Ubuntu for Phones review - hands on
Posted on 3 Jan 2013 at 15:15, by Gareth Halfacree
Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system, has announced plans to launch a version of its software for smartphones, dubbed Ubuntu for Phones. We were on hand at the launch with Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical, to find out what the phone OS has to offer and how it differs from existing mobile operating systems.
Based on the same underlying technology as its desktop operating system - an approach favoured by Apple, which uses the same software kernel for its iPhone and iPad iOS platform as it does for its OS X desktop and laptop operating system - Ubuntu for Phones is designed to offer the same power and flexibility of Canonical's full-fat Ubuntu software but in a format that runs on existing smartphone hardware. Aimed atg both entry-level and high-end smartphone devices, Ubuntu for Phones builds heavily on work done by Google for its Android mobile platform, using many of the same drivers - meaning that Ubuntu for Phones should be compatible with any device that can run Android, including Samsung's flagship Galaxy S3 and Google's own Nexus 4 handsets.
As with the most recent versions of Ubuntu desktop, Ubuntu for phones uses the Unity interface, designed to give over more space to applications and removing a lot of the clutter that usually dominates an OS.
With a smartphone this is arguably even more important, as the screen space is even more limited. With this in mind, the interface has been redeveloped, leaving as much of the screen free for content and applications as possible. Ubuntu for Phones is also designed to make accessing your information incredibly fast using just one hand.
First, is the lock screen, although as Shuttleworth is keen to point out, "It's not a lock screen, it's a welcome screen."
It's designed to show you information, including missed calls, new Tweets and the number of new messages. However, it also serves as a launcher for your favourite apps.
Just swipe in from the left-hand-side of the screen to bring up the Launcher, which will be familiar to anyone that's used the Desktop version of the OS before. Tap any icon on the Launcher and your app starts immediately. This is one step ahead of most smartphones that only provide access to the camera via the lock screen.
As security could be a concern, Ubuntu for phones can be locked and set so that any of your quick-launch applications that access private data, such as Facebook, will require an unlock code before they launch.
Outside of the welcome screen, there's the full OS with its home screens. These are all built around different aspects of the phone, and are designed to show your most popular data. For example, on the Apps screen, you can see what's running, what your most common apps are and apps you can install; the Contacts screen shows you the people that you most commonly talk to; and the messages screen shows you new messages no matter which service they come through, such as Facebook, email or SMS.
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