Anbox is a tool that allows you to run Android apps on devices running a GNU/Linux-based operating system.
First released in 2017, the Anbox was originally designed to bring Android apps to desktop computers. But it didn’t take long for developers to begin porting Anbox to run on Linux smartphones. It’s already possible to use Anbox to run some Android apps on the PinePhone.
Now Purism have explained how to install Anbox on the Librem 5 smartphone.
Anbox gets its name from the way it works – a full Android system image is placed inside a container or “box.” The Android system cannot directly access your system’s hardware, and instead has to communicate with the host for access to the display, camera, or other hardware. So there’s a chance that some Android apps won’t work perfectly on smartphones, and those that do work may run a little slower than native apps.
But Anbox opens the possibility of running thousands of mobile-friendly apps that might not otherwise be available for Linux phones.
Purism positions its products as solutions for customers who care about privacy and software freedom, so the company suggests that users might want to install F-Droid, a repository that makes it easy to find and install free and open source Android apps. But Anbox can also be used to sideload Android apps from other sources such as APKMirror. Just keep in mind that many of those apps may have proprietary code and/or ads and other scripts that track your private information.
The current version of Anbox is based on Android 7.1 Nougat and uses code from the Android Open Source Project.
You can find instructions for installing Anbox on a Librem 5 at the Purism blog.