Sxmo is a collection of simple applications designed to run on Linux phones. It’s not a full-fledged operating system, but rather a lightweight and speedy user interface and set of apps that runs about as well as any software I’ve tried on the PinePhone so far.
But Sxmo isn’t necessarily for everyone. You have to spend some time familiarizing yourself with the gestures and button presses needed for navigation, and get used to the idea of using simple menus and text boxes in places where you might normally find full-fledged applications. It’s not exactly the most intuitive software available for the PinePhone.
It is getting easier to use all the time though – in December the developer added gesture controls, and this week the developer introduced Sxmo 1.3.0, which brings a number of performance and usability enhancements.
Sxmo, which stands for Simple X Mobile, isn’t an operating system in its own right. Instead it’s a UI and set of apps that runs on top of postmarketOS. The latest disc image is just 230MB and includes a few key applications including the Firefox, Netsurf, and Surf web browsers, a calculator, and terminal.
You navigate the operating system using a series of menus. You can swipe down from the top of the screen or press the volume-up key to open the system menu, which lets you launch applications or adjust settings.
When you’re using an app, swiping down from the top of the screen will bring up an application-specific menu, with options such as copy and paste, view history, or enter a URL, depending on the application.
Sxmo may be simple, but it’s also powerful and versatile – you can open multiple applications at the same time and arrange them in a grid and switch the layout with a series of button presses. There’s support for virtual desktops, which allows you to have a whole different set of apps on a second, third, or fourth screen. And you can even use it to do phone things, like make phone calls or send text messages… you’ll just have to do that in a text box rather than a full-fledged app with its own graphical user interface:
Among other things, Sxmo 1.3.0 brings improvements to the navigation menu that make it easier to interact with the software via touch. Now instead of reacting when you first touch the screen, the dmenu will react when you lift your finger. This allows you, for example, to swipe your finger up and down until the correct option is highlighted and then lift your finger to execute. Alternately you can use the volume keys to navigate up and down and the power button to execute, but I find that touch is generally the faster way to go.
Version 1.3.0 also features bug fixes and performance improvements including support for receiving a phone call when the phone is suspended, and a screen lock feature that turns off the display to save power when you’re not using it.
I’d held off on recording a video of Sxmo in the past, because every time I set out to make one, I found myself forgetting how to do something or other — like I said, it’s simple, but not necessarily intuitive. But I finally got around to recording an overview, so here’s what Sxmo looks like in action: