Daily driving Plasma Mobile

So, it’s been a while since I’ve last blogged. A lot has happened in the mobile Linux world since I made the post sharing the State of Linux on mobile. We’re 5 years further now, some distro options have disappeared and others have popped up, and although I’ve always been really optimistic about what Linux on mobile promises and can become I’ve never actually used it as my daily driver. Even though I work on postmarketOS and would say I know a fair bit about it’s shortcomings and possibilities, I’ve been relying on an Android phone for all this time to get me through life. And I’ve noticed that this is the case for a lot of people and especially developers in the Linux world.

Recently I decided this should change. How can we ever get Linux on mobile up to a state where we can use it as a proper replacement for the duopoly that is Android and iOS if nobody, including the developers, actually use it even though it’s already out there and available? I’m of course a KDE fan and would love to use Plasma Mobile specifically but it has a ton of papercut issues that could easily be solved if the developers actually noticed them by using it! So about two weeks ago I decided to get myself a new, second-hand, phone to actually daily drive postmarketOS with Plasma Mobile on and I’ll tell you about my experiences with it so far.

My setup

Although a lot of people still seem to think Pine64’s PinePhone (Pro) or Purism’s Librem 5 are the best options for a Linux phone out there, I would argue this is not the case any more. Besides the PinePhone being awfully slow hardware it is suffering from a lack of software support, the kernel is maintained by a single person in their spare time and has a ton of things not actually upstreamed to mainline, and the Librem 5 is way too expensive for what it offers and is made by a company that currently seems to have severe financial problems (they recently layed off most of their developers). Instead I would recommend a well supported (former) Android device, the postmarketOS wiki has a good list of well supported devices and specifically I would recommend getting a SDM845 device, namely the OnePlus 6/6T, SHIFT6mq (you can buy these brand new even) and the Xiaomi Pocophone F1. These are fully mainline supported and are easily buyable second-hand through platforms like eBay for not too much.

I however decided to get a Pixel 3A. This device is also fully mainline supported and I think it’s good to not have all attention focused on a few specific devices but get broader support available. The Pixel 3A was a popular phone when it was still newly sold so a lot of people might actually still have one laying around.

postmarketOS also supports a bunch of tablets which would actually be a really good use-case for Plasma Mobile.


So as I mentioned earlier I’m a KDE fan, so of course I opt to run Plasma Mobile. I maintain a (semi-)nightly repository of all KDE packages that tries to build the entirety of KDE from git master every day. This has been proven very useful for Plasma Mobile development as newly merged changes can be quickly tested by consumers and also reduces the need to compile the entirety of Plasma on your phone if you want to change just a few lines in the code. It was made to support the transitioning to Qt6 but I find it so useful that I’ll keep it around in the future. So on my new phone I enabled this repository, executed the upgrade and rebooted into a fresh Plasma 6 installation straight from git master the day before.

It is good to note that although I’m definitely daily driving postmarketOS now, my sim-card is actually still in my Android phone. I do not currently trust the stability of phone calls, mostly when it comes to audio. We (postmarketOS) are working hard to improve the situation, especially by switching to PipeWire for audio hopefully soon, but for now I’m carrying two devices around having my Android phone share a hotspot to postmarketOS. The camera also currently doesn’t work so for that having the Android phone around for now is also still very useful. The camera however is making good progress with projects like libcamera making it possible to create camera applications and use it in browsers like Firefox.

So, what do I actually use this phone for? These are some of the use-cases I have and the applications I use for them:

  • browsing the web with Angelfish
    • I would actually prefer to use Firefox to not support Google’s monopoly on the web by using a Chromium-based browser but I currently think Angelfish’s experience is better than the Firefox one on mobile
  • make and keep track of notes with Marknote, for example shopping lists
  • watch YouTube with PlasmaTube
  • sync files and pictures from my NextCloud server with GhostCloud
    • I actually used this years ago when I still used SailfishOS. I was very glad to see it’s still around and even supports Ubuntu Touch and regular desktop Linux (and thus Plasma Mobile) as well nowadays. A Kirigami based-UI for this so it fits in better would be nice but it’s very usable as is
  • chat on Matrix with NeoChat
  • listen to my music with Elisa
  • manage my local files with Index
  • manage my calendar with Merkuro
  • do offline turn-by-turn navigation with Osmin
    • I find this application incredible. In my mind navigation is a difficult to create app but Osmin works well and calculates routes very quickly (completely offline!). It’s not yet as feature-full as say OSMand on Android but it’s very usable
  • browse the fediverse (Mastodon) with Tokodon
  • check the weather with KWeather

This actually covers a huge part of what I would do on Android as well, now I just do these on postmarketOS instead using almost exclusively KDE applications! I’m still missing a few (for me) important things, most notably a Keepass-compatible client to get the passwords needed for aforementioned applications. I worked around that however by using KDEConnect to share my clipboard from my desktop where I just use KeepassXC. And of course the few Android applications that just don’t have FOSS-replacements like WhatsApp or my bank app, but I’m hoping either Waydroid or even the in my opinion more promising android-translation-layer (basically Wine for Android apps) can be used for that in the future.

Now although this is a very usable setup for me, when actually using this you’ll quickly notice a lot of small but annoying issues. These are all small in size and would easily be fixed if there were developers to experience them but accumulating together they make the whole experience a bit frustrating still. I’ve been reporting everything I could find so far (for example see all the issues I’ve made on just the Plasma Mobile shell). A few examples:

  • several applications have multiple actions on the same button press, like NeoChat both opening a room and opening a context menu for it when pressing on a room in the room list, BUG: 486545
  • Angelfish automatically switches to a newly opened tab which is unlike any other mobile browser, unexpectedly throwing the user off whatever they’re reading, and shows an unnecessary message telling the user the new tab has been opened which is blocking the button to go back to the previous tab, BUG: 486463
  • QMLKonsole (the mobile alternative to Konsole) for some reason has it’s own button to open and close the keyboard but pressing it has various buggy behaviours, BUG: 355
  • various applications have context hints that are meant to be shown on desktop when hovering an element but show up when pressing buttons or input fields on mobile, BUG: 360
  • various desktop widgets are completely broken, BUG: 354
  • sometimes (not often) the shell just crashes, I haven’t been able to find a good reproducer yet


To a lot of KDE developers developing for Plasma Mobile is an unknown (and possibly scary) territory and they might not know how to do it easily. Will you compile everything on your device or cross-compile from your desktop instead, use kde-builder or do it manually? Of course this all comes down to personal preferences in the end but let me tell you how I do it.

Like I mentioned earlier I’m maintaining a nightly repository shipping the entirety of KDE from git master. I highly recommend using this repository so you can quickly test and use new features and bug fixes. Instructions to set this up are on the postmarketOS wiki.

Although compilation on device (e.g. using kde-builder) is most definitely possible, this is just regular good ol’ Linux after all, it’s a slow process due to the limited performance of a phone and might warm it up more than is safe for the device. Instead I would recommend using the lovely pmbootstrap tool we use for postmarketOS development and build on your way more performant PC instead. This tool builds software using Alpine’s simple APKBUILD format. You don’t have to worry too much about learning this format, these APKBUILDs already exist for basically every KDE package out there and you can just reuse these. After setting up pmbootstrap (pmbootstrap init) you can get such an APKBUILD for a KDE package either by manually downloading it from the upstream repository and placing it in the location pmbootstrap expects or run pmbootstrap aportgen --fork-alpine <package name>. This makes pmbootstrap get the APKBUILD from Alpine Linux and put it in your local checkout of postmarketOS packages.

The APKBUILD just downloaded can be used as is and you can now build the package with pmbootstrap build --arch <CPU architecture of the target device> but you probably want to use your local checkout of the code with your changes instead. For this pmbootstrap supports the --src argument which makes it build the same APKBUILD but with the source replaced for your local checkout. If your changes require any dependencies changed from what is currently provided by the package you can edit either the $makedepends or $depends (build dependencies and runtime dependencies respectively) variables in the APKBUILD ($depends might not exist, just create it if it doesn’t).

When you’ve successfully built the package you can send it to your device using pmbootstrap sideload <package name>. This will send it to a device running postmarketOS and let the packagemanager APK install it. Restart the application in question and your changes will be ready to test! pmbootstrap supports way more fancy features and I recommend you read it’s documentation to see what you can do.


In my opinion Plasma Mobile on postmarketOS is very usable right now but at the moment suffers from a lot of papercuts. I hope that since I now daily drive the system I can find all these papercuts, report them and possibly even fix one or two of them. But even more so I hope I can convince KDE developers to pick up a phone themselves and start using the system they’re in fact already developing for (95% of the Plasma Mobile stack is the same as Plasma Desktop and all the applications used were made to be used on desktop as well!). The system has a lot of potential and is already great to use, it just needs developers! Get a cheap second hand phone, flash postmarketOS on it and start using it!

I’m dreaming of a day where I’m not the only one at Akademy that not only has Plasma on their laptop but also their phone!

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