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Hands-on with Ubuntu OS for phones (video)


We were very excited to get a hands-on with Ubuntu’s upcoming phone OS, which will be available early next year on select handsets.

The demo was done during the Digital Experience showcase, and Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu for phones, was receiving a disproportionate amount of media attention from the rest of the vendors. It speaks to the excitement the media has for something new and genuinely interesting, though Canonical is not going as far as to say Ubuntu for phones will rival iOS and Android even after it was released.

I had a chance to do a hands-off hands-on — I couldn’t use the testing device, a Galaxy Nexus, myself, due to bugginess and unfinished software — but what I saw was extremely smooth. While Android apps were shown off as examples, Canonical is not saying that developers will merely be able to port over existing Android applications to Ubuntu; instead, much of the software will be HTML5 and open standards-based, similar to the doomed webOS which debuted at CES three years ago.

In fact, despite the cautious optimism about Ubuntu for phones, there are a lot of functionality similarities to webOS. But the trend stops at usability; the software will be shared with vendors and OEMs free of charge, much like Android is now, which they can alter and tweak for their purposes. This will allow branded marketing opportunities with low-level app integration, something that carriers love, which is why Ubuntu really has a chance of being successful. There is no centralized app store in the cards, though Canonical will likely adopt its desktop software repository for mobile.

As for functionality, Ubuntu for phones looked and felt great to us. It ran smoothly despite a few hiccups from the gesture bars. Because the software was retrofitted onto existing hardware, the company says these early demos bear little resemblance to the finished product, which will be smoother, faster and prettier. Nevertheless, the demo shown to us  and many other media outlets caused a huge commotion. Watch the clip below to find out why.


  • Jb

    Meeeh…..found the home screen kinda ugly to be completely honest.

    • Twosee

      RIP RIM!!!!! :D :D

    • sp

      RIP Twosee

  • Bobby

    It’s an Android ripoff without the Google integration.

  • John

    ugliest interface ever

  • zzZZzz

    Looks to me like a mix between Android and Windows phone functionality.
    What the welcome screen is missing is a sort of hint for all 4 edges, something that barely shows, maybe an arrow with text pulsating clockwise.
    2013 should be an interesting year on the mobile front.

    • Nothin But RIM

      Agreed, I mean it’s cool to see new concepts and i’m interested in what they are going to come up with as i love choice. I’m just curious at how they’re side bezel swiping will play nicely with apps that include in app side swiping functions.

      Also as interesting as the home screen is, why would I care about how many calls i’ve made, or tweets i’ve sent? Doesn’t really seem to be useful information for me at least.

  • Dan S

    I’m going with BlackBerry 10 but I do have a spare Galaxy Nexus which I might install Ubuntu’s OS just to try it out.

  • Bruce

    If you havent used Ubuntu then your opionon is not credible.

    • Nothin But RIM

      You haven’t used Ubuntu for mobile so yours carries as much weight as the rest of us.

  • You are liars

    Liars. You didn’t get a “hands on” with the phone, because Ubuntu didn’t let anyone else touch the phones. Their representatives ran all the demos and refused to let journalists operate them. Why are you lying?

    • bigpointguy

      nomes if you read the accompanying article, “I had a chance to do a hands-off hands-on — I couldn’t use the testing device, a Galaxy Nexus, myself, due to bugginess and unfinished software — but what I saw was extremely smooth.” You would know that he is not lying.

  • nomes

    That is why they said the following “I had a chance to do a hands-off hands-on “.. Implying they weren’t allowed to touch the device.

  • bigpointguy

    Nomes got your handle instead of You Are Liars. Apologies

  • useubuntu2

    just what we need — another phone bloated with carrier-installed crapware.

  • DrBadass

    I just got turned on. In a very naughty way ;)

  • Maplehamwich

    Yikes. Android is already pretty bad for carrier bloat. I shudder to think of the proprietary launchers and bloatware that will make their way to a carrier customized ubuntu phone!

  • InfinitiGuy

    Without Android compatibility or a centralized app store, it is dead in the water. Looks promising if they can address these issues.

  • derpingtons

    I would like to see an inviting gesture to swipe to the side. Adding to what zzZZzz mentioned it would be nice to see a hairline silver/white effect pulsing up and down simultaneously along the edge, akin the the playbook’s notification graphic. However I’m talking -hairline-. The playbook’s red notification alert is a tad intrusive…

  • David

    I dual-boot between Ubuntu and Windows at home – primarily Ubuntu is my OS of choice. If I could dual-boot a handset with Ubuntu for Phones and another phone OS, that would be amazing!

  • G -man

    Not as good as BlackBerry 10 – but better than Android. It is still amazing to me that Google could screw up Linux…

  • Dave

    “Ubuntu for phones”

    What’s the point? Only who got Apps that counts these day.

  • Awkward Turtle

    Interesting to see new concepts. But (and this is just based on this initial view) the interface looks a little awkward to get around. I love the efficiency of my android these days, and this just doesn’t seem to be very intuitive. Then again, I guess I’ll have to give it a try first before I can pass any real judgement. Also, app support?..

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