Ubuntu Touch

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Ubuntu Touch
Ubuntu logo
Ubuntu Touch 2015-02-06 Apps screen.png
The Ubuntu Touch home screen showing applications
Developer Canonical Ltd.,
Ubuntu community contributors,
The Carrier Advisory Group
OS family Unix-like
Working state Released
Source model Open source
Latest release 15.04 (Vivid Vervet) / 2015 (2015)
Marketing target Smartphones, tablets, mobile, GPS smartnav, in-vehicle infotainment
Available in Multilingual
Update method Click Update Manager, Image Based Updates, apt-get
Package manager Click packages
Platforms ARM and x86
Kernel type Monolithic (Linux kernel)
Default user interface Graphical (Native and Web applications)
License Mainly the GPL and various other open source licenses
Official website ubuntu.com/phone

Ubuntu Touch (also known as Ubuntu Phone) is a mobile version of the Ubuntu operating system developed by Canonical UK Ltd and Ubuntu Community.[1] It is designed primarily for touchscreen mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers.


Mark Shuttleworth announced on 31 October 2011 that by Ubuntu 14.04, Ubuntu will support smartphones, tablets, smart TVs and other smart screens (as car head units and smartwatches).[2] The "goal for Ubuntu is to reach full convergence (same platform and libraries on all devices), Ubuntu 14.04 and 14.10 are not fully there yet".[3] The Ubuntu platform for phones was unveiled on 2 January 2013.[4] The Ubuntu Touch Developer Preview was released on 21 February 2013.[5]

Ubuntu Touch Developer Preview 13.04 on a Galaxy Nexus,
the Welcome screen displayed.

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",[6] and released a "relatively 'stable' build for wider testing and feedback" on 17 April 2014,[7] 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.[5]

Ubuntu Touch was released to manufacturers on 16 September 2014.[8] BQ Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition, the world’s first Ubuntu-based smartphone went on sale in Europe on 9 February 2015.[9]


Ubuntu Touch uses the Qt 5-based[10] touch user interface and various software frameworks originally developed for Maemo and MeeGo such as oFono as telephony stack,[11] accounts-sso for single sign-on,[12][13] and Maliit for input.[14] Utilizing libhybris[15][16] the system can often be used with Linux kernels used in Android, which makes it easily ported to most recent Android smartphones.[17]

Lock screen[edit]

When Ubuntu Touch is turned on no lock screen is necessary as applications will unlock if needed. The center of the "Welcome Screen" is a visualization of activity on the device. It shows your status and recent events on the welcome screen, completed with an animated design around the circle.[18]

Included applications[edit]

A Nexus 5 smartphone running Ubuntu Touch displaying the Apps scope.

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.[19] Several Ubuntu Touch applications work on the desktop, including the Browser, Calendar, Clocks, Gallery, Notes, Reminders, Terminal, and Weather.[20]

Side Stage[edit]

Main article: Side Stage

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.[21][22] 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. The left edge allows for instant access to applications pinned to the launcher, and swiping all the way across reveals the home, which displays applications, files and contacts. This menu is available from the home screen and any running app.[23]

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. Using the launcher on the left side switches back. Swiping up from the bottom side is used to show or hide the toolbar, which gives Ubuntu Phone the ability to run applications with a large, uncluttered canvas by default.[24]

Target market[edit]

Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of the company behind the Linux distribution 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.[25]

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" method have already adapted to using Android and iOS devices and the benefits posed by Ubuntu may not be adequately considered.[26]

Hardware requirements[edit]

Ubuntu Touch requires that a system's CPU support certain hardware features.

System requirements for smartphones[27]
Criteria Mid to high end devices
Processor architecture ARM Cortex-A7
Memory 1 GB
Flash storage 8 GB eMMC
Multi-touch Yes

Ubuntu tablet hardware requirements[28]
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
Screen size 7–10 inch 10–12 inch
Multi-touch 4 fingers 4–10 fingers
Full desktop convergence No Yes


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."[29]

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."[30]

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."[31]

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. […]"[32]

Commercially available devices[edit]

In February 2015 the BQ Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition became the first smartphone with Ubuntu Touch preinstalled.[33] It was sold in the European Union only.[34] On 9 June 2015 BQ launched a successor, the Aquaris E5 Ubuntu Edition.[35] BQ is also working on the first Ubuntu Phone with ‘Convergence’, with a launch date in 2016.[36]

In May 2015 the Meizu MX4 Ubuntu Edition went on sale in China, becoming the second Ubuntu phone.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Canonical. "Ubuntu on phones - Ubuntu". ubuntu.com. Retrieved 9 June 2015. 
  2. ^ Mark Shuttleworth (31 October 2011). "Blog Archive » Ubuntu on phones, tablets, TV’s and smart screens everywhere". Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  3. ^ "Running apps from the SDK - Ubuntu developer portal". ubuntu.com. Retrieved 9 June 2015. 
  4. ^ Joey-Elijah Sneddon. "Ubuntu Phone OS Unveiled by Canonical - OMG! Ubuntu!". OMG! Ubuntu!. Retrieved 23 December 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Joey-Elijah Sneddon. "Ubuntu Touch Developer Preview Released, Available for Nexus Devices - OMG! Ubuntu!". OMG! Ubuntu!. Retrieved 23 December 2014. 
  6. ^ "SaucySalamander/ReleaseNotes - Ubuntu Wiki". Wiki.ubuntu.com. 15 November 2013. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  7. ^ Revision 121 as of 7 :35. "TrustyTahr/ReleaseNotes - Ubuntu Wiki". Wiki.ubuntu.com. Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  8. ^ "Landing team 16.09.14 : Mailing list archive : ubuntu-phone team in Launchpad". Retrieved 23 December 2014. 
  9. ^ "Ubuntu Based First Smartphone, Aquaris E4.5 Announced". Gadget Nations. Retrieved 9 February 2015. 
  10. ^ Canonical. "For developers - Ubuntu for phones - Ubuntu". ubuntu.com. Retrieved 9 June 2015. 
  11. ^ Jörg Thoma (7 March 2013). "Canonical: Ubuntu Touch noch nicht ohne Android" (in German). Golem.de. p. 2. Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  12. ^ "GNOME Online Accounts: why it is the way it is". Debarshiray.wordpress.com. Retrieved 23 March 2013. 
  13. ^ Online Accounts setup for Ubuntu Touch in Launchpad. Launchpad.net. Retrieved on 27 September 2013.
  14. ^ "Maliit Keyboard Improvements | Murray's Blog". Murrayc.com. Retrieved 4 March 2013. 
  15. ^ Carsten Munk (11 April 2013). "Wayland utilizing Android GPU drivers on glibc based systems, Part 1". Mer Project. Retrieved 3 July 2013. 
  16. ^ "libhybris in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. 5 February 2013. Retrieved 3 July 2013. 
  17. ^ "Touch/FAQ - Ubuntu Wiki". Wiki.ubuntu.com. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  18. ^ Canonical. "Features". ubuntu.com. Retrieved 9 June 2015. 
  19. ^ Ribeiro, Goncalo. "First Ubuntu Phone OS Powered Devices Will Hit Shelves This October". Redmond Pie. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  20. ^ Sneddon, Joey. "Ubuntu Touch Apps Available In Ubuntu 13.10". OMG Ubuntu. 
  21. ^ "Ubuntu unveils tablet experience with multi-tasking" (press release). 19 February 2013. Accessed 27 February 2013.
  22. ^ Jon Brodkin. "Shuttleworth: Ubuntu tablets won't be as "jarring" to users as Windows 8". Ars Technica, 19 February 2013. Accessed 27 February 2013.
  23. ^ "UI model | Ubuntu Design". Ubuntu Design. Retrieved 10 April 2013. 
  24. ^ "'Content views | Ubuntu Design'". Ubuntu Design. Retrieved 10 April 2013. 
  25. ^ Simonite, Tom. "Ubuntu Smartphone Aims for Success in Developing Economies". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  26. ^ Hickins, Michael. "Ubuntu Smartphone Shipping in October". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  27. ^ "Operator and OEM partners | Ubuntu for phones | Ubuntu". Canonical Ltd. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  28. ^ "Ready to roll | Ubuntu on tablets | Ubuntu". Canonical Ltd. Retrieved 3 November 2014. 
  29. ^ Covert, Adrian (2 January 2013). "The Ubuntu smartphone (which no one will use) is a glimpse of the future". CNN. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  30. ^ Sneddon, Joey (4 January 2013). "CNN Predict Ubuntu Phone 'Won't Make Inroads'". OMG! Ubuntu!. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  31. ^ "Ubuntu Touch - Operating systems - CNET Reviews". CNET. 27 February 2013. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  32. ^ "Ubuntu Touch beats Firefox OS to win best of MWC from CNET Mobile World Congress - CNET Reviews". CNET. 28 February 2013. Retrieved 31 March 2013. 
  33. ^ Sinha, Robin (9 February 2015). "Canonical Launches First Ubuntu Phone With Spain's BQ". gadgets.ndtv.com. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  34. ^ "bq - Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition. Life at your fingertips.". Mundo Reader. Retrieved 20 April 2015. [self-published source]
  35. ^ Sneddon, Joey-Elijah. "Brand New Ubuntu Phone Goes on Sale Priced at €199". OMG! Ubuntu!. Retrieved 9 June 2015. 
  36. ^ Stahie, Silviu (29 September 2015). "BQ Ubuntu "Convergent" Phone Launch Slips into 2016". Softpedia. Retrieved 7 October 2015. 
  37. ^ Turner, Debbie (February 26, 2015). "Meizu MX4 variant will be second Ubuntu phone". Retrieved April 29, 2015. 

External links[edit]