The Manjaro ARM team has been rapidly cranking out new builds of their smartphone operating system in recent months, with four public beta releases of Manjaro ARM with the Phosh user interface so far.
But the developers have also been working on versions of Manjaro ARM featuring different user interfaces, having released alpha builds with the Lomiri and Plasma Mobile user interfaces earlier this year.
Now the team has released Manjaro ARM Plasma Mobile Beta 1 for the PinePhone, marking the first beta release of this operating system to ship with something other than phosh.
Plasma Mobile is a free and open source, mobile-friendly user interface from developers behind the KDE desktop environment for laptop and desktop computers, and it’s honestly a lot nicer to look at than the utilitarian Phosh phone shell.
In addition to incorporating the latest Plasma Mobile features, the new Manjaro ARM Plasma Mobile Beta 1 features megi’s Linux kernel 5.10.1 and features support for automatic screen rotation, flashlight support, WiFi, audio, and video playback, along with other basic functionality including the ability for the screen to wake when you lift the phone.
But as with most operating systems that can run on the PinePhone, Manjaro ARM Plasma Mobile Beta 1 is still very clearly a work in progress. While you can snap pictures using the Megapixels camera application, colors look a little off, and the viewfinder can be wonky. Some apps can take a while to load and the overall UI can feel sluggish at times. And the developers note that you may need to manually change the modem configuration before you can use some cellular networks.
Still, Manjaro ARM is one of the more promising smartphone Linux distros to date, and the addition of Plasma Mobile as a UI option is a welcome one. In addition to the mobile-optimized user interface, this particular release comes with a set of pre-installed applications including a web browser, calculator, calendar, file manager, chat apps, a music player, weather app, and of course a terminal.
You can also open the app marked “Discovery” to access the Manjaro ARM package manager to download and install software updates and/or different applications (not all of which are phone-friendly).
You can download Manjaro ARM Plasma Mobile Beta 1 for the PinePhone from OSDN and you’ll find installation instructions at the Manjaro forum. Or if you’d rather buy a phone that comes pre-loaded with this software (or something very much like it), you can pre-order a PinePhone KDE Plasma Mobile Community Edition smartphone for $150 and up.
Expected to ship in January, 2021 the phone will highlight Plasma Mobile, but under the hood it will be powered by Manjaro ARM.