When smartphones first arrived, it was perhaps not that strange that the devices ran programs that were vastly different from the ones our computers. The portable bricks were different enough to bypass our expectations of computers and we were perfectly fine with having disconnected experiences between the two. These days, however, both devices and users have changed and some do want to have the exact same apps on both their smartphones as well as computers. Neither Android nor iOS have been able to fully accomplish that but one still experimental phone is close to making that geek dream come true.
Granted, Linux-based phones have always straddled the “daring” side of the mobile market. Canonical’s Ubuntu Touch platform, now continued by the community-developed Ubports, did have support for running some regular Linux software on a phone, with an external screen attached. But thanks to some technical details and poorly-made decisions, the implementation was barely usable.
A new generation of Linux-based smartphones could finally fulfill that geek dream of convergence. The PinePhone, in particular, has recently been demonstrated to run Linux desktop programs like GIMP and the desktop version of Firefox for ARM. The phone used in the video below is a developer version and not the final product slated for next year but, as far as performance goes, it’s already pretty impressive.
Perhaps more impressive is the fact that the PinePhone itself doesn’t boast that much raw power compared to the Purism Librem 5 phone, another Linux phone currently in its early stages of distribution and fine-tuning. The fact that it could run heavyweight programs like Firefox and LibreOffice quite smoothly is almost surprising.
Of course, none of these desktop apps were made for touch or small screens so the experience is less than ideal. Still, the Linux and open source community are a pretty creative bunch and it might be possible to someday turn that PinePhone into a makeshift portable desktop with the right accessories and connections.