Ade Malsasa Akbar contact
Senior author, Open Source enthusiast.
Tuesday, September 7, 2021 at 22:05

This article is for you who want to know about free software phones. They are mobile devices with GNU/Linux or Android family operating systems inside with more libre software, less proprietary ones and made safer from surveillance. Today, talking about these also involves talking about the software systems inside. This article lists out several the top of them namely Librem 5, Ubuntu Phones, /e/ Fairphone, PinePhone, NitroPhone and mentions also several related software projects like microG. I write this in twenty twenty one so in the future we would certainly see changes going in and out in the world and this article might become obsolete quick. Nevertheless, I hope you would enjoy this!

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See also our Ubuntu Phone Recap 2020.


About Privacy

For most people, PrivacyToolsIO is a good read to know the background behind today's rising of worldwide privacy awareness in form of creation of secure, privacy hardware and software like pioneered by Purism and Ubuntu Touch. In short, privacy is important and currently Libre Software Community is building the solutions everyone can adopt it in real life.


Librem 5

The shining luxurious brand of GNU/Linux phone from a U.S. community crowdfunded company who develop their own hardware as well as software. Librem Five is one family to other privacy-branded products by Purism namely laptop, PC, server, and PureOS. Librem 5 is for you who want an alternative to Apple or Samsung but with strong privacy coupled with your favorite libre OS instead. [Specifications] [Shop]


Branded as "a true Linux phone", they are cheap, usable and hackable. It promotes user privacy to the hardware pieces. PinePhone manufacturer cooperated with many software projects to make available phones with more than 10 GNU/Linux distros and 5 desktop environment today (and still increasing). They ship Manjaro Phone, Ubuntu Touch, as well as postmarketOS and many other choices. You can own one for under $200 -- interesting, right? [Website] [Shop]

Manjaro Phone, a mobile phone with the green rolling release OS everyone knows. It is available with Plasma Mobile user interface by default. [Website]

Ubuntu Phone, in the past (and perhaps will in the future once again) Pinephone shipped their mobile devices with Ubuntu Touch OS. See our past review.

postmarketOS, the original OS of Pinephone, based on Alpine Linux, that runs on really a lot of different mobile devices (600 today and still increasing) and successfully allowed other excellent mobile technology like Plasma Mobile to function. To be clear, it is a non-Android GNU/Linux-like OS, so you can run your normal desktop apps like Gimp and LibreOffice on it. This OS runs on PinePhone itself and Librem 5, as well as devices from Acer, ASUS, even Google (Pixel), Samsung, Sony, Volla and Xiaomi. As a user, you can install postmarketOS on your phone if it is supported.


Volla Phone

Volla Phone is a German company who produces Ubuntu Phones (GNU/Linux based) in collaboration with UBPorts as well as ships its own Volla OS (Android based). Like Purism, Volla also built their products with community crowdfunding however it's done in Indiegogo. Like PinePhone, Volla also cooperates with many parties including Manjaro Project and Pine64 themselves. [Website] [Shop]

Fairphone and /e/

The /e/ Fairphones are the European privacy-branded fully degoogled mobile devices coming from Fairphone and /e/ Foundation cooperation. The great thing comes first from the OS, called /e/ (what a unique name in my opinion) founded by Mandriva's founding father, that is a heavily free-from-Google Android-based system with microG technology inside. The second greatness comes from hardware, that is Fairphone, the environment friendly and hackable phone from Netherlands. [Fairphone] [/e/] [Shop]



NitroPhone is a new Android-family phone from German manufacturer of secure devices and laptops, Nitrokey. Its operating system is known as GrapheneOS, formerly CopperheadOS. It is first launched September 2021. [Specifications] [OS Details] [Shop]


The Software Systems

A software system here means either a user interface (UI) alone or a complete operating system (OS) as we have both. Uniquely, there is also a subsystem (set of important components inside the OS), not UI, not OS either, like microG. As such, Plasma Mobile and Phosh are UIs, not OSes, where Ubuntu Touch and postmarketOS are OSes, not UIs, not phone devices either.

(Screenshoted from postmarketOS Wiki)

Plasma Mobile (UI), the KDE desktop for phone, you can imagine Kubuntu users find it enjoyable to find their mobile phone has the same experience as their desktop. To try it out, you can download postmarketOS/Plasma.

Phosh (UI), the GNOME desktop for phone developed by Librem 5 manufacturer, with successful convergence feature. To try it out, you can grab postmarketOS/Phosh.

Ubuntu Touch (OS), the convergence Ubuntu OS for mobile phone originally developed by Canonical currently continued by UBPorts. For Ubuntu users, it looks a lot like Unity with Compiz 3D we ever loved but without Snap as its own package format is Klik.

postmarketOS (OS), the Alpine Linux based OS developed solely for mobile phone with excellent success in cooperation with PinePhone making Ubuntu Phone, KDE Phone and Manjaro Phone a reality people can purchase and enjoy. Its website and wiki have excellent amount of information about Libre Software Mobile you can see this for example.

LineageOS (OS), the more-free Android distro which is a base of another OSes including Replicant, /e/ and Android-x86 as well.

/e/ (OS), the without-Google Android distro with microG technology.

GrapheneOS (OS), the security oriented Android distro now shipped by NitroPhone.

Replicant (OS), the fully free software mobile phone OS with few (and increasing) hardware devices supported and can be purchased. Replicant is what Trisquel to Ubuntu is. It is based on LineageOS with all proprietary software removed and Google connection removed. Replicant Phones are considerably older and few in numbers and can be purchased online. [Shop]

microG (subsystem), Android without Google, that's what Reddit describes it with. microG is a set of software internal to Android-like OS that is libre that can replace Google's proprietary software components in Android. Example system that uses microG is /e/.


Related Projects

F-Droid - alternative play store that is completely Free software.

Interesting Links

List of open source mobile phones, Wikipedia

Free Your Android, a valuable article by FSF Europe

DROID-BREAK, High-Quality Privacy Apps for Android

This article is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.