Chatting on Linux phone

Mobian/PinePhone chatting experience

Chatting is an important usage of smartphones. For some, it’s the main usage. It’s reasonable to expect a Linux phone to be able to work with some real world chatting platforms. So what platforms have usable solutions on PinePhone ?

WhatsApp is an app I hate to use. It’s non-free, which by definition compromises its security and privacy compliance. Another aspect of WhatsApp being non-free is that it’s not available to a Linux environment. The only way to run WhatsApp on PinePhone is by using an Android container system such as Anbox or Waydroid. both work and both currently don’t support camera, making it uneasy to set WhatsApp web, unfortunately.

Signal can be described as the most FOSS unfriendly you can be while keeping client source free. A free client means that security and privacy can be verified and trusted (to some level), which is a significant advantage over WhatsApp. However, the only Signal release for Linux is Signal-Desktop, which is an Electron application and does not have register functionality. A better option is Axolotl, an independent Signal client built for Linux. It’s also an Electron app but at least it can register, and it’s usable(ish) on PinePhone. With registered Axolotl you can also use Signal-Desktop on your computer. Some people have reported that they use Signal CLI, you are welcome to try.

Telegram Has few clients for Linux, they are generally the same, the only reason to try more than one is if you have bugs in the registration process, which I had. It took some ugly tricks to work around it and now it works.

Matrix is a platform I expected to find in much better status. It’s bad enough that the only “official” Matrix client for Linux is an Electron application- after all, there are many other Matrix clients, right? Yes, but many of them don’t support E2EE (end-to-end-encryption) - including both Neochat and Fractal, the home clients of KDE and Gnome, respectively. From those clients which do support E2EE:

  • Nheko works, with bugs.
  • FluffyChat has a horrible typing bug. Without this bug it would have been an excellent client.

Other clients I tested where not usable on PinePhone.

This doesn’t look good, indeed, but on the bright side, I’m able to use each one of those platforms, making PinePhone a suitable day-to-day device for me. One should have some fun on the path to freedom…