January 2, 2013

Ubuntu for Phone: Next Android or another WebOS?

Earlier today, Ubuntu unveiled their first phone. It will be run on Ubuntu modified for smartphones allowing the user to plug into a dock which is connected to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to turn this superphone into a fully functional Ubuntu PC. So, in other words, you buy an phone and get a desktop for free! Ubuntu's founder, Mark Shuttleworth, says that he has been talking with phone manufacturers for the Ubuntu OS to be pre-installed into Android phones that are already in the market. This means we may be seeing Ubuntu run on the Samsung Galaxy SIII or Note II later in the year or at least get a ported version. Ubuntu also has Ubuntu for Android which is an application that runs alongside Android. As a preview, some phones running Ubuntu will be showcased at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas next week.

There are already 45,000 native apps for Ubuntu and developers are now working on changing their apps' UI on a phone's screen yet offer the same functionality. Popular social networks such as Facebook and Twitter will have compatible apps for the Ubuntu phone. Since Ubuntu and Android are very similar, both software and hardware porting should be a piece of cake. As for the touch-based controls of the phone, it will be using the same QML (Qt Modelling Language) framework being utilized by the upcoming Blackberry 10 operating system. In addition, the phone can run HTML5 web apps.

There will be 2 versions of this phone: Entry Level Ubuntu Smartphone, and the High-end Ubuntu "Superphone".

System requirements for smartphonesEntry level Ubuntu SmartphoneHigh-end Ubuntu "Superphone"
Processor architecture1Ghz Cortex A9Quad-core A9 or Intel Atom
Memory512MB – 1GBMin 1GB
Flash storage4-8GB eMMC + SDMin 32GB eMMC + SD
Desktop convergenceNoYes
This phone will feature the usual amenities that new smartphones have. There are basic features such as phone calls, SMS and MMS, email, web browsing, photography, and a music player. But what makes this phone so unique? One feature it has is when you take a picture, it is instantly uploaded to your Ubuntu One personal cloud account, making it accessible on all your devices (iOS, Android, and Windows), oddly reminiscent of Apple's PhotoStream. Also, as aforementioned, once you dock your phone, connecting it to a monitor, keyboard, and a mouse, this phone will be a fully functional desktop version of Ubuntu.

The high-end "superphones" are as powerful as ultra-light laptops. Consumers can dock the phone and it will become a full PC. The phone features LTE speeds for fast browsing speeds as wells as free cloud storage using the Ubuntu One Database (U1DB) cloud-syncing database which allows any kind of data to uploaded.

In conclusion, the Ubuntu phone is extremely powerful and gives the user freedom due in part to the fact that Ubuntu is an open source OS. HP tried to create a new OS, WebOS, and failed. The market is becoming supersaturated with mobile operating systems. Will Ubuntu be successful? Or will they fail like WebOS has? While Ubuntu is extremely cool, Android and iOS will still dominate the smartphone market.