New Ubuntu Phone OS – Elegance, distilled

Here comes the Ubuntu Phone OS: “Designed to make all your phone content easier to access and your apps more immersive – every edge has a specific purpose, making all your apps, content and controls instantly accessible, without navigating back to the home screen every time. And the Ubuntu phone fits perfectly into the wider family of Ubuntu interfaces, alongside the PC and TV. It’s a uniquely, beautifully converged experience.”


View of Ubuntu-based Phones

The phone version of the Ubuntu OS will support both HTML5 apps as well as the native apps specific to Ubuntu. The native apps are developed using C++, QML and OpenGL. Both types of apps will be available through the Ubuntu app store, operated by Canonical.  Native apps in general will be optimised for better performance and advanced features. Other apps would be slightly less optimised, running HTML5. This is probably the bulk of the applications that would be attractive to the general population of mobile users.

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The user interface of this OS does not use any hardware keys or even software keys. Instead, it relies on swipe controls to get things done. For example, to access the Unity application launcher that comes with it, the user swipes across the phone from the left edge of the screen. Then, to switch between running applications, the same motion is executed from the right edge instead. To access the system setting, that means swiping from the top edge of the screen (this is the notification for Android, if you remember). Finally, a swipe from the bottom edge will bring up application-specific/context settings and features.


The vision of the Ubuntu OS is to achieve full compatibility for applications across the desktop, smartphone, TV and tablet by version 14.04. Since the current Ubuntu version is 13.04, and basing on a six-month release cycle for the OS, this vision would materialize in about a year or so. In terms of availability, the first smartphones running Ubuntu will likely start shipping before the end of this year i.e. latest by Dec 2013 (for Android) or in 2014. Watch the trailer below for a sneak look at it.

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