While Ubuntu (and Linux as a whole) may not be hugely popular among the consumer desktop computing crowd, it'd be folly to discount the OS as a whole. Especially among the Android developer crowd. Well, if you happen to be among the tech-literate faithful who use open source desktop operating systems to write code for your open source phone operating systems, Canonical would like to make your life a little weirder: introducing Ubuntu for smartphones!


Not to be confused with Ubuntu for Android, which allowed a docked Android phone to run a more-or-less full version of Ubuntu a la Webtop, this new product is a full-blown smartphone OS, distinct from Android entirely and meant to run all on its own. It uses multitouch gestures and voice control for interaction, and even an app store is in development.

So, how does this relate to Android? Well, for starters, Ubuntu for smartphones is not yet slated to run on any upcoming hardware or carriers, but the company does say that it can be made to run on any recent phone built to run Android, if a manufacturer would like to do so, as it uses Android kernels and drivers. Translation: most companies are probably not going to install this on their hardware, but we can bet that some enterprising dev is going to make it work.

Whether this has any effect on the smartphone market is yet to be seen. As of right now, we have a press release (below) and a promise. This late in the game, the likelihood that Ubuntu will gain any significant market share as a mobile OS is nil to none. However, with a strong ties to server and backend technology, plus an enthusiastic Android development community that has a preference towards open source platforms, it may get a decent level of attention. If nothing else, it would be very interesting to see how the smartphone and PC versions work together. It could serve as a nice model of how to integrate a ubiquitous OS...right Google?

For those of you who want to give it a shot for yourself, Canonical says that downloadable images will be made available for the Galaxy Nexus over the next couple of weeks. So far there aren't any other devices that are officially supported, but we can expect that to grow over time.

Source: Canonical

Ubuntu comes to the phone, with a beautifully distilled interface and a unique full PC capability when docked

· Leading open PC platform with huge global following announces mobile version for network operators, OEMs and silicon vendors
· Fast, beautiful interface for entry level smartphones
· Unique PC experience on superphones when docked with a monitor, keyboard and mouse
· Ubuntu raises the bar for mobile UI design, for richer and more immersive apps
· A single OS for phone, PC and TV

London, UK, 2 January, 2013: Canonical today announced a distinctive smartphone interface for its popular operating system, Ubuntu, using all four edges of the screen for a more immersive experience. Ubuntu uniquely gives handset OEMs and mobile operators the ability to converge phone, PC and thin client into a single enterprise superphone.

"We expect Ubuntu to be popular in the enterprise market, enabling customers to provision a single secure device for all PC, thin client and phone functions. Ubuntu is already the most widely used Linux enterprise desktop, with customers in a wide range of sectors focused on security, cost and manageability" said Jane Silber, CEO of Canonical. "We also see an opportunity in basic smartphones that are used for the phone, SMS, web and email, where Ubuntu outperforms thanks to its native core apps and stylish presentation."

Ubuntu is aimed at two core mobile segments: the high-end superphone, and the entry-level basic smartphone, helping operators grow the use of data amongst consumers who typically use only the phone and messaging but who might embrace the use of web and email on their phone. Ubuntu also appeals to aspirational prosumers who want a fresh experience with faster, richer performance on a lower bill-of-materials device.

The handset interface for Ubuntu introduces distinctive new user experiences to the mobile market, including:

1. Edge magic: thumb gestures from all four edges of the screen enable users to find content and switch between apps faster than other phones.
1. Deep content immersion - controls appear only when the user wants them.
2. A beautiful global search for apps, content and products.
3. Voice and text commands in any application for faster access to rich capabilities.
4. Both native and web or HTML5 apps.
5. Evolving personalised art on the welcome screen.

Ubuntu offers compelling customisation options for partner apps, content and services. Operators and OEMs can easily add their own branded offerings. Canonical's personal cloud service, Ubuntu One, provides storage and media services, file sharing and a secure transaction service which enables partners to integrate their own service offerings easily.

Canonical makes it easy to build phones with Ubuntu. The company provides engineering services to offload the complexity of maintaining multiple code bases which has proven to be a common issue for smartphone manufacturers, freeing the manufacturer to focus on hardware design and integration. For silicon vendors, Ubuntu is compatible with a typical Android Board Support Package (BSP). This means Ubuntu is ready to run on the most cost-efficient chipset designs.

In bringing Ubuntu to the phone, Canonical is uniquely placed with a single operating system for client, server and cloud, and a unified family of interfaces for the phone, the PC and the TV. "We are defining a new era of convergence in technology, with one unified operating system that underpins cloud computing, data centers, PCs and consumer electronics" says Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu and VP Products at Canonical.

Canonical currently serves the leading PC OEMs: ASUS, Dell, HP, and Lenovo all certify the majority of their PCs on Ubuntu and pre-install it in global markets. Over 20 million desktop PCs run the OS today, and Canonical estimates that close to 10% of the world's new desktops and laptops will ship with Ubuntu in 2014. Ubuntu is also wildly popular as a server platform, the number one server OS on the key major public clouds and the leading host OS for OpenStack, the open source IAAS.

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • Sam Tate

    I think it'll be DOA unfortunately. I wrote why here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/118289670350117354716/posts/MRKw6eDA8iz

    • Steve Schneider

      Nice self advert.

    • Mike Bates

      I'd have to agree unfortunately, it looks to me like that as well. I just hope they deliver on the original Ubuntu for Android project where you could dock an Android phone and have it run ubuntu on an external screen, that's what I want.

  • Kree Terry

    When can i put this on my gnex? Can i even do that or is it only gonna be availible as a hardware purchase?

    • epsiblivion

      gnex images will be available for testing in the coming weeks. read the article on the verge.

      • Kree Terry

        Thats not soon enough lol, i want to try this now!!!!!!

  • imperticus

    It actually looks pretty neat, and with good integration with the desktop version it does have a good prospect.

  • Jeremy Powlus
    • Bob G

      Will probably win the category of most likely delayed till 2015 + (insert random number of years here).

  • atlouiedog

    I use Linux on my laptop because that machine is all about the web. Chromium on that laptop is a seamless transition to Chrome on my Windows desktop where I use a lot of Windows specific software. Linux has the edge because runs a lot faster on that older laptop and gives me slightly longer battery life.

    My phone is about the apps. I like to tinker and play with software and could see myself putting it on a secondary device I have lying around, but without app support it's never going to live on the phone in my pocket. I don't see it happening. I'd be happy to be wrong though.

  • spacekobra

    Do the nexus devices have dual boot capabilities?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

      I was thinking of using the recovery to flash Ubuntu as the primary OS, when a ROM comes out like a CyanogenMod build.

      Not sure about dual-boot though, but +1 the idea.

      • spacekobra

        I plan to do that so long as it doesn't wipe the recovery or fastboot partition.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

          The development of the ROM should leave that code alone.

    • An XDA RC

      What're we at XDA there for? You'll have this in record time!

  • http://www.anivision.org/ Christopher Bailey (Xcom923)

    gotta say I love that lock...erm....welcome screen

  • Chris Webster

    Really good job here. I'll try and put this on my 4 as soon as I can

  • jmotyka

    This looks amazing! IMHO Finally someone did something right!

  • heat361

    This is awesome now Google do me a favor and buy Canonicle Ubuntu and intergrate it with android

  • Ryan Wallace

    I want this on my N7

  • http://them3blog.wordpress.com/ Abel

    Am I the only one who thinks this UI and gestures are amazing? Maybe we can see something similar on the next android version.... I can think of all the possibilities

    • jordanjay29

      Well, Canonical's really developed the UI around the gestures. Adding gesture controls like that to Android could work, but it wouldn't be quite as seamless.

      Honestly, I'm not as big a fan of gesture controls as some. I honestly don't think they're as intuitive, and Ubuntu has just murdered the most intuitive of them all (swipe from the left to go back) with this intro. So, bleh.

      • http://www.facebook.com/dwhenderson Darren Wood Henderson

        It was swipe from right to left to go back, so like you're drawing a back arrow with your hand.

    • jusatin

      Too lazy to watch the full video. How are they different from Jolla/MeeGo? Or Windows 8 for that matter.

      • http://them3blog.wordpress.com/ Abel

        Mmm well, I think it looks different, not like a lot different but my guess it could be a mix of all the UI gestures iincluded iOS

      • Luis Augusto Fretes Cuevas

        Jolla's gesture are pretty sucky, it doesn't look nearly as polished as MeeGO did. Ubuntu has a lot more gestures, including getting access to fast setting and the in-app menu.

      • http://twitter.com/misterE33 Mr E

        it's very pretty!

      • József Király

        Not that much. And if they would actually tell people it uses QML/Qt for native apps, many would think it's just a nice UI over the Mer core. But unless they release more info, we cannot be sure.

      • xmRipper
      • http://withinmobile.com/ WithinMobile.com

        For a start, it looks and behaves completely different from W8 or Sailfish OS.

    • http://twitter.com/misterE33 Mr E

      i have to agree. this was the first time in a while that i felt a little dazzled watching the demo.

      • http://them3blog.wordpress.com/ Abel

        I think is not crazy, android is slowly moving from buttons I can see it possible when search was eliminated with 4.0 people asked how hard it would be to search without it, now a swipe from the home gives people all their search they need really quick, this gestures are interesting plus no more accidental presses or people nagging about how much screen on screen buttons take

        • 8Charlie

          They should just make the on screen buttons swipable. But all the gestures make it reallllyyy difficult for a newcomer to use the phone. And if your phone needs a demo to explain itself that might not be the best sign. Look at iOS: I hate Apple, but when it comes to ease of use, they're doing something right.

          Could you imagine if someone picked up the phone while already in an app? They would have no idea how to get out of it or how to close it. No one is gonna try and swipe up to see the options, or do any swiping at all really. So on second thought, leave the buttons on screen on Android.

          • http://them3blog.wordpress.com/ Abel

            I don't know, I think iOS has been overtaken by people saying its simple when its not so simple... If a popular OS evolved slowly into being similar to this people would be familiar with it... This could be a setting that gets toogled on an off and that devs get used to, if its faster and more comfortable people will get used to it, for example chrome has tabs, going though tabs is easy by taping them, but is even easyer to switch tabs by swiping from the corners to the point I feel is better than going and taping on each, I can control the phone with one hand while browsing and I can't wait to get full screen. Its a matter of people getting used to it and you giving them the cake slowly

          • 8Charlie

            I see your point, but still I'm on the fence. I think that people that read these blogs will use those gestures, but not the average user. Even I, knowing perfectly well that it exists and that it's easier, don't use the tab swiping feature on Chrome.

            Can you think of any gesture that is currently popular among average users? Aside from pinch-to-zoom and double tap (both of which zoom in on the current page/object and don't bring in a new screen) there aren't many. Even shortcuts that have been around for decades Windows/Alt-key shortcuts and even Ctrl+C/X/V are not well-known at all among users.

          • ssj4Gogeta

            Swiping down the notification bar.

          • 8Charlie

            I hear you. But a gesture from an edge of a screen with no kind of hint or visual cue whatsoever is very different from the notification pane. Even iOS's system has some kind of a hint to give u a clue

          • http://them3blog.wordpress.com/ Abel

            It can be made so people understand it, for example look at the new lock screen on 4.2 it hints people to swipe on the sides to go somewhere, for now is the lock screen but what happens then they keeps adding this? People will become familiar that swiping does something in some places they might get used to know swiping does something everywhere....

            Look at all the swiping things android is droid so fat

            Swipe to open messages and apps on the lockscreen (touch wiz)
            Swipe for the pull down notification bar
            Swipe to dismiss notifications
            Swipe on gmail
            Swipe on chrome
            Swipe to switch tabs on apps

            I think those are hints hints of where will be going to

          • daniel candelaria

            Are you kidding my grandpa knows copy and paste shortcuts and he's seriously the most tech illiterate person I know. He calls apps "abs".

          • ssj4Gogeta

            Nobody would have thought of touching the screen to see if something happened a few years back. Gestures are here to stay.

          • http://www.facebook.com/dwhenderson Darren Wood Henderson

            I think you're looking at history with 20/20 vision. I've seen plenty of people fumble with iOS the first time they use it. Practically any person over the age of 50 has a steep learning curve the first time they pick up an iPhone. Drastic changes to the way we interact with our devices are always received with conservative worry. People scoffed at the mouse. Now it is ubiquitous and shortly may be obsolete.

    • kool_dude

      The top edge swipe alone would be enough. Totally beats Google's Quick Settings implementation.

    • http://www.techmansworld.com/ Michael Hazell

      It's also entirely possible to get the Android Java VM running on Ubuntu Touch, so this means that some could ditch Android entirely if they wanted to.

  • jdomann

    I'd think when they say Galaxy Nexus, they probably mean maguro/takju not toro. I'd think the VZW variant has too many proprietary drivers (CDMA/LTE) for Ubuntu to work. Though I'd really hope it is toro....

    • fixxmyhead

      keep dreaming

  • Cuvis

    Looks pretty nifty. I wonder... since it uses the Android kernel, could one install a Dalvik VM like Alien Dalvik and get full Android compatibility? That seems like It'd help with the app issue in the early going.

    • Anon

      No. There's more to Android than just the Kernel and Dalvik. If you bring an shit ton more of modules in, maybe it would work. But at that point, it would be more like having Fedora and Ubuntu installed and running at the same time on a PC (without any virtualization). Could be done, but not something one would do.

      • Cuvis

        You sure? Because Alien Dalvik seems to get a lot of Android apps working on other platforms (Maemo, Meego, desktop Ubuntu, et. al.), so I'd figure it'd work even better with something that uses the same kernel.

  • andy gowrley

    The big market is if they can ekk life out of older (think how many gnex are being slowly upgraded to nexus 4) and that second cheap low spec phone wheter its second phone or all you want.
    Give people email, im, and a browser possibly ebook and or pdf reader,a basic video and music/podcast player if it can handle it video call and access to maps and possibly the need for every app is not there.
    There's a big market for the net book phone low cost basic smartphones..

    • 8Charlie

      Big market for second phones? I really doubt that. And even low end phones already have that. What really matters is if any manufacturers will actually pre-install this. People don't tinker with OSes on their phones, nerds do. Consumers are not into flashing at all, especially not to get an OS with almost the same features and a lot less apps that the one currently installed. I can definitely say that it's pretty but that really doesn't seem like enough of a reason.

  • Greyhame

    Love the subtle plugs of Tolkien. Looks a little muddled but it's definitely interesting.

  • GigiAUT

    I haven't seen a UI that beautiful since MIUI. I'm excited about this!

  • Daniel


  • ConCal

    Cool, the more the merrier (unless its iOS) I look forward to flashing this and playing around with it when devs port it to my phone.

  • http://twitter.com/nevetsg nevetsg

    I am sorry but his legs look like the legs of a muppet and he is suspended by something.

  • 8Charlie

    How is this different in terms of having a different UI on PCs, Tablets and other devices? Devices have different UIs because sitting a feet or two away from a screen with a mouse and keyboard, touching a huge glass pane and holding a small 5in screen have different demands and dictate different use. This is the same. The Ubuntu on the pc has the same background picture as on the phone, other than that I see a different UI.

    But aside from the overuse of the words magic, awesome and brilliant, it was a nice keynote from Ap... i mean Canonical.

    It'll be nice to have an extra player, though I'm still very skeptical. One thing I'm not a fan of at all. The over-reliance on gestures. Believe it or not, it's very hard to remember "left is apps, right is multi task, below is options, op top is search, but left full is something else, etc.". Think of old feature phone and some old PC programs that used to have this (even Windows 8). Eventually you end up using the left shortcut, but never use the other ones. I don't want to have to remember all of that, I'll write it on a post-it and stick onto my phone.

    But Ill give it the benefit f the doubt, so I'll try it out.

  • scuttlefield

    And I just happen to have a Galaxy Nexus sitting around waiting for a purpose...

  • Cherokee4Life

    EVO LTE!!! EVO LTE!!! please and thank you

  • http://www.swehes.com/ Hans-Erik

    SGH-T999. That should be the next supported one. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=592526552 RhY Thornton

    Do they automagically cluster and share CPU cycles? If so I'd be ALL OVER that shit. Oh yeah, and as long as it's not shit brown. LOL. Ubuntu....

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=592526552 RhY Thornton

      Better yet, what if all my devices synced automagically and my laptop, desktop, tablet, and phone all had the same data as soon as they were in the same room together. Instant backup of my home folder on all 4 devices would be SICK. I don't want the cloud. I want MY data, seemlessly replicated on all my datas. Your cloud can go take a hike.

      • http://www.swehes.com/ Hans-Erik

        Just set up your own cloud server. No problem. :)

  • RayLTechnews

    Hey, look! A mobile version of a desktop OS to run on top of your phones mobile version of a desktop OS, because F*CK your battery life.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

      You need the device to be docked to access the "desktop convergence" and I am pretty sure that the dock is already self powered.

  • Sergii Pylypenko

    Should I resurrect my Ubuntu Noroot app?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

    C'mon XDA, help good ol' Hal out and provide a sweet Ubuntu ROM for his Galaxy S II.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

    Do you think this means we will get Linux Mint for phones too with a mobile implementation of Cinnemon? XD

    • Matti

      INB4 the "Arch is better" crowd shows up! =P

  • banjoonmyknee

    I'm looking at this and thinking that it is not a coincidence that Amazon search is integral to the new Ubuntu experience. I wonder if Amazon will use this as its basis for Kindle Fire going forward? or a Kindle phone? It looks to me like a perfect match.

  • Carlos abreu

    this is amazing!!!

  • http://profiles.google.com/zandmstudios Steven Zang

    I love Ubuntu. But I don't have a Galaxy Nexus...

  • Jimbo

    I have a feeling Google will be buying Ubuntu soon. Damn, this new phone OS looks promising!!

  • http://profiles.google.com/charitojohn John charitos

    looks great! , i feel lucky to have a gnex still. Will definitely try and i love the lockscreen or " welcome Screen " as they call it.

  • Magnifico8

    these are by far the best gestures I've seen...I hope this OS will be available for the S2 soonest... XD

  • Waan

    Wow, amazing UI , i think it's the future smartphone OS

  • cerebra

    just one question:
    will native linux apps works under this OS ?

  • spunkysam

    i love variety

  • GazaIan

    I'm kind of excited for this. Seeing how it's running on a Galaxy Nexus, we can be assured that it isn't impossible to port it to Android devices.

    *drops $100*

    I'll be waiting, developers.

  • Bariman43

    I can't stand Ubuntu desktop, mostly because it's so difficult to find good apps to replace those on my Windows partition. As for Ubuntu mobile though, it looks absolutely wonderful. I'll definitely be trying this out as soon as it drops.

  • Jorge Ivan Sanchez Gonzalez

    This interface is really beautiful