GNOME Desktop for Mobile Devices Looks Promising, Here’s What to Expect

GNOME Shell on Mobile

GNOME developer Jonas Dreßler shared recently some of the work that was put into advancing the mobile port of the GNOME desktop environment, specifically the GNOME Shell UI, as well as upcoming plans to make it on par with current offerings.

GNOME on phone/tablet form factors is not a new thing, it’s called Phosh and you can test drive it on your Linux phone or tablet via the postmarketOS distribution. Even if it’s actively maintained, Phosh is developed by Purism for their Librem 5 Linux smartphone and it’s currently based on an older version of the GNOME desktop environment.

Now, GNOME devs are currently working on bringing their current GNOME Shell to mobile devices. Work started during the development of the GNOME 40 desktop environment and GNOME Shell for mobile already has a fully customizable app grid with pagination, folders, and drag-and-drop re-ordering, “stick-to-finger” horizontal workspace gestures, as well as swipe up gestures for navigating the Activities Overview and app grid.

But there’s a lot of work ahead to bring GNOME Shell on par with current offerings, such as KDE’s Plasma Mobile, for mobile devices. Among some of the things that are in the works for GNOME Shell on mobile, developer Jonas Dreßler notes redesigned Quick Settings and notifications, and an improved on-screen keyboard.

“We’re not expecting to complete every aspect of making GNOME Shell a daily driveable phone shell as part of this grant project. That would be a much larger effort because it would mean tackling things like calls on the lock screen, PIN code unlock, emergency calls, a flashlight quick toggle, and other small quality-of-life features,” said Jonas Dreßler in a blog post.

What currently works on the GNOME Shell UI for mobile devices is shell navigation, launching of apps, searching, and using the on-screen keyboard. But you should expect more features in the coming months as the developers are working on a new gestures API that paves the way to two-dimensional navigation gestures, automatic screen size detection, as well as a dedicated mobile panel layout with top and bottom panels for gestures.

GNOME Shell on mobile also promises multitasking and the ability to make every app a full-screen, adaptable app grid for portrait screen size on phones, a narrow on-screen keyboard mode for mobile portrait mode, and, as mentioned before, a brand-new Quick Settings design.

In conclusion, GNOME Shell for mobile devices looks promising, and you should be able to enjoy it on your Linux phone or tablet by the end of year. Jonas Dreßler did not share an exact timeline, but taking into consideration the fact that GNOME 43 will be out this fall, you should expect a more feature-full GNOME Shell on mobile. Until then, here’s a sneak peak of the GNOME desktop on an actual Linux phone!

Image credits: Jonas Dreßler

Last updated 2 years ago

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