Mobian and Plasma Mobile on the PinePhone Pro

Mobian and Plasma Mobile on the PinePhone Pro

June 6, 2023
PinePhone, Mobian, Plasma, Linux

Setup Tow-boot #

Mobian as of now requires Tow-boot bootloader to be installed first, u-boot is no longer supported. To install Tow-boot, see this document, I find it easier to plug in a usb cable to start the phone while holding down the RE button. Be mindful that there will be no graphical boot menu after installation, at the moment tow-boot menu is only available via serial connection.

It’s also possible you can skip this step, according to the PinePhone Pro wiki:

The batches bought after July 2022 come with Tow-Boot flashed to the SPI, which offers additional functionality over U-Boot as bootloader.

Setup Mobian #

Since I want to have full disk encrytion (FDE) for all my devices including this, I went with the Mobian installer image that gives me an option to enable FDE. The installation is fairly simple and smooth, taking only around 20 minutes start to finish with very few configure options, if you want to know what the process is like, Mobian wiki has an article with an overview of the installation process as well as links to different images.

Install KDE Plasma Mobile #

By default Mobian ships with Phosh, a wayland shell for GNOME designed for mobile devices, it works OK, but I prefer KDE Plasma Mobile. Fortunately, Plasma mobile is packaged for Debian and can be installed via:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install plasma-mobile plasma-mobile-tweaks plasma-settings plasma-phonebook plasma-dialer spacebar angelfish okular-mobile

The password for user mobian is the same as the screen unlock password. After apt done its job, logout current session and there should be an option to login again using Plasma.

Other Shell #

Apart from Phosh and Plasma, Swmo, Lomini (from Ubuntu Touch), Desktop Gnome as well as LXDE are all available.

Current state: #

I’ve been daily driving it for a few days, it most certinaly had a long way to go, but I can live with it as is.

Feature State Note
Call Yes Poor audio quality heard by other side
Mobile Data Yes Plasma’s modem setting page cannot enable the modem, after doing it from a Phosh session it seems to be working, APN is autoconfigured
SMS Yes No unified way of storing chat history, history does not sync between different applications
Camera Partial Extremely high latency between frame (3s+), inaccurate color
WiFi Yes Drop-off seems to be more common than other phones, but might just be an isolated case
WiFi Hotspot Yes Plasma’s wizard default to WEP which is insecure and I cannot authenticate from other devices, but unprotected hotspot works
Bluetooth No Unable to connect to any paired device, seems to be a known issue

The PinePhone Pro Wiki page also has a list for hardware/software state.