Nowadays, different models of smartphones are coming out quite frequently, but they use only a few operating systems and recently the need for something new has been rising sensibly. However, Canonical Ltd. (the company behind Ubuntu, Bazaar and other systems and products) is almost ready to release a new mobile operating system – Ubuntu Phone. It was announced and previewed on January 2 and its official release date is about the end of February.
The main idea of the OS is to serve the users of smartphones just like the version. The core technologies of the two systems (the desktop and the mobile) are the same, which means that they would be able to use one and the same applications, which is what Microsoft is trying to develop for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 for desktops. What is more, the Ubuntu Phone system will come with all the components of the Desktop version so, when the user connect the device to an external monitor, it will realise a copy of the full version for desktops.
Ubuntu Phone is taking after Ubuntu for desktops and it uses a Unity version for mobiles to create a new graphical environment. The OS’s interface is created with the use of QML and Qt. However, apps can be written in many other languages except Qt – for example HTML5 and other frameworks. Ubuntu maintains the capability of HTML5 apps to use the system completely with all the trays, notifications and features. In order to get new software or to update the already installed one, the system uses APT that has been modified and is different from the original version for desktops. It does not install apps that haven’t been adapted for smaller screens.
One of the best things about Ubuntu Phone is that it is compatible with standard Android Kernel. This means the system will work with the newest Android-based smartphones, which is part of the plan of Ubuntu – to create and maintain one operating system that will be used on all possible devices – smartphones, laptops, the cloud, tablets, TVs, and ‘supercomputers’.
Ubuntu Phone lacks a lock-screen, because, according to the developers, there’s no need for it. However, we expect that SimCard unlock feature will be included. On the place of the lock-screen, there is the Ubuntu Home Screen. The Home Screen environment is supposed to be changing through the process of using the device, showing notifications, status etc. with animations around the circle.
If you equip your phone with a full session of Ubuntu, it will turn into the Desktop version when connected to a dock station. Then all Ubuntu Desktop features will be available for the users and the system will provide the opportunity to use office applications faster and easier and even play AMR-ready games on the device. Moreover, a mutual Ubuntu One account will provide synchronization between the storage of the phone and the cloud. Similar to iTunes, Ubuntu One will have a Music Store, where the user would purchase and listen to music.
At present, the developers are working on 12+ applications for Ubuntu Phone. These are core apps and include social network and multimedia website clients (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, a RSS Reader), as well as the standard applications like calculator, mail client, alarm clock, terminal, file manager etc.
Design-wise, Ubuntu Phone will be similar to the Desktop version. It will have launcher, dash and application toolbar. The users will navigate through the whole screen by fingers swiping. The left edge gives instant access to the launcher and the applications pinched to it, as well as to the dash – the home of the apps, files and contacts. The dash can be accessed from the home screen and from any launched app. If you swipe from right to left, you will access the system’s multitasking – the app used before the current one is switched one. To go back, just use the left-side launcher. Swiping you finger to the bottom hides or shows the app toolbar and thus the application runs in fullscreen (which is by default).
Early version of Ubuntu Phone system will be available soon for Android-based phones, in this number Galaxy Nexus. The source code will be open and will enable developers to modify the system and the software. About the end of 2013 is expected a device that will be designed specifically for the system.
Reception and Expectations
The announcement of Ubuntu Phone provoked controversy and arguments. Some specialists think that the system won’t be able to compete with iOS and Android and even doubt its winning over Windows Phone. However, others maintain the thesis that Ubuntu Phone will target developing markets and will gain a lot of popularity in countries like India and China where the Desktop version is pre-installed in a great part of the computers and the people are familiar with it. Other prospective customers would be companies on tight budget that will be able to afford the product. However, Ubuntu Phone will not be attracting only with its open source, but also with the many features that will facilitate the work of office employers and businessmen, as well as with the full Desktop Ubuntu mode that will provide a great number of advantages.