Smartphone - OS and essential apps

Not sure if Linux Discussion / Applications is the right place to put this, but here goes:

I’ve been very excited about Pine64 hardware of late, especially about the PinePhone. Now there was some discussion on DLN Xtend about what users might expect from PinePhone.

Some years ago when I bought my first Android device, I have to say, other than my Kindle, it’s really the device that changed my life more than any other, in recent times.

Now that finally we’re starting to get viable (and affordable) Linux options on smartphones, I’d like to ask the following:

Which OS does your smartphone run, and what are your absolutely essential apps, without which it’s just not functional for you? Also would you settle for alternative Linux apps on the PinePhone or would you really want your phone to have some compatibility layer (e.g. to run Android apps) otherwise you’re not interested?

Here are my essentials:
Normal mobile phone calls and SMS messages (obviously)
Integrate Contacts and Calendar that’s easy to back up
Camera and albums app, also easy to back up
Browser (preferably Firefox)
Email
Telegram
Weather (AccuWeather is my strong preference)
SatNav (including option to download maps so don’t need to worry about losing connection while driving, and public transport routes and scheduled arrival times for public transport.)
Todo-list manager (lightweight but flexible)
Shopping list manager (lightweight but flexible)
Scientific Calculator
Security / Antivirus

If a Linux phone can give me that, I don’t need Android compatibility.

2 Likes

My smartphone currently runs on LineageOS:

An editor that can read and write files (text, mostly - usually to edit config files)
An app to check hashes (MD5, SHA1, SHA256, etc)
Calculators
Contacts sync app
Document readers (PDF and Word mostly - or at least PDF).
F-Droid (of course)
File Sync app
Firefox browser
Games to pass time - just small/minor ones
Mail client
Metadata scrubber
Multimedia player
Note - taking app
Open Street Map viewer
OTP tool for 2FA
Password Manager
Podcast app/RSS Feed aggregator
Secure messaging apps
Steam
Tor Browser
Torrent app
Unit Converters
VPN client

1 Like

I have a OnePlus 5T that they do a great job keeping up to date. Ive done the custom rom thing in the past and have no interest in it anymore so stock OnePlus version of Android. I also don’t use my phone nearly as much as many other people I see (maybe it’s because they are away from home home and it’s a way to kill time??).

Essential apps for me are:

  • Calling and texting
  • Telegram as my main chat app with friends and family
  • Firefox for web
  • Joplin and Evernote for notes (my wife and I share stuff on Evernote…hope to get her off it soon but I doubt it)
  • Pocket Casts for podcast listening
  • Twitter but hardly necessary
  • Google Maps because it works I guess
  • Pushbullet for texting from my desktop
  • Windscribe VPN app
  • Roku app for private listening

I think the only Android apps I’d miss are my banking apps because I have to use them to deposit checks. Otherwise, I don’t see any reason why I couldn’t use an alternative like a Pinephone. I suspect I would actually enjoy it more overall but I won’t know until I get the chance to try one.

1 Like

Mine is an iPhone and it’s been a while I started thinking about what would be my next phone. I find changing for something else more difficult than ditching Mac OS since I was already using free software like Kodi or Handbrake and relying on the NAS so there was not much work to do.

I do a lot more on the phone (and tablet) than on the computer and there’s some very specific apps I’m not sure being able to find solutions for outside iOS or Android. I think I will change the tablet for a laptop first and see what usage I make of the phone after that.

Essentials easy to find replacements would be :

  • Calling and texting
  • mail, calendar and address book (plus syncing of course)
  • camera
  • firefox
  • rss feed (yeah I still use that)
  • podcast player
  • notes and todo lists
  • pdf reader
  • nav/gps

Not so easy but doable :

  • Synology apps (music, photos, documents)
  • shopping list (again with sync capabilities)
  • vpn
  • password manager

Then the “I really don’t know…” :

  • 2FA tools : Steam, Ankama (game), Authy,…
  • Coyote (road guidance/community based warnings)
  • bank apps
  • wallet apps for all those electronic tickets

There are other small apps (shops, cell carrier app, ICAO Aviation data,…) I would not find alternatives but stop using and go to the website like we used to do before…

1 Like

Sometimes i forget about steam’s weird 2fa. I wonder if valve will enable it on non-android device.

1 Like

Everything seems to be one usage these days. I remember using Adium way back to connect to different messaging protocols like msn etc. Don’t think there’s an app able to connect to telegram, whatsapp etc nowadays.
Same with 2FA, i have four of these on my phone and only one is multi purpose (Authy) :expressionless:

1 Like

I went back and forth over the years from iOS and Android, currently Android.
At a bare minimum I would require:

  • calling and texting
  • GPS
  • Contacts
  • Calendar
  • Calculator
  • Web browser
  • Email
  • Camera & Pictures
  • Document reader (PDF)
  • A VPN client

Maybe some android app compatibility. I use republic wireless for my phone provider
and they require a app be installed along with having one of their sim cards.
not sure how well that’s going to play nice starting out when some of these phones hit the
market.

1 Like

I again use an Android phone and I was on a hiatus for two years. Before that I used some Samsung for not even two complete years.
I do not like Android and I am not a heavy user. I can live without but there are some things that I liked to use one. Maps is a good example and I use it also as a remote for my Kodi box.
I just bought a cheap-ish Nokia with Android One, at least there is no bloatware.

I really hope to be able to use a Linux based phone and I do not care about the whole Android ecosystem.
My essential apps are Telegram and Kodi and of course Firefox, which I guess should not be difficult to have on something like the PinePhone.

My main usage for a phone are calls and text messages.

In the past I had hopes for FirefoxOS and Ubuntu phone. And I have no time and will to play with custom ROMs yet.

1 Like

Running Android,

Essentials are:

  • Phone / SMS
  • Contact/Calendar/Content sync via Seafile or Syncthing
  • Camera
  • Browser
  • Email with IMAP support, and ProtonMail
  • Telegram and Signal
  • Open Street Map
  • Simpletasks
  • Simplenote
1 Like

I’m on Oxygen OS, the Android-Version from OnePlus. When the Support for my device runs out, I’m gonna switch to Lineage or /e/.

My Must-have-Apps are:

  • Essentials (Phone, SMS, Camera, etc)
  • ProtonMail
  • Threema
  • Signal
  • Firefox
  • A good Twitter-Client
  • Spotify
  • Maps (Here, OSM or Google - mainly for driving)
  • Cryptomator
  • SimpleNotes
2 Likes

I’m on Lineage OS. Perfect scenario would be installing real Linux on the same device (Nexus 5), but I don’t know how possible will it be. I’m also worried about applications.

One application I don’t think I’ll be able to get is Tachiyomi - manga and comics reader, automatically checking various sites for new chapters.

Other than that I use:
KeePass DX - password manager
Orgzly - notes
OsmAnd - maps
Twidere - mastodon/Twitter client
Steam - for two factor authentication
OneTwo - counter and random number generator

1 Like

Thanks, everyone, for your responses so far :slight_smile: My phone is too small or my fingers are too big for some tasks mentioned, so I’m guessing that’s because most newer phones are bigger than mine. Also interesting to note mention of tablets because of course ideally we’ll want our phone and tablet to integrate as seamlessly as possible. I’ll be looking out for news of the Pine Tablet too :slight_smile:

I’ve been running Ubuntu Touch (Ubports) on a Nexus5 for over a year now. Originally just as an experiment, but it worked so well I tried to use it as a daily driver (replacing my OnePlus5 with non-stock android). It stuck and I’ve not regretted my decision.

I think this discussion is valuable in that it lays out expectations for phone use, but please consider that it’s (Ubports and other straight linux phone OS) an entirely different ecosystem. And to use it one will likely need to adapt. Which should be trivial for any many regular linux users but perhaps require more adjustment for users of entirely consumer OS’s.

For instance I’ve migrated all my friends who want to stay in contact over to Matrix and to a lesser extent, Telegram. Two well supported services on the platform.

Another example is I now backup to a self-hosted Nextcloud instance instead of relying on commercial services.

And otherwise use the web portals for any services that the platform does not support. With the exception of Facebook they almost all work perfectly (Facebook has a number of long-standing glitches in their mobile compatible interface, though switching the browser to “desktop” mode fixes most, at the expense of easy navigation).

Is it for the casual consumer at the moment? I’d say no. But for anybody willing to make an investment and explore new options it’s been a great thing to tinker with. I’ve learned a ton (and switch to Arch on my desktop, ha.).

Any consumer level questions I’d be happy to answer but I’d suggest giving all the supported Pine Phone OS’s a try while keeping your previous device on hand, if just to feel secure. I’m excited to try Jolla again myself. And Manjaro on the Pinebook Pro!

ps. Most everything folks have typed above works in one way or another. Including some stuff I prefer now, Windy for instance. An awesome weather service I’d not heard about.

2 Likes