On January 2nd, 2013, Cannonical released a keynote on their Celebrate Ubuntu YouTube channel, where Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu, Cannonical demonstrated the features of the upcoming Ubuntu Touch for Phones OS. In this post, we’re going to put it into our words and views and tell you all about it.
Sure iOS and Android are the top names in the smartphone OS section, but critics definitely loved the MeeGo Harmattan on the Nokia N9, which was exclusive for the device itself if we don’t count the developer edition, the N950. The MeeGo Harmattan was a complete button-less operating system and it has been the smoothest and the best smartphone OS I have personally used. Sure it doesn’t have much apps, but how the operating system navigates itself is smooth. With the dawn of Android 4.0, Ice-Cream Sandwich, Google removed the need for physical of touch-sensitive buttons for Android, but it still had navigation buttons on integrated with the operating system itself. Ubuntu for Phones has gone the path of the MeeGo Harmattan of the Nokia N9 by not having the need for navigation buttons at all, which means more room for the applications you use.
Now, coming back to the OS itself, Ubuntu Touch has renamed what we call “Lock Screen” to “Welcome Screen”. It doesn’t make any significant changes, but it does sound a bit soothing on the mental side of the user, though.
The welcome screen shows the notifications like new messages, missed calls, remaining talk time, etc. along with showing the date and time. Now, as stated by Mr. Shuttleworth, Ubuntu Touch uses all the edges for user-interaction.
Each of the edge has a different functionality and all of them can be accessed from any application/homescreen you are in.
The left edge:
On swiping from the left, the app shortcuts or the user’s favorite apps’ shortcuts are displayed, which, when tapped open up the application without the user having to navigate to the app screen first.
From the menu that is displayed on swiping from the left edge, to go to the homescreen, the user will have to select the Homescreen icon.
The bottom edge:
The bottom swipe shows the in-app options. For example, in the picture above, swiping from the bottom within the Events app shows the bar having the in-app options. This removes the need for a separate button to access the in-app options.
The top edge:
On swiping down from the left side of the top edge, the Search option will show up, which allows you to search all the contents of your phone with a single app, just like the Search app on the Ubuntu Desktop Interface.
On swiping down from the other part of the top edge, the pull-down notification menu is displayed, in which when you swipe to the sides, the different options for the pull-down menu are displayed.
On releasing after selecting the option for the pull-down menu, the menu goes all the way to the bottom and allows you to select the different toggles and setting and the notifications of the respective option.
The right edge:
On the homescreen, when the right swipe is performed, the screen makes a transition from one screen to the another, for example, in the picture above, the transition is made from the Music screen to the Videos screen. When the swipe is performed from within an app, it allows to you go back to the previous application you were on, thus allowing you to check any other app quickly without having the need of going back all the way to the shortcuts or the Apps screen for accessing the app you were originally working on.
Also from the welcome screen, swiping to the right actually unlocks it and takes you to the various pages/screens inside the interface.
On making a full swipe gesture from the left edge, the user will be taken to the Apps menu from any app the user is on.
From within an app, swiping all the way from the bottom to the top, voice-commands will be activated, which will let you command the application to perform a function. For example, if the user is editing a picture and he activates the voice-command and says “Sepia”, the application will show different options and the user will have to select the option, which will result into the operation being performed.
Now, for the developers, Ubuntu Touch for Phones will support Web Apps as well as Native Apps. Both of the applications will have equal status on the operating system and both of them will be allowed to send notifications to the user. The apps made on the native code will have access to the hardware and will run faster and smoother, which is an obvious fact. Developers can download the SDK for developing apps for the OS. The SDK is already made available on Cannonical’s website. The native applications will run across all Ubuntu devices.
On the homescreen, all the recent activity of the user such as the people he/she has recently called, the apps the user has recently used, the music recently added, etc. The information that is displayed on the homescreen can be altered and information form various sources can be displayed.
Services like Ubuntu One (Cannonical’s Cloud storage) will be made available on the devices running the OS.
As for the operators, the OS will be customizable according to different operators.
Android, iOS and Windows Phone already have a head-start in the smartphone industry, which makes the success of Cannonical’s operating system a bit doubtful. Also, Ubuntu won’t support apps already developed for Android, so developers will have to port the application to the new operating system.
If you have a Galaxy Nexus or a Nexus 4, you can flash the operating system on your device with the official image released by Cannonical. The step-by-step instructions can be found here. Devices running Ubuntu Touch will be released as early as 2014. Also, Cannonical has announced Ubuntu Touch for Tablets, which is now available for Nexus 7 and Nexus 10.
Also, Ubuntu Touch is in works for the following devices:
For manufacturers, if you want to make an entry level Ubuntu Touch smartphone, you will need to put a 1Ghz Cortex A9 processor, 512MB-1GB of RAM and 4GB-8GB of internal storage plus the option to expand it via SD card for the OS to function smoothly. For a higher-end smartphone, a Quad-core Cortex A9 or an Intel Atom processor along with 1GB or RAM and 32GB of internal storage with the option to expand it via SD card will be needed. The higher-end smartphones can be converted to a full desktop interface by connecting a keyboard and a mouse to it. Both the high-end and the entry level smartphones need to have multi-touch support.
Be sure to stay tuned for more updates. Cheers!