Ubuntu's Touch OS preview released for Nexus tablets and phones

Ubuntu's Touch OS preview released for Nexus tablets and phones

Summary: Ubuntu Touch is here, but users have been warned not to run it on their primary device, as it has number of kinks still to be worked out.

Ubuntu Touch Preview
Ubuntu Touch is here, but users have been warned not to run it on their primary device, as it has number of kinks still to be worked out. Image: Canonical

Seven weeks after it was announced, Canonical has released images and open source code for the Developer Preview of the Ubuntu Touch OS, currently destined for Nexus smartphones and tablets.

The preview release offers the usual mobile features, such as phone calls, GSM, Wi-Fi and SMS support, but the Ubuntu project warns that the version is not ready for consumers:

"We recommend to install the Touch Developer Preview only if you are a developer or enthusiast who wants to test or contribute to the platform. It is not intended to replace production devices or the tablet or handset you use every day."

Supported devices include the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4 smartphones as well as the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets. Ubuntu's installation instruction page provides links to the factory firmware images from Google to restore Android. 

The release notes provide a few good reasons for Canonical to stress that the preview OS should not be used as a primary device's OS. 

The Touch Preview supports Wi-Fi but not some 3G and 4G networks, such as CDMA and LTE, while the OS may destabilise the device's features, according to the notes. The Nexus 4, for example, may "not be able to boot at all" after the battery is drained, with the only resolution to pop the back off and unplug/plug in the battery connector. Using the camera application on the Nexus 10 could also cause issues with audio controls, and the Nexus 7 runs in portrait mode by default.

SMS is supported, but unstable and the OS does not include support for emergency calls without a SIM, PIN/PUK for locked SIMs, or the speakerphone.

The apps that come as part of the release include gallery, phone dialler, SMS and address book, front and back camera, browser, media player and notepad.

User interface features the OS brings to the touch devices include:  

  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.
  2. Deep content immersion: controls appear only when the user wants them.
  3. A global search for apps, content and products.
  4. Voice and text commands in any application for faster access to rich capabilities.
  5. Both native and web or HTML5 apps.
  6. Evolving personalised art on the welcome screen.

Topics: Ubuntu, Android, Linux, Mobile OS, Mobility, Open Source

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • Great news for Ubuntu developers

    It will be good for Conical to get input from the development community on this first developer release of Ubuntu's Touch OS.

    This will be a very interesting product to watch as it develops toward the consumer release in the Fall.

    Kool stuff
    • Agree

      It seems to me that Ubuntu/Linux is farther along the "all devices" integration than either Apple or MS. Getting the same OS and apps to run on smart phones, tablets, desktops/notebooks and TVs is where we all want to go I think.

      Given Linux's dominance in mobile, the maturity of Linux on the desktop and the open source nature of the OS, I think a Linux based solution will ultimately prevail and become dominant. There are too many players who are fearful of a single, profit oriented enterprise dominating and "taxing" all of our personal computing.

      MS and Apple are ultimately doomed in this endeavor.
      • I'm not sure I understand

        Apple - iPHone-iPad-iPad Mini-Apple TV- OSX (BTW started the whole thing anyway)
        MS - WP, Win8 Table, Win8 Desktop.

        I'm missing something and the kernel in all of them are the same.

        So the only thing I see is yet another angry Geek/ff worker providing yet another silly asinine forecast "MS and Apple are ultimately doomed in this endeavor." Long live this is the year of the xxxx desktop.

        Yet I see MS in the enterprise and home, Apple in the enterprise and home - Linux - limited to the backroom servers and partially at that - no desktop, no phones (out there yes used ....ehhh).
        • iOS is not yet OSX and...

          Windows ARM is not nearly Win x86.
          Ubuntu is ONE KERNEL
          I tried Ubuntu Touch on my Nexus 7. It did work, but the lack of Outlook support... well it's not fully baked yet. It felt a bit strange.
          I went back to Jelly Bean, but it was painless to move back and forth. A dual-boot solution seems like an option.
        • value of linux vs others

          You're a little ignorant if you don't see the value of Linux overall. Mac products are great for the everyman but if you want to get serious business done and run those products on in a stable environment you don't use Windows OR Mac.

    No intention to diverge, but I will continue supporting the original Android platform and it's growth on my NEXUS 7.
    If you have several, well, sure, time to experiment...!
  • Ubuntu's biggest chance is with the "device convergence" model

    I think they're in competition with Android in being first to a practical, real-world "single device" that can be used across the spectrum of use cases, via docks and external peripherals.

    MS and Apple could head that direction - but I don't believe they WANT to, they WANT you buying multiple devices, as do the OEMs. I don't think MS and Apple will head that way until/unless it becomes apparent that their old architecture/business model is becoming obsolete.
  • Not seeing a need to supplant Android

    The Nexus 7 that I bought a couple of months ago, in lieu of upgrading to a newer iPad, is surpassing my expected usefulness and has confirmed that, at least in its current Jelly Bean state, Android is a viable alternative to iOS. I also run Ubuntu Linux and the Linux Mint variant on two laptops, so consider me a fan there as well. However, given the maturity of Android in support of touchscreen devices, its ongoing app ecosystem, and its overall stability, I can't find a compelling reason to override my Nexus 7 with Linux at this time. Given that Android is itself a Linux derivative, I'm not seeing how Ubuntu will be able to distinguish itself in a way that would make me replace Android on my Nexus 7, even given my usual experimental nature.
  • considering I hate the unity interface...

    I'm running Ubuntu on a netbook I have, and I hate the unity interface, if for no other reason than every time I mouse over to the left side of the screen to click something (like the "back" button on a browser) the menu slides out and covers what I was trying to click...

    ...so I'm equally interested in this new interface for my netbook.
    And why not try it on my Nexus 7 at some slightly more stable point in the future?
  • Why didn't the author try it out?

    I would be much interested in hearing a personal account of trying it out and not a rehashing of an announcement which can be read on countless other websites. Doesn't ZDNet have an extra nexus lying around to try it on?