The Ubuntu Touch home screen showing applications
previously Canonical Ltd.
|Source model||Open source|
|Final release||16.04 OTA-7 / 8 January 2019|
|Marketing target||Smartphones, tablets, mobile devices|
|Update method||Click Update Manager, Image Based Updates, apt-get|
|Package manager||Click packages|
|Kernel type||Monolithic (Linux kernel)|
|Default user interface||Graphical (Native and Web applications)|
|License||Mainly the GPL and various other open source licenses|
Ubuntu Touch (also known as Ubuntu Phone) is a mobile version of the Ubuntu operating system that was originally developed by Canonical Ltd. and is now being developed by the UBports community. It is designed primarily for touchscreen mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers, however the original goal of convergence was intended to bring Ubuntu Touch to Laptop/Desktops, IOT devices, TVs and smart watches for a complete unified user experience.
Mark Shuttleworth announced that Canonical Ltd. would terminate support for the project due to lack of market interest on 5 April 2017 and it was then adopted by the UBports as a community project. The UBports project was seeded by Marius Gripsgard in 2015 and the programming source code for the project was transferred to the UBports Foundation where it now resides. UBports' mission is to support the collaborative development of Ubuntu Touch and to promote the widespread use of Ubuntu Touch.
The Ubuntu Touch project was started in 2011. Mark Shuttleworth announced on 31 October 2011 that by Ubuntu 14.04, the goal was that Ubuntu would support smartphones, tablets, smart TVs and other smart screens (such as car head units and smartwatches), but to date has only been supported by vendors on a few smartphones, one tablet and a number of third-party devices which hobbyists have ported the operating system to. The initial goal set by Shuttleworth for Ubuntu was to reach full convergence (same platform and libraries on all devices). The Ubuntu platform for phones was unveiled on 2 January 2013. The Ubuntu Touch Developer Preview was released on 21 February 2013.
Canonical released Ubuntu Touch 1.0, the first developer/partner version on 17 October 2013, along with Ubuntu 13.10 that "primarily supports the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4 phones, though there are images available for other phones and tablets", and released a "relatively 'stable' build for wider testing and feedback" on 17 April 2014, along with Ubuntu 14.04. A preview version of the software is available for installation on certain additional Android handsets including the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Edition as a Developer Preview as of 21 February 2013. Developers have access to all of the source code under a license allowing modification and redistribution of the software.
In August 2018, UBPorts released its OTA-4, upgrading the Ubuntu Touch's base from the Canonical's starting Ubuntu 15.04 (Vivid Vervet) to the nearest, current long-term support version Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus).
Ubuntu Touch uses the Qt 5-based touch user interface and various software frameworks originally developed for Maemo and MeeGo such as oFono as telephony stack, accounts-sso for single sign-on, and Maliit for input. Using libhybris the system can often be used with Linux kernels used in Android, which makes it easily ported to most recent Android smartphones.
Libertine is Ubuntu's project to run traditional desktop X applications.
When Ubuntu Touch is turned on no lock screen immediately appears, as applications will prompt the user to unlock if necessary when they are opened. The centre of the "Welcome Screen" is a visualisation of activity on the device. It shows the user's status and recent events on the welcome screen, completed with a design around the circle which reflects activity on the phone over the preceding month.
Ubuntu Touch includes as core applications social media and media applications (e.g. Facebook, YouTube, and an RSS reader). Standard applications such as a calculator, an e-mail client, an alarm clock, a file manager, and even a terminal are to be included as well. Twelve or more core applications are currently being developed. Several Ubuntu Touch applications work on the desktop, including the Browser, Calendar, Clocks, Gallery, Notes, Reminders, Terminal, and Weather.
Side Stage allows to run both "tablet apps" and "phone apps" side by side, resizing each on the top as and when you need to see more of them. It aims to "go even further" with the idea of multitasking, allowing screen space to be divided in this manner. Examples shown in the announcement video included a notes app being used alongside a web browser, and a user swiping from the right edge to bring a mobile version of the Facebook app into view over a playing video.
Users can access the whole system by swiping from the edges of the screen. A short swipe from the left edge allows for instant access to applications pinned to the launcher, while swiping all the way across reveals the home scope, which can be set by the user. This menu is available from the home screen and any running app.
Ubuntu Touch's multitasking is accessed by swiping the finger from the right edge of the screen to the left, which switches to the previous application (short swipe) or shows all open apps (long swipe). Swiping up from the bottom is used to show or hide tools specific to the app being used, which gives Ubuntu Phone the ability to run applications with a large, uncluttered canvas by default.
Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of the company Canonical Ltd., believes that Ubuntu for phones will first find a niche in countries where Ubuntu is well known; more specifically, developing markets such as India and China where computers have Ubuntu pre-installed. However, the success of Ubuntu Phone in these markets is difficult to predict.
Despite Ubuntu's popularity among open source developers, penetrating the legacy-bound business market will continue to be somewhat challenging for Ubuntu. Companies employing the "bring your own device" (BYOD) method have already adapted to using Android and iOS devices and the benefits posed by Ubuntu may not be adequately considered.
Ubuntu Touch requires that a system's CPU support certain hardware features.
|Criteria||Mid to high end devices|
|Processor architecture||ARM Cortex-A7|
|Flash storage||8 GB eMMC|
|Entry level consumer Ubuntu tablet||High-end Ubuntu enterprise tablet|
|Processor architecture||Dual-core ARM Cortex-A15||Quad-core ARM Cortex-A15 or Intel x86|
|Memory||2 GB preferred||4 GB preferred|
|Flash storage||8 GB minimum||8 GB minimum|
|Multi-touch||4 fingers||4–10 fingers|
|Full desktop convergence||No||Yes|
Secondly, Ubuntu touch can be installed on a number of phones that originally appeared with Android. It is necessary for these devices to offer an open source tree, so that the drivers can be recompiled for the new OS.
Adrian Covert, writing for CNN on 2 January 2013, predicted that the operating system will not gain wide use, stating, "carving out a niche in the seemingly unshakable mobile space—ruled by the Android-and-Apple duopoly—still requires a critical mass of users and a lively ecosystem of app developers. Realistically speaking, the chances of this even upstaging Windows Phone or BlackBerry 10 are slim. At best, Ubuntu seems like a sandbox for the most enthusiastic early adopters and a cheap enterprise solution for companies on a tight budget."
Joey Sneddon of OMG! Ubuntu disagreed with Covert's assessment, writing, "commentators like Covert are missing the point. See, Ubuntu Phones aren't really going to claw much market share away from Apple or Google. And this neat 'dock your phone and use it as a desktop' feature, whilst innovative, won't be the main lure for many […]. During his keynote address earlier this week, Mark Shuttleworth continually referred to 'emerging' markets as the battleground on which an Ubuntu Phone would fight it out for impact […]. It's this sector, the low-end, that the battle for the hearts, minds and hands of the less tech-savvy will take place."
Rich Trenholm writing for CNET on 27 February 2013, "[…] But on first impression I'm hugely taken with Ubuntu Touch. It's elegant, thoughtful, and versatile, while remaining beautifully straightforward. […] it's by far the strongest potential rival to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. In fact, I prefer it to iOS, which long ago lost its shine, and heck, maybe even to Android, too. Fingers crossed that manufacturers and phone carriers get behind it, because I'd happily lay down my own cash for an Ubuntu Touch phone."
Jason Jenkins, writing for CNET on 27 February 2013, MWC Awards 2013, "[…] Lots was said about the impressive number of carriers and manufacturers Firefox OS has lined up behind it. But once put to a vote, Ubuntu Touch was the clear winner, with Firefox OS the runner-up. The team thought that Ubuntu Touch, the tablet version of which we got our hands-on for the first time at MWC, feels more like the complete package at this point. […]"
Jesse Smith from DistroWatch Weekly reviewed the Ubuntu Phone in Meizu Pro 5 lauding the price, interface, responsiveness and frequency of updates, calling it a "pleasant phone and communications experience" and distinguished it as a user-oriented device as opposed to Android's application-oriented nature and noted that it would be more likely to appeal to those interested in technology—Linux fans in particular—but was too new to appeal to the public at large. This was due, in part, to the limited selection of phone apps, partially due to the small size of the market, but stated that LibreOffice and GIMP were available. It took him a while to understand what differentiated scopes from applications. He also noted that the platform was free of advertisements.
Commercially available devices
BQ was also working on the first Ubuntu Phone with 'Convergence', with a launch date that was planned for 2015 and then 2016.
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Libertine is a confined sandbox where you can install deb-packaged X11-based Ubuntu applications have them run under Unity 8.
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