The KDE Project has unveiled its entry into the smartphone market, releasing details of a free software platform dubbed Plasma Mobile that is currently in the prototype stage.
Following the lead of companies including Mozilla and Canonical, KDE’s Plasma Mobile is designed as an alternative to Google’s Linux based Android platform, which currently holds the majority smartphone market share. Building on concerns many in the free software and open source communities have, Plasma Mobile promises significantly improved privacy features compared to its rivals.
“As a free software community, it is our mission to give users the option of retaining full control over their data,” explained KDE’s Sebastian Kügler of the software’s release. “The choice for a mobile operating system should not be a choice between missing functions or forsaken privacy of user data and personal information. Plasma Mobile offers the ability to choose the services that are allowed to integrate deeply into the system. It will not share any data unless that is explicitly requested.”
Following internal development which has now been officially opened up as free software, KDE’s Plasma Mobile is in a functional prototype stage. The software is presently compatible with the LG-built Google Nexus 5 Android smartphone as a replacement ROM, featuring the ability to make and receive calls as well as use a number of native applications. Builds for x86-based systems have also been released, to make testing the software without a mobile device easier.
Native Plasma Mobile applications are developed using Qt, but KDE has indicated that it will support applications written in GTK, using Android’s API or even those designed for Ubuntu Touch, as well as others, “if the licence allows and the app can be made to work at a technical level.
“Plasma Mobile’s development process welcomes contributions at all levels,” Kügler told community members at the unveiling event. “If you want to get your hands dirty with a cool app, if you want to provide a system functionality such as a mobile hotspot, if you want to improve power management at the kernel level, if you want to help with the design, Plasma Mobile welcomes your contributions.”
Additional features with which KDE is hoping to make Plasma Mobile stand out from the crowd include a focus on ergonomics and device integration and a heavily customisable experience which can be personalised to each user’s requirements – from the upper level, such as with changing the wallpaper and overall look and feel, down to customising low-level system components as required.
Thus far, would-be Android replacements such as Ubuntu Touch and Firefox OS have been slow to find market acceptance, even with OEM partnerships that have seen the software preloaded on handsets in various countries. KDE has yet to announce plans for any distribution deals for Plasma Mobile, which at present requires manual installation on a compatible device.