Ubuntu for phones announced

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 3, 2013
Updated • Jun 3, 2019
Mobile Computing

The mobile phone market is an ever changing place and companies that were once on top may find themselves at the bottom of the food chain after short periods of time. It happened to Nokia which was steamrolled by Apple and Google, and also Blackberry. While both companies are still in the business, they have a hard time winning back lost market share.

Ubuntu, the company responsible for the popular Linux distribution of the same name, has just announced Ubuntu for Phones which will be unveiled for the first time on this year's CES in Las Vegas from January 7-11, 2013.

Update: You can check out the list of supported devices and community devices on the official Ubuntu Touch website. End

The phone comes in two main flavors, first as an entry level Ubuntu smartphone and then as a Ubuntu superphone which not only includes everything the entry level provides but also with desktop convergence capabilities. What this means? You can connect the phone to a computer monitor to use it as a thin client.

Check out the system requirements below:

System requirements for smartphones Entry level Ubuntu smartphone High-end Ubuntu "superphone"
Processor architecture 1Ghz Cortex A9 Quad-core A9 or Intel Atom
Memory 512MB – 1GB Min 1GB
Flash storage 4-8GB eMMC + SD Min 32GB eMMC + SD
Multi-touch yes yes
Desktop convergence no yes

Not many phones of today are supported by the superphone when you take the requirements into account. While 1 Gigabyte of memory should not be that of an issue, the 32 Gigabyte minimum Flash storage space certainly is.

And this is how it looks like:

ubuntu phone

Prefer moving pictures? Here you go the official announcement trailer:

And here a 21 minute long announcement by Ubuntu's founder Mark Shuttleworth.

Information provided are rare at the moment. The phone seems to support all the latest technologies including HTML5 and apps can be created not only for the phone but also for the desktop at the same time.

The phone supports a couple of new design choices and options that sets it apart from other smartphones. A short swipe from the left for instance displays a small bar of favorite apps and the developers promise that you will switch faster between apps than on any other phone. A swipe from the right takes you back to the last application you have used, and swiping from the bottom reveals app controls.

The option to use the phone as a thin client is very interesting and should have lots of appeal with tech savvy users, especially those who already work with Ubuntu systems. Will it be enough to snag away market share from Google or Apple? Or will it compete with Mozilla's Firefox OS instead?

A truly open phone, one that you can hack and modify the way you want to without having to root it first, would surely be something of interest. It is not clear how and if contents and features are locked in the Ubuntu phone, guess we will find out more about that during this year's CES.

According to The Verge, first phones powered by Ubuntu for phones will come out in early 2014 or the last quarter of 2013. Ars Technica reports that Ubuntu 14.04 will be the first image that works across all devices, be it desktop PCs, tablets or smartphones.

Now You: Would you run an Ubuntu phone?

Ubuntu for phones announced
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Ubuntu for phones announced
Canonical, parent company of Ubuntu Linux, revealed Ubuntu for phones in 2013 and renamed it later to Ubuntu Touch instead.
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  1. berttie said on January 3, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    I recently concluded that the fragmented way the Android OS was distributed was a potentially huge security risk because of the potential long delays in getting updates to fix security holes. There hasn’t been an update for my Samsung phone since May last year, for example. However, locking myself into either the Apple or Microsoft ecosystems doesn’t appeal either, so Ubuntu may be a good alternative.

  2. Tom said on January 3, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    Nice alternative to Android, albeit No widgets and quite late to the game.

  3. ilev said on January 3, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    You will be able to install Ubuntu OS on any current Android device.

  4. Yossi said on January 3, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    Too late in the game for a new player.

    1. James O'Brien said on January 4, 2013 at 6:05 pm

      Although I have no intention of moving away from the Android environment any time soon, it’s never too late for a new player. Still, I wonder how successful this will be for Ubuntu, when their market share is still very small.

      1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 4, 2013 at 6:07 pm

        I’d say it depends a lot on how open the platform is. It is likely that it will perform better than Firefox OS.

  5. sades said on January 3, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Looks kinda exciting, but this probably won’t ever be relevant.

  6. Fitoschido said on January 3, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Nah, it actually remembered me of webOS. Which is not a bad thing at all.

  7. John D. said on January 3, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    So they basically copied all the edge swipes from Windows 8, great!

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