Now that the Mobian CE is being sold, and Mobian becomes more popular, we are often asked in the support channel, “what and who is Mobian?” In the midst of action, we don’t reflect upon this subject very often, but it is worth contemplating and summarizing.

What is Mobian?

Mobian aims to integrate the standard Debian distribution with Phone-specific projects and modifications in a distribution that works on certain mobile phones and tablets, such as the Pinephone, the Pinetab and the Librem 5. The idea is to minimize the Mobian specific pieces by “upstreaming” changes to the original projects as much as possible.

To achieve this, we tread a delicate balance between carrying customized patches and packages that are required to make Mobian run well on its supported devices, while trying to push as many of these changes into upstream Debian. You could think of Mobian as a Debian Pure Blend, and indeed we aim at becoming one at some point in time.

For the time being, we are focused on the same software stack that Purism uses for the Librem5, that is, wayland-ish, gnome-ish, modem manager-ish. Being based on the Phosh environment facilitates that, but of course it is perfectly possible to run Qt-based software. We have nothing against KDE and the plasma shell, and are contemplating whether, when and how we can support that too, but for the time being creating a single working GUI is enough of a challenge.

Who is Mobian?

It was founded by a-wai in order to make Debian running nicely on the Pinephone. Mobian’s public outing occured on 14 May 2020 when Mobian was announced in this thread in the forum.

a-wai is the founder and leader of the project. That having said, he has proven to be listening and acting upon the opinions of his fellow volunteers1. These volunteers are a loose and informal collection of people that have nagged @a-wai long enough until he invited them into the (not so secret) developers room, where they conspire to achieve world domination. All developers are unpaid volunteers, enthusiastic, nice & friendly2.

We are not associated with a single nation, company or timezone3.

How much are you earning with Mobian?

If you donate to Mobian via liberapay, you’ll see on that page what the project currently receives. Of the sold Mobian CE phones, PINE64 donates us 10$ per phone (indeed: WOW! and THX!). We are also grateful to being able to use the services of gitlab and

The money is being used to pay for our web hosting (server and bandwidth) and hardware we need for development purpose (new devices, build machines, useful accessories…). Part of the user donations also cover some of the beer expenses of our developers so they don’t have to fight thirst while coding. In the future, we might use also some of those funds to sponsor needy developers with a device to enable hacking (don’t start asking us for free devices for now, thank you).

How to help us

Use it, improve it, both the software and the documentation. As we depend upon software in the Debian ecosystem, you don’t even need to have supported hardware to make an app suitable for small screens, or implement a feature or application that is need to make the experience smoother.

Standing on the shoulders of …

We would not be where we are without the Debian ecosystem or Purism and their pioneering efforts to make Linux usable on phones. We are also grateful to PINE64 for selling a Mobian community edition which allowed us to place the Debian swirl onto people’s phones, and for donating per sold community edition device to the Mobian project. We are also grateful to PostmarketOS for a number of userspace programs and last but not least all the kernel hackers (Ondrej Jirman aka megous and Samuel Holland) hacking away and improving hardware support.

Project FAQ

What is your code of conduct, what is your privacy policy, what is your…

Given that we are closely aligned with the Debian project, have a look at their code of conduct, contribution guidelines, etc and you get a pretty good picture.

But is Android not already Linux on mobile?

We could answer this question. However, it would not be printable on the public Interwebs, so you won’t find the answer in this post.

Can I pay £|$|€|… to implement feature “X”?

Do hire or donate to someone to implement X directly instead of channeling money through us. It might help to ask beforehand whether we (or Debian) would like to have feature X, though.

  1. @a-wai has not written this sentence. He has not been asked and will not be asked whether he would support that statement :-). ↩︎

  2. Please treat them in a manner they remain so. ↩︎

  3. No, we are not part of the Eastern Standard Tribe). ↩︎