JingPad A1 Android App Support

It has been a while since I wrote about the progress of Jing-OS, the “Future Mobile OS based on Linux“, so I figured I should do that again. At the time of writing this post, Jing-OS is at version 1.1.1.

The positive things

The team at Jingling has put a lot of work into this product lately, interacting with the OS has become much smoother than it used to be, apps can now be uninstalled directly from the desktop and sorting them works perfectly fine.The touchpad and gestures on it have been improved as well, or at least I think so.

And they are constantly adding more apps to the App Store.

So far so good, but there still is a catch

And that catch is, that apart from their pre-installed applications, you just get standard Linux apps and they are not optimized for touch or to run in a single window at times.

The pen is often needed if a right mouse click enables something and some applications do not prompt the onscreen keyboard to open which is very annoying.

The screen still can’t be rotated and is only usable in landscape and there still is no way to have any keyboard layout other than Chinese or English.

Both of which take a way a lot of the usability for me.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel

Android App support

Let me start here, with something I deem very strange, the update notes for 1.1.1 stated things like improved video codecs and information about the improvement on the internal workings of the JingPad but they did not mention that app support for android apps was introduced.

Nor was there any visual cue to be found in the entire OS. Nothing on their homepage or GitHub. The only way to see this was introduced is if you stumble on their YouTube video about it.

For you to have it a bit easier than me to find how to do this, I will put the installation procedure here:

First update your device to Jing OS 1.1.1 via Settings -> Software Update

Reboot and run sudo apt update to make sure your repos are at the lates version, run upgrade as well if any new packages are available

Install the compatibility layer with:

sudo apt-get install android-compatible-env

and the installer for apks:

sudo apt-get install japm afterwards.

Not sure if this was just a temporary problem or if this is a general thing, but their mirror was very slow while I tried installing this, at around 500kB/s so it took a while to download those approx. 500MB.

I did a reboot after this, since the installation of the Android environment led to some strange behavior of the mouse and the system seemed to be sure it was connected to headphones.

The headphone thing did not go away, but at least the mouse was working again after the reboot.

The next step was to install an android app, you need to download the apk first, so I headed over to fdroid and downloaded the apk, so I would have a free android App Store on my device.

And the installation worked. To install a package head to your Downloads folder and type:

sudo jam install -i [package name].

F Droid appeared on my home screen and launched without issues so I installed fennec, a free software fork of firefox mobile.

The installation also worked and fennec performed rather well, and since it is an android app, works very well on a touch screen device.

However, since I did not install it via japm fennec does not show up on my home screen and the only way to launch it is searching it via F-Droid.

I then removed it and re-installed via a downloaded apk and japm.

Now of course I have to re-do this for every update of fennec and the other apps I installed, since there is no way to update in a centralized way like F-Droid.

The conclusion, for now at least

Android application support adds a lot of value to the JingPad, since those apps work really well on touch based devices, I tried K9-Mail, NewPipe and a couple of others, all just fine.

But this also opens a new question, the JingPad A1 is not a cheap device and for its price not very performant. The sales pitch here is that is unique however since it is a Linux based tablet, that runs Linux applications.

But these applications are not good to use and you get the most use out of the device running android apps, which means emulating android in a linux box and accepting that some apps won’t work as well or at all as on native android.

So, wouldn’t one be better off buying a way cheaper android tablet and flash something like Lineage-OS or /e/-OS on it for privacy?

At the time of writing this, I would say yes, 100%. You would get a cheaper, more mature product and it would have proper support for your native language.

But, as I said before the JingPad is not a finished product and up until now, it keeps getting better with every update, the question is if it will reach the point of being a device that is worth the asking price. A huge part of reaching this point is having native linux applications that are usable on a touch device.

Looking at what is happening in the camps of Phosh, Plasma mobile and the already existing applications for Ubuntu Touch (Sorry Lomiri) I would say, it is possible.

Yet, only time will tell…..

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