Nowadays, the community is actively involved in the development and support of the project: it ports the firmware to various devices, prepares updates, writes and adapts applications. In this article, I would like to review Ubuntu Touch in 2022 and talk about what has changed in the OS during this time, how ready it is for everyday use, and describe my personal setup and operation experience.
I won’t cover how to install Ubports on a phone as the process is very different from model to model. You can check the list of supported devices on the developers website. There you can also find installation instructions for your device (or try looking for firmware on xda/w3bsit3-dns.com). I will only mention that all the actions described in the article will be performed on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 Pro SE (kate) phone.
DESKTOP AND GESTURES
When you launch Ubports for the first time, you will not see the usual application icons on the desktop, only a dock panel on the left side of the screen. Running applications are displayed here. On it you can pin the most frequently used programs. The standard desktop wallpaper is made in the usual purple-pink style for Ubuntu. I changed them first. This is done in the system settings.
Now let’s talk a little about gestures. At the time of the inception of Ubuntu Touch, gestures were one of the main features, since almost all interaction with the system was based on them. With the development of Ubports, many elements have been changed, due to which the interaction with the interface has also changed. A short swipe from left to right brings up the dock, but if you continue to move your finger to the right edge of the screen, the application menu will expand. With a short movement from right to left, a transition occurs between open programs, and if you continue to move your finger to the left side, a list of running applications will open.
By the way, to take a screenshot, you must simultaneously hold down the volume down and volume up buttons.
In addition to the voiced gesture, the application menu can be opened by pressing the “Ubuntu” button at the bottom of the dock. In it you can find a menu search bar and a list of all installed applications, including desktop apps added via Libertine and Android apps delivered via Anbox or Waydroid. To pin an icon to the dock panel, you need to launch the application, hold down its icon in the dock and select the appropriate item from the pop-up menu. If you try to hold your finger on any program in the application menu, then the page of this application in the OpenStore store will open.
It is called, as elsewhere, with a gesture from the top of the screen to the bottom, but it has its own characteristics. The curtain interface is divided into peculiar tabs that can be scrolled through while lowering the curtain by moving your finger to the left or right side of the screen, respectively, or switching them by simply pressing, but with the curtain lowered. Unlike the usual quick enable / disable of the desired element, here you first need to go to the appropriate tab, where advanced settings are presented. For example, by going to the Network section , you will immediately get the opportunity to manage mobile data and wifi, as well as see a list of available networks. Notifications are similarly placed in a separate tab.
In the “Sound” section there is a switch for silent mode. Here you can quickly control the media player. Brightness control, flashlight switch and auto-brightness are hidden in the “Battery” tab.
In the Time and date section there is a quick access to the calendar, which in my opinion is very convenient. Set alarms will also be displayed here. Well, in the system tab, you can turn off or lock the phone. It also contains links to sections with information about the device, help and error messages.
CALLS AND SMS
The Contacts app can import contacts from a Google account or a vcf file. When manually creating a contact, it is possible to save several phone numbers for one contact.
In this program, in principle, everything is clear – the usual dialer. But there is a recording of calls, which is quite important for some people.
Swiping up from the bottom of the screen will open the recent calls menu. When you first launch the application, it introduces you to gestures for quickly managing list items.
The program for exchanging SMS, like everywhere else, is quite simple. But I would like to note that it is especially convenient to use it in landscape mode. Here you will immediately see both the list of contacts and messages. Since Ubports is built on a fork of Unity, its interface is well adapted to use in landscape mode. Itself more than once caught myself on the fact that I use the phone in this orientation.
It is currently the only native browser for Ubports built on WebEngine. Looking ahead, all existing web applications in OpenStore are built on top of it. The browser supports tabbed browsing. To do this, just pull from the bottom of the screen and a panel will appear with the ability to open a new tab or restore a previously closed one.
If you open the menu in the upper right corner, then there you will notice the “New Window” button, which essentially launches another copy of the browser. I was also pleased with the ability to view the page code.
In the browser settings, it is possible to enable the computer mode mode, change the search engine and home page, as well as some other parameters. Alas, despite all the variety of search engines, the same Yandex is not among them.
A familiar and often necessary application for most Linux users. In our case, it is quite convenient and well-developed. I would like to separately note the support for working with tabs.
The keyboard for entering commands is standard, but various keyboard shortcuts are implemented on a separate line. The button on the left side of the strip is responsible for changing the type of keyboard shortcuts, holding which you will see 5 preset keyboard shortcut layouts. In terms of settings, the terminal is quite flexible. In the options, you can both customize the appearance to your liking, and edit keyboard shortcuts, including disabling any layouts as unnecessary.
Every time you wake up your phone, you’re greeted with an infographic circle, the hallmark of Ubuntu Touch, which can be seen in many photos on the web. The design of the circle changes depending on your activity during the day. By double-tapping on the center of the circle, you can change the type of information displayed. So, for example, it can show information about the number of calls made, songs listened to, messages received and sent, etc. Since I use this phone quite rarely, there is almost no information on this screen. For a more “live” example, see this article from the Ubports blog.
Sliding the lock screen you will need to enter the password. The default Ubports user password is “phablet”, but if you have a third-party build, the password may be different, which can be found on the page with information about your device. In my firmware, for example, the user password is “a”. And you can configure the lock screen settings in the system settings in the Security and Privacy section.
In the lock settings, you will also find the option to change the screen lock type to one of the following:
- Without a password – just slide the screen with infographics and immediately get into the system;
- 4-digit PIN-code ;
- Passphrase – used by default;
- Fingerprint – does not work on all devices.
The most simple and primitive camera application with a minimum number of settings. It is possible to shoot both photos and videos from the rear and front cameras. The settings are called up by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. Here you can enable or disable: geotags, flash, timer, grid and shooting sound; as well as change the image quality, file saving location and aspect ratio.
OPENSTORE APPLICATION CENTER
Most likely, when you open the application center for the first time, you will be asked to update already installed applications, which I immediately did. The store itself looks quite comfortable and beautiful. On the main page, you will be offered the currently popular application, then you can see buttons to go to the list of already installed applications and an overview of applications by category. Below are the top rated apps by topic, such as news, Godot games, top rated apps, etc.
And here we are faced with one of the main problems with firmware in general: there is very little native software for it. Most of the apps in the store are web apps based on the Morph browser. This is especially true for services and applications without any source code, for example: Youtube, Whatsapp and others. But still, sometimes there is also native software, the same TELEports – a Telegram client from the Ubports development team.
In this article, we have reviewed Ubports, a direct legacy of Ubuntu Touch. I would like to express my thoughts at the end. Ubports is an interesting and promising project. Recently, the list of supported devices has expanded quite a lot. Developers continue to make changes and fix bugs. Even during the writing of this article, a patch was released on my device that corrects the work of Bluethooth, the light sensor and offline charging.
And yes, there are still quite a few glitches and a lack of applications. But in a sea of already boring “customs” on Android and familiar IOS, Ubports is essentially one of the few alternatives (hello SailfishOS) that gives the user a really new experience and a rather convenient mobile interface.