Most Linux distributions designed to run on smartphones use the Phosh, Plasma Mobile, or Lomiri user interfaces, although there are a few other options… and now there’s one more.
Pangolin Mobile is an open source mobile shell designed for dahliaOS, a dual-kernel operating that’s intended to combine “the best of GNU/Linux and Fuchsia OS,” with support for a variety of devices including laptops, desktops, mini PCs (like the Raspberry Pi) and smartphones (like the PinePhone).
The developers of dahliaOS are working to port the operating system to run on the PinePhone, but the Pangolin Mobile user interface is already available for use with other operating systems. Kind of.
Developers have released an initial build of Pangolin Mobile that can be installed on Arch Linux for the PinePhone, giving you access to the shell and its home screen, app drawer, notifications, and a few apps including a calculator.
But it’s very much a work in progress at this point. Among other issues, Pangolin Mobile for the PinePhone with Arch Linux doesn’t support hardware-accelerated graphics, and that means that means that while it’s an attractive user interface, it’s also a very slow one.
— Camden Bruce (@EnderNightLord) March 16, 2021
The user interface was created using Google’s Flutter UI toolkit, and one of the things that makes dahliaOS different from other GNU/Linux distributions is that it’s designed to run on either a Linux kernel or the Zircon kernel developed by Google for its Fuchsia OS. Since dahliaOS for the PinePhone will likely use the Zircon kernel, it’s not technically a Linux distribution. But it will be an open source operating system, and components like the Pangolin Mobile shell will also be open source, which means that they can be used with other operating systems like Arch.
Now someone just needs to figure out how to add hardware acceleration to make Pangolin Mobile more useable on the PinePhone.