and the last smartphone using the Maemo operating system, it was definitely not the fastest smartphone at the time, it didn’t have the most memory, it wasn’t the smallest or the lightest but it was the only one that ran a full desktop operating system based on Debian and it doesn’t require rooting or unlocking. It just ships with a terminal application preinstalled and having a root shell is just one command away.

ProsCons
  • 👍 Mainline Linux kernel support.
  • Cool-factor.
  • 👍 Keyboard!!!
  • 3.5mm jack.
  • Impossible to find new.
  • Performance.