Thoughts on why to use Manjaro Phosh on the PinePhone


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I ordered the Braveheart edition of the PinePhone last year and it arrived in February. At the time the operating systems for it were very rough, for example even if you shut the phone down completely it would still drain the battery to 0% overnight. Many basic settings had to be configured through the terminal such as timezone, setting a new password, etc.

Since that time there have been major improvement and we are getting closer to having a device which can be used as a daily phone. Since I received the pinephone I have regularly been flashing the various options for operating systems to an SD card and trying them out. There are so many options now it is hard to keep up with each one, because I have other things like work and school that limit my time available. So I decided I needed to concentrate on just a few of the systems that I felt I would actually use.

Earlier this summer I was very impressed with UBPorts. I liked the UI which works well on the phone (even though I hated Unity on the desktop). Some apps from the store worked and I was able to install others from the terminal. However when the switch was made to an OTA (over the air) update process the file system was locked down to be read only. I can understand the reasoning since this makes OTA updates less prone to breakage, but that meant modifying the system was much more difficult. And if you do modify it there is more of a chance that something will break on the next update or your changes are going to be completely overwritten. I think UBPorts is a great system for someone who doesn’t want to fiddle as much with it and just wants to stick to default apps or ones from the store.

However I like being able to install what I want and modify things like I can in a desktop Linux distro. So I went searching for another option. I really liked Debian Phosh when it first came out. I mostly use Debian based systems so it was familiar and I really liked the Phosh interface. KDE was OK but seemed to not adapt as well to the phone format. So I decided to focus on Phosh systems.

PostmarketOS has a Phosh variant and I tried it but it seems to be lacking in apps available in the store, and I am just not very familiar with Alpine as a system.

Until recently Manjaro Plasma was getting most of the development time, but now there have been 2 Phosh alphas released and I am very impressed with the usability of this system. There are a good number of apps installed by default and installing more is easy with the Software app or from the terminal using pacman. Manjaro is also one of the primary options available on the Pinebook laptop, so you know Manjaro is committed to providing quality systems on arm processors.

I use Manjaro on one of my laptops so I am familiar with it, though not as much as Debian systems. So right now the two systems I am focusing on are Mobian and Manjaro Phosh. But why Manjaro over Mobian? It’s just little things- the keyboard is the best I have seen yet (CTRL and arrows on the top row in Terminal), great battery life, option to scale apps to fit the screen, and most of all the work they are also doing to support the Pinebook.