This is a guest post written by Sookie Lioncourt.
After testing the developer’s build of Ubuntu Touch smartphone OS in 2013, the company behind Ubuntu Linux (Canonical) has finally confirmed that it will soon release its first batch of entry-level smartphones running the open-source operating system later this year. The company has teamed up with Meizu and Bq to be its initial Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). As compared to the open source Firefox OS released last year in consortium with Alacatel, the mobile edition of Ubuntu is not an HTML 5 or browser-based ecosystem. Similar to Android, it loads native Ubuntu applications (messaging, phone, and camera) flawlessly, even with the absence of wireless connectivity.
However, with Android and iOS dominating the global mobile industry (69% and 18% market share, respectively), how can Ubuntu Touch Smartphone OS fair in competition? What are the unique features and functionalities that the Ubuntu mobile device takes pride of? For this entry, we’ll give you all the information we have so far on the upcoming Ubuntu smart devices and its operating system.
Similar Android Experience
At a glance, the Ubuntu Touch OS looks similar to Android. It won’t give you any difficult learning curves to deal with, once you to migrate to the new system. The home screen view provides a search bar on the top (resembling Google search), which allows you to browse through your mobile contents quickly, along with the normal indicators we’ve seen on Android (signal strength, battery percentage, time, and icons for your incoming notifications). Its home screen user interface is more like a magazine reader. The app icons are visually rich with a giant thumbnail view of its content.
Newer Unlock Method
In Android, we are used to swiping any region of the screen to unlock the device. In iOS, we swipe the screen from left to right to enable the pass code entry form and access your home screen apps. Ubuntu’s style in this category is rather odd than with the Android and iOS. Instead, it requires you to tap the upper right edge of the screen and swipe it out in your desired direction to unlock it.
With Own Cloud Service
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols of ZDNET (http://www.zdnet.com/) pointed out on a similar blog that the new mobile OS has its own Cloud service — the Ubuntu One. This is where your smartphone files are stored and backed up. Once you’ve plugged your PC running the desktop version of the Linux software, you can access your smartphone’s content without the need to plug your device.
PC-like Experience on the Smart Launcher/Multitasker
If there’s one feature that we definitely enjoy in the Android platform, it is the smart multi-tasking pane that you can instantly activate by holding the home button. As highlighted by the Android consumer page of Telefonica’s O2 (http://www.o2.co.uk), this process allows you to jump from one application to another with ease. It provides you a preview of all your active applications at once and the power to close all of them simultaneously to save power.
The popular sidebar Launcher of Ubuntu Desktop is also ported to its mobile OS. This launcher is a side toolbar located on the left portion of the screen where you can instantly access all your installed applications (Facebook, web browser, Twitter, Gallery, and Camera), without having to browse individually through its default applications drawer. One tap will revive the last activity you had with your applications, provided that you did not restart your mobile device.
With Own Streaming Service
The Ubuntu Touch OS also comes with its own source of musical content — the Ubuntu One Music Store. In there, you can find a curated list of music available for download or for purchase. Since it is an open-source mobile OS, expect a lot of free content up for grabs.
A Whole World Of Apps
Upon seeing its official features page, one thing that caught our attention is the abundance of apps available for Ubuntu. Some of them are HTML 5 applications, while others are side-loaded Android tools. They’ve also released a software development kit for enthusiastic developers who want to port their apps to the ecosystem. So, when it officially debuts, it can be on par with both Android and iOS.
As reported by Jacob Kleinman of TechnoBuffalo, the first Ubuntu smartphones might carry an introductory price of $200-400 off-contract. Canonical is targeting people who are looking for a new mobile experience, but don’t want to shed too much money for a flagship device of their competitors. The specs and hardware are yet to be unveiled on its launch date on October 17, 2014.