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Ubuntu’s Brand New Gesture-Based Phone OS Shown Off on the Galaxy Nexus

Screen Shot 2013-01-02 at 2.04.42 PM

Ubuntu and Android have been close friends for a while now, but developers have been working to make Ubuntu it’s own mobile OS and that work was revealed today. Using the Galaxy Nexus, the new totally gesture-based operating system was shown off today and looks like a fledgling OS with a lot of promise. You thought Google was crazy for having on-screen home buttons? This operating system has no home button whatsoever. 

The Verge got some facetime with developer devices today and put up a quick video showing off a few of the features. Unlocking the phone just takes a swipe to the right, and swiping to the left brings up a slick list of most-used apps. Once you’re in the phone’s home screen swiping right will take you to the most recently open app, left again brings up most-used. Swiping down from the top brings down an Android-style notification bar, but the information changes depending on which icon you swipe down from. You can check messages, battery life and settings all from different swipe points.

There is some noticeable lag throughout the phone, but that’s to be expected with the early build that it’s running. Once that gets cleared up it looks like it could be a pretty slick user interface. Images for the Galaxy Nexus are going to be available for download in “the next few weeks” so developers can tinker and start building apps and an ecosystem for the new OS.

Ubuntu for Android is even closer now after today’s news, would you be interested in using this as a parallel OS in your phone?

Overview (6:20):




Via:  UbuntuThe Verge

  • Blaj

    Seems slow

  • Aaron Anderson

    When the phone comes out there will be a rom right after it that will do the same thing i’m sure… That’s if we don’t get one before hand. Even still it looks like a upgraded iphone… Not that interested…

  • So, if I install this on my GNex, plug it into my doc with hdmi connector, plug the HDMI connector into a monitor and enable a bluetooth keyboard, is it an Ubuntu PC?

  • sean.yesmunt

    I hope I see something for the Verizon Galaxy Nexus (toro) as well as the GSM GNex. I would be sooooo sad if nothing is released for us Verizon users.

  • Dug T

    If you go to the site (http://www.ubuntu.com/devices/phone) you can register to (hopefully) get in in the beta ROM once its available for your device. I have an S3, so my fingers are crossed XD

  • Skye Villanueva

    Does android finally have a rival…?
    Not to bad! But with android 4.5…5.0 or whatever they call It…its gonna be sweet!!!

  • lye

    I would like it if Ubuntu spent time making their desktop OS more viable so it can take over windows as the other operating system.

  • I can’t be the only one that is completely turned off by the gesture UI am I? Understandably so, Android users should be excited about something new and different coming to the mobile market but something I am not a huge fan of is using too many gesture swipes within an app.

    Also the laginess is hard to look over because of how much of it there is. I know it’s an early build but they ARE showing it off which means it is near completion. Not sure if they can eliminate that lag completely by that “few weeks” release date for Galaxy Nexus phones.

  • artsr2002

    I like it. It looks better than Windows phone to me. Nice.

  • The native development looks weak using C and C++ as main languages. They are old and hard to master, not memory garbage collector by default.

    These languages don’t run on VMs, this means they generate pure machine code, then only run on the specific CPU in this case ARM CPUs.

    I wonder how the mobile apps will run on a regular desktop using x86 CPUs.

    Not like Android using Java running on Dalvik or even Windows Phone using C# running on CLR.

  • Aaron

    Wonder if it will ship with all the Amazon spyware that Ubuntu 12.10 is saddled with?

  • normmcgarry

    This better be more successful than Ubuntu TV.

  • jcorf

    Google please buy these guys.

  • Sign me up.

  • Evan Costanzo

    I love the idea of multiple swipe down notification bars depending on your finger position. I know jb has this but I think looks better

  • Anon

    Considering that Ubuntu is now tracking users’ searching, I don’t find it a worthy alternative to Google. I’m sure Google has some mechanisms of its own in place (at least if you use their Mail/Docs/G+ services), but I doubt I’d switch from it unless there’s another flavor of Linux or a pledge to respect privacy.

    Citation: http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2012/12/richard-stallman-calls-ubuntu-spyware-because-it-tracks-searches/

  • joejoe5709

    Hmmm. I’m interested. I’m not sold on it just yet, but it’s definitely cool. Honestly though, I hope Google picks these guys up like Samsung grabbed the guy from CyanogenMod. I think they could benefit from a few of these features rather than a full blown new OS.

  • zebra

    He sure makes something really cool sound really boring.

  • Clifford Gadd

    I will probably switch to this for a while since I’ve already got two Android tablets so I will still be able to use all of my Android content.

  • speak the truth

    Looks cool but (yes i know its a beta) it doesn’t look intuitive at all. In fact, it looks less intuitive that Windows 8 (now that’s saying something). Imagine trying to teach an i*hone user how to use this. It would be a nightmare.

  • Random thoughts:

    This software is probably a little bit ahead of the hardware at this point. The idea of one device to rule them all is awesome, and I love it, but the hardware isn’t a reality yet. It’s a very interesting step, though.

    I love Ubuntu and have used it for years, but its main limitation for me remains that I need to use commercial software on my personal computing device (think Office).

    I’m really interested in what Valve does with Steam on Ubuntu (as well as their own “console).

    I wish Android and Ubuntu would get married and have a baby. The idea of one OS on all my devices is a dream. But Ubuntu by itself isn’t going to get there, and neither is Android.

  • There is a such thing as too much integration between OS and APP. It looks from the demo like swiping left and right become OS-level actions. Not really ideal – swiping left and right are pretty common use cases for applications. Maybe in a “regular” app it’s ok to have it keep bringing up a menu when you don’t want one, but if you’re in a game, bringing up a menu means you have to start over, generally.

    • ben dover

      I agree completely. I’d love to see some of the features implemented in android minus the swiping left for switching apps.

  • Having a galaxy nexus always rocks! Hell yeah! ^_^

  • nightscout13

    I was curious if this would show up on here 🙂 Gladly, DL covered this story, even though it’s not necessarily Android news.

  • WickedToby741

    This looks excellent for the Touchpad.

  • Bruce Lee

    I don’t know if this is a good OS or if it’s just because the guy has an english accent.

    • Ubuntu is a very solid OS on the desktop and server.

  • Philip A. Kaiser

    I actually removed all the buttons from my home screen a while back and use gesture based navigation on Nova. Took a bit to set up but it looks awesome and is so smooth that I won’t go back. It is funny because my wife cant even figure bout how to make a phone call on my nex. The soft keys are set as transparent and overlapped with the wallpaper so they are gone as well. Notification bar set to hidden. Corner to corner wallpaper bliss.

    • How did you force the wall paper overlap?

      • Philip A. Kaiser

        Use the Transparency Settings to make the Softkeys dissapear and then tweek AOKP and the wallpaper comes through. My screen is usually black based (save juice) but I wanted to show a pic in color so you can see it is smooth from top to bottom.

    • Can you upload a pic/video to demonstrate?

      • Philip A. Kaiser

        This is my usual, although I change wallpapers a lot.

        • Philip A. Kaiser

          Although you cannot see it in the pic, there is an almost black battery bar in the bottom of the screen. I also use Light Flow to set custom notifications for the LED. My other screens have stuff on them and the main navigation bar scrolls from right to left so there are more shortcuts there.

  • MikeKorby

    How much of this can we expect to see Google put into Key Lime Pie?

  • itched

    It hasn’t even been released yet & it’s already as popular as Windows Phone.

    • j4ckalop3


    • PhoenixPath

      …and that;s how you win at The Internet, folks. ツ

  • cgalyon

    I’m intrigued. It’s an attractive looking, and somewhat novel mobile OS! I’ll certainly keep my eye on it and hope it fairs better than webOS (which was also attractive and novel).

  • Droidzilla

    People are missing the big picture: this is Linux running Ubuntu and, thus, open source. Google can rip anything awesome from this and bake it into future Android releases (and the good folks at Canonical will probably think that’s cool more than anything else).

    • droidman101

      They could do it with Chrome OS.

      • Droidzilla

        I would love to see Android boot into Chrome OS when docked. It would be like Motorola’s WebTop but good.

    • wdk40

      Well said. Finally someone said something meaningful and I am not even a dev. You guys need to wake up.

  • Ah, Mr. Shuttleworth, why do you torment me so? I’ve just gotten 4.2.1 on CM10.1, and now you taunt me with this?!? Can I dual boot a GNex? 🙂

    • TyBis

      With the boot manager app you can…lol…although when having miui and ice cream sandwich on it went to one and couldn’t go back…worth checking out though

  • Lambo_21

    man i want this on my OG Transformer so bad!

  • PhoenixPath

    Is that a GSM or LTE Nexus? Any idea on if both versions will be getting images?

    • droidman101

      Probably GSM.

      • PhoenixPath

        Heh…thanks for the wild guess? *grin*

        • An educated guess says GSM, given where Shuttleworth lives and works.

  • I think this looks like more of what windows 8,was trying to. Pull off, yet these guys did a much better job of it

  • Hopefully this will prove some REAL competition to keep Android on its toes.


    Wish they would release images sooner. I wanna play with it before classes start up again.

  • So in theory it should run exe, apk, Ubuntu programs as well as Linux programs?

    • yeah i guess anything that ubuntu runs

    • j__h

      maybe I missed something… but probably not exe or apk out of the box at least.

    • ben dover

      It won’t run apks. Those are android only, and android isn’t exactly Linux. It has the same kernel, but it has a layer of java on top for running and managing apps, which makes it very different from actual linux. I would assume IF it catches on somebody will make a version of WINE to be able to run exe. Otherwise they won’t work either.

  • shecalledmejay

    Can somebody turn this into a launcher

    • New_Guy

      Oh God, please. Or even a full custom ROM.

    • artsr2002


    • Ziltoid

      lol thats what this essentially is. Looks like garbage IMO

  • how will one sell an app for this OS? they already have a store?

    • droidman101

      They have their own Ubuntu app store, so I think it’d fit in well.

      • awesome, i didn’t know that. Should be very interesting. all of it java?

        • droidman101

          I don’t think it will run java.

          Also, might run into the issue with x86 vs ARM (like Windows with RT and 8) where you have to make two apps-one for each processor.

  • This will make you as cool with your friends as telling them you run a Linux box as your main desktop OS.

    • Droidzilla

      If you try to show your friends how cool you are with any phone OS, you’ve already shown them how cool you aren’t.

      • PhoenixPath

        The best part about being a geek is that you don’t have to hide your love/fondness of any technology or gear. You’re a geek: It’s expected.

        Cool has an entirely different meaning among one’s “geek” friends than among one’s “normal” friends.

        • My mom thinks im cool /(._.)/

          • PhoenixPath

            Mine thinks I’m Tech Support. ツ

    • MikeKorby

      …I would feel cool when showing my friends that I am running Ubuntu on my Nexus..

    • Joe

      So, not cool at all then.

  • Nicholassss

    Im interested. Not ready to leave android by any means, but this is the most I teresting os out there after android.

    • agreed. this looks very cool. it would take a lot for me to completely abandon android at this point, but still. i have a few old devices laying around, begging for some playtime

      • Nicholassss

        Exactly what I was thinking.

    • New_Guy

      There is a lot to be farmed here if nothing else. But, I am definitely keeping this on my watch list as it looks really nice and intuitive.

  • Mack

    Wow glad I bought a Galaxy Nexus, looks like this will be available to try fairly soon.

  • No Hardware=Vapor

    2014 is the closest they can get to real? That’s a year out! They haven’t done anything with what they announced LAST YEAR either.

    • i’m not surprised by the long timeline. the cool thing is that (hopefully) you’ll be able to install it on existing hardware…. like desktop ubuntu i guess

  • Fattie McDoogles

    I would definitely love to try it.

  • ddevito

    Another Linux-based mobile OS = WIN.

    • Jarred Sutherland

      No .. it = Lin! 😉

  • Can’t wait to try this on my Nexus 4! I’ve still got a Nexus 7 for all my favorite Android apps so I feel more comfortable about giving up apps.

  • Poya Moradi

    I need this.

  • roswellraygun

    I don’t know that this makes Ubuntu for Android any closer. This seems to replace the entire android os rather than using Ubuntu when docked. Either way I like this idea as it offers more choices which hopefully fuels competition.

  • There are a lot of thoughtful design choices that I really like. I am not sure an Ubuntu phone will be the next best thing; however, there are things I would love a dev to kang. I like the implementation of the notification bar, the nav bar (or lack there-of), and some of the gestures. Otherwise, I do not see a real reason to have a completely different OS.

  • Guest345

    I don’t like on-screen buttons. LMT Launcher all the way!!! This seems cool.

  • Pedro

    Imagine all that sideways swiping on a Nexus 4.


  • Raloc

    If this ran Android apps I would be all over it. But it doesn’t and will have the same problem as every other new OS where they simply don’t have any of the standard apps that make smartphones worthwhile.

    • ddevito

      not true – it’s very easy to port existing Ubuntu apps to mobile. I give a leg up on Windows Phone.

      • Tony Allen

        It is, but that’s not the point. For a dev to be interested, there needs to be marketshare. Otherwise he’ll take his time/effort elsewhere.

        • ddevito

          then ask ubuntu 3rd party devs why they created ubuntu apps to begin with…?

          Last I checked ubuntu has 0.5% global marketshare. Your point is moot to begin with

        • I always found Ubuntu to be like chewing alt water taffy. Its do-able, its kinda pleasing but over all exhausting to use. Have you tried installing Adobe Air on that? Hell, doing the most basic things is just a pain. But I see why someone more…dev-like would enjoy it I guess.

          • well we are all a bunch of phone geeks, who read phone centric tech blogs and have a strong demand for something new e.g (4.0, 4.1, 4.2). so some will try and if its good then more will. they just have to build it and we will come, but if it sucks we are taking our phone and going home to android.

      • Raloc

        lol what are you going to do, run some already flaky ubuntu mouse and keyboard based apps on a touch smartphone screen 1/4 of the size?

        a pretty typical linux user response

        • ddevito

          No, actually, what I am looking forward to…

          Is docking my phone and having a desktop experience.

          One device to rule them all.

          • normmcgarry

            Although this is a cool feature in theory, my i7 processor and 16gb ram will be laughing at your phone hooked up as a desktop.

          • Anonymous Coward

            Good for you. Not all of us want to heat our houses with the PC under our desks.
            Me, I prefer to do all my heavy computing from the 32 UCS blades with 512GB of RAM and 32 logical CPU cores [each blade] (that’s 16TB of RAM and 1024 CPU cores, yes I am a R/S & Datacenter CCIE) I have running vSphere. That said, I’ll stick to Android for my phone, Linux on the desktop is too much work and I don’t even want to think about it being on my phone in any form other than AOSP 4.2.1.

          • ben dover

            Which you can do with ubuntu for android which is a completely different project. Raloc’s comment hit the nail on the head. That’s why ubuntu phone has a slim chance of catching on. The whole point Canonical has stressed is that the same apps will run on desktop and phone with no modification, which common sense says will never happen because they are completely different environments. Not to mention that for new developers to be interested there has to be a lot of users which won’t happen without you guessed it: a sizeable app catalog. Hence it has a slim chance. As far as a launcher lookup Armando Ferreira on youtube. He has a video showing how to get a very similar look using TSF Shell. Although be warned TSF shell is outrageously expensive, around $18.

    • New_Guy

      That’s what they said about Android as early as 2011…Not that I’m jumping the Android ship, but this looks very tasty, indeed.

    • True, but definitely worth a try. Windows is picking up apps very quickly, Ubuntu could be just as quick. (I hope).