Ubuntu unveiled its first, full smartphone operating system earlier this month. Unlike Ubuntu for Android, which is a dual-boot mobile version that runs alongside the Android OS, this version is an OS in its own right.
Ubuntu has kept the OS “lightweight”, so it can be installed on both low-and high-end phones. You will be able to install it on the Galaxy Nexus phone within the next few weeks, and on other phones soon after. We hope the final version does not have the significant lag and jerky swiping of the beta version we tested.
The OS has been designed to look like the Desktop version of Ubuntu, with the same fonts and colours, and an app launcher bar. It has the same features, too, such as built-in Ubuntu One cloud storage, and a global search lens, which lets you search apps, files, music, the web and more directly from your phone’s home screen.
A new tool you won’t find on the Desktop version is ‘Edge magic’. This gives you menus on the four edges of your screen which stay hidden until you swipe the relevant edge. It makes accessing the menus much faster, but it also takes a lot of getting used to because it’s annoyingly easy to open menus and switch apps by accidentally knocking the screen. Another irritation is having to create a PIN to make an app secure, because there’s no lock screen.
Because Ubuntu mobile supports HTML5, all the web apps developed for Ubuntu Desktop, including Gmail and Facebook, will work on it. You can also use apps created by developers, although only a handful have been made so far.
Having such a small number of apps available means that only diehard Ubuntu fans who want to use the OS on all their devices will be interested. And we think even they will find it a bit disappointing.