💜 astra's space! 💜


# you probably don't need a linux phone with a hardware keyboard



a few months ago, one of my friends gave me a nokia n810, along with a nokia n950 and a nokia n900. i've restored both to their "former glory", and tried using them for a while. by "using" them i don't mean using them as my daily driver, but rather trying to find situations where they're more suitable than my current phone (a samsung galaxy z fold 4. i've installed pidgin on the n810, added support for XMPP, and used it as my main client for a bit.

after a week or so, i grew tired of the weak cpu power of the N810 and the tiny software library of N950 (it's a developer-only limited edition device, after all), so i bought an N900, which was a bit faster and had much more apps, more than both of the other ones combined.


however, after having access to all three for more than two months now, i've really struggled to find situations where having those phones (or some similar hardware with modern internals) was actually useful. i regularly found myself reaching for my smartphone after being tired of typing out a long message on the tiny hardware keys, my thumbs hurting from the amount of force i had to apply to press them. i typed slower (even though i was touch-typing), i had more typos, and the typing experience in general was just worse. not to mention that all of the 3 phones had very different keyboards with different key sizes, different actuation forces, and different layouts. they all sucked.

even worse, the only situation where having a hardware keyboard seemed like a no-brainer to me, using the terminal, was also significantly less comfortable than on my smartphone. every key combo was like playing twister with my fingers, it was terrible. when compared to using termux on an android phone, it was just a worse experience overall.

i've seen a lot of people recently wanting a phone with a hardware keyboard because it would be more comfortable or more productive, but after this - i just can't see it now. the ergonomics of a keyboard made for 10 fingers just don't work when you can only use 2 of them.


i've also seen a trend in people wanting to run linux on their phones. the pros seem pretty obvious - run any already existing desktop app, have more control over your device, etc. but the cons are also pretty obvious - battery life, performance, and the fact that most apps are not designed for touchscreens.

as for the "running any desktop app" - you'll quickly learn that most apps are x86-only, and even if they're not, there's probably already an android/ios app that does the same thing while being secure (sandboxing is a good thing, you know), more power-efficient, and more touch-friendly. i genuinely can't think of any desktop app tha you'd want to run on a phone that your laptop can't run better, aside from maybe aircrack-ng, but unless you're 14 and want to hack your school's wifi, i don't see why you'd want to do that.

as for the "more control over your device" - that's a double-edged sword. as i've mentioned before, modern mobile OSes do a lot to make themselves secure: sandboxing, app permissions, full-disk encryption by default, etc. mobile linux distros rarely have that, and even those that do still loose out on the fact that they're not as widely used as android/ios, so there's less incentive for people to find and report bugs. i'm not saying that android/ios are perfect, but they're definitely more secure than any mobile linux distro, in my opinion.


i think that trying to converge the laptop/desktop and the smartphone into one device is a bad idea. the two have very different use-cases, different ergonomics, and different security models. i think that the best way to go is to have a smartphone and a laptop, and use them both for what they're good at. i also think that more people should learn to write mobile apps, as most of my discussions on this topic have boiled down to "i want a linux phone because i can only write desktop apps", which is kinda sad in my opinion.

anyways, hope you didn't regret reading this rambly rant, and have a nice day!💜