Ubuntu Touch: First look at the Linux smartphone OS

The interface is mostly clean and simple and made for nerds.

Ubuntu Touch

The first developer preview of Ubuntu Touch – aka “Ubuntu for Phones and Tablets” – was unveiled just a few short months ago. And, just a few weeks back, it was announced that the team was shooting for having a fully functional (aka “can use it as your actual phone, on a daily basis”) version by the end of May. May is now over. So let's take a look at where Ubuntu Touch is at.


Ubuntu for phones: A Q&A explainer

Ubuntu Touch
The Keypad

Being as Ubuntu Touch is meant to be a phone (and tablet) platform, the ability to make phone calls is pretty important. And, by Jove, the team has accomplished that feat. The dialer is simple and classy (and functional). That's a general theme throughout the default Ubuntu Touch apps. And, for a mobile platform, that seems just about perfect.

Ubuntu Touch
The Calendar

One of the rather cool things about Ubuntu Touch is that Canonical is involving the community in the “core app” building process, giving us all the chance to make this mobile platform exactly what we want it to be. The Calendar app is one example of that in action. Once again: simple and classy, although a bit buggy when I tested it. But we're still in the “Developer Preview” stage, so I'll forgive them a few bugs.

Ubuntu Touch
The Calculator

This is a calculator. I wish I had more to tell you about it. It works like a calculator, with numbers and everything. The “Equals” button is orange, maybe a bit...too orange. I mean, let's be honest with each other. That's a lot of orange.

Ubuntu Touch
Friends: The Social Network Feed

There's a lot to soak in in this screenshot. First off: this is the Friends app. All your social networks in one timeline (note the posts from both Twitter and Facebook). Also take note of the status bar on the top of the screen – simple and exactly what you'd expect from a modern phone. Then there's the keyboard, simple and straightforward, with no major frills.

Ubuntu Touch
The Terminal

This is the current state of the Terminal application. I have mixed emotions about it. On one hand, this is a terminal. On a phone. By default. (This is Linux, after all.) On the other hand... that is the ugliest Terminal I think I've ever seen. Is it so ugly that I won't use it? Heck no. In fact, you'll have to pry this Terminal from my cold, dead hands. Still, it could be a smidge less “oh wow, that's an ugly Terminal” looking.

Ubuntu Touch
The Clock

Nobody has a watch anymore. When we want to know the time, we look at our phone. And the Clock app in Ubuntu Touch is pretty nice. Once again, it’s simple and classy, and with a few nice touches – such as displaying Sunrise/Sunset time.

Ubuntu Touch
The Stopwatch

Going along with the Clock is another standard tool that we all use our phones for: The Stopwatch. It's got sort of an old-school, egg-timer thing going on, and I dig it, because I will, in all likelihood, be using this when I make eggs.

Ubuntu Touch
Yes/No

This is a screenshot from the document viewer. I am including it here because I love it. Yes and No buttons in green and red - it's just so obvious and intuitive. More user interfaces should include this sort of style to indicate functionality. It also shows a great attention to detail.

Ubuntu Touch
The File Manager

We just don't see “File Managers” on phones very often. We get things like “Galleries” to browse through photos. Want to see the actual files on your phone – go find a third-party app. Or, if you have an iOS device...well, you're just plain out of luck. But the File Manager is a core app in Ubuntu Touch, and that makes this nerd very, very happy.

Ubuntu Touch
Pop-Up Menus

Tap and hold on an item (such as a file), and you expect a menu to appear showing what you can do with that item. Here's what that looks like (at present) in Ubuntu Touch. Simple, easy to read, intuitive. In short, I am impressed. Want to see some of this in action? Jono Bacon (from Canonical) has posted an excellent video showing Ubuntu Touch, running on a Nexus 4, making a phone call. If you are a developer working on new Ubuntu Touch Apps, drop me a line (G+, etc.). I'd love to hear about it.