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How to: Flash Ubuntu Touch Preview On a Nexus Device Using Custom Recovery

Ubuntu Nexus 10

This morning, the Ubuntu Touch developer preview was released for Nexus devices. At first, it appeared that the files could only be flashed if you were on a machine running Ubuntu, but now, anyone with an unlocked device running a custom recovery can get to flashing.

We have placed easy-to-follow instructions down below for anyone willing to try out the preview. Again, this is a developer preview and you will find bugs and non-working functions. Long story short, if you want to use your device as you would normally, stay away from these. 

Disclaimer: Your device will need to be unlocked and running a custom recovery to flash these zip files.


1.  Download the correct device zip file and place it on your internal storage.
2.  Download the phablet ARMHF zip file and place it on your internal storage.
3.  Reboot into custom recovery.
4.  Wipe data/cache.
5.  Install the device zip.
6.  Install the phablet ARMHF zip.
7.  Reboot and enjoy!

Device zips: manta (Nexus 10) | grouper (Nexus 7) | mako (Nexus 4) | maguro (Galaxy Nexus)

Phablet armhf zip: Download

If you have any questions, shoot them below and we will try to get them answered by our lovely community.

  • Nazafee Tee

    There’s new version with lots more files to flash with? Can give a new instruction? http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/ubuntu-touch-preview/daily-preinstalled/20130421/

  • Please: if i need reinstall android, can i use CWM in ubuntu, to flash my zip ? Or i lost CWM ?

  • corenojc

    Was it a really long boot for anyone? flashed on my N7 but after trying to boot it has been sitting with the backlight on and a blank screen for almost 5 minutes.

  • Why does DroidLife never link to the source? I see a link like “Ubuntu Touch” I expect it to go to….UBUNTU TOUCH, not to a tag cloud of nonsense on the site I’m already on. Just saying. I just read this article, but now I have to google for “ubuntu touch” to get more information, rather than just clicking a link here.

  • Installed it on my Galaxy Nexus and while it does look good, it’s barely usable. I was able to receive calls and text messages (headset doesn’t work), and the camera and wifi work fine. Not an every day rom to use just yet.

    • corenojc

      Kind of like the article says, huh?

  • ahhhh, what a relief! thank you! however the download is going to take a few hours -_-

  • Dustin Foreman

    Tried it, its definitely different thats for sure. Ill try it again when other more functional builds are released. It is a little confusing at first. I thought my phone was frozen and didnt know how to open up the the “app drawer”. Ended up pulling up a video on youtube to figure it out.

  • asnowmanhowsad

    Just flashed my Nexus 7. Considering the touchscreen is the only source of input it’s pretty great that it doesn’t work with this install, right? I’m going to try again later

    • Ghelfalath

      How come? I’m testing it in N7 and the touchscreen works..

  • Is there any real guess to when this will be a full blow go live? I think this is great, but just not enough working yet!

  • It runs so sweet that there is been no other news since this was posted on DL. All the guys are busy playing vs. writing new posts 😉

  • Leroy Walker Jr

    Okay..I’ve installed it and have been playing with it for a few moments. A few quick observations.
    1.Pretty Snappy…Not any faster or slower than Standard Android OS
    2. Interface is a tad bit confusing at first
    3. The Home Screen is pre-populated with Random music and Icons, not of which seem to do anything..
    4. Only app that seem to work is the web browser

    • were you able to get wifi connected? having issues with it on my n7

  • Alex h

    doesnt seem to work on my nexus 7 the screen comes up but touching the screen doesnt do anything

    • Leroy Walker Jr

      swipe to the left!

    • Bill

      Swipe from most right of the screen to the left to unlock.

  • Any word on a Transformer Prime port? I could use a freshening of my tablet experience 🙁

  • Ooo. Might try this tonight…

  • Has anyone tried it on their Nexus 7? How’s the performance?!

    • Leroy Walker Jr

      Installing it right now…should be done in a few

      • Please let me know! Also do you have access to the android market or Gmail or anything like that?

        • Leroy Walker Jr

          the browser works…nothing else

    • itznfb

      I would have installed it on my N7 by now if I could find a way around this stupid ADB whitelist. I allowed acces via a VM I was using but now it doesn’t give me the option to allow when I’m on the host….

  • phil
  • Pretty cool, but you cant even make your own account.

  • Sam Ianson

    I want it for my Galaxy S3

  • Benjamin Sherry

    Flashing it on my spare Verizon Nexus, I’ll let you guys now how it works out. Obviously data / voice isn’t going to work.

    • Benjamin Sherry

      ” preview may run on the Sprint and Verizon Galaxy Nexus devices and the 3G Nexus 7, but with limitations. For example we don’t support CDMA yet” – No go 🙁

      • The GSM version doesn’t even support mobile data, just calls, SMS and Wifi data. It’s not even close to being anything but something to play with for an hour or so.

  • Hoping the Verizon one will be supported soon. Would love to try it out

  • FDman

    “Disclaimer: Your device will need to be unlocked and running a custom recovery to flash these zip files.”

    My bootloader unlocked, but I’m running stock and not rooted.. that means i cant flash this??

    • Jarred Sutherland

      You can flash a recovery with stock and unrooted.

  • so i am assuming since this installs just like an android ROM, i will be able to restore my nandroid and be back to normal?

    will this mess with the file systems?
    just a couple of questions before i dive in i guess. not that Ubuntu interested me to begin with, but i am willing to give it a shot as long as it doesn’t mess anything up and i can get back to android quickly.

    • You can make a backup and everything should be fine. It doesn’t wipe your custom recovery so you should be good to go 🙂

      • Rodeojones000

        Have you done this and confirmed it works? I want to try this but don’t want to lose everything on my Nexus 10

  • Alan Wolf

    Will this work on the 3G N7 do we know?

    • itznfb

      Theoretically it should work with the grouper image. Your data will definitely be broken. Not sure how those radios are setup so it may break WiFi as well. Not my fault if you brick.

      • Alan Wolf

        That is fine, when I attempted to flash the grouper image first that failed, then I did the phablet image and it seemed to have gone through but like i said it just booted back into android after

    • atabey

      yes it will, if it is unlocked

      • Alan Wolf

        I attempted to flash but it just booted back into android after… I just used the phablet zip not grouper, any suggestions?

  • cashclay

    Poor, sad, lonely, left-out toro. The red-headed stepchild of the Nexus family. 🙁

    • AlphaNoble

      That’s funny because Verizon is ‘Big Red’

  • TRIQ6

    I know I have read that this is far from “usable” but I see Facebook notifications in the photo. What apps are available? Can I make calls? Texts?

  • SirSoloDolo

    Toro: Worse Nexus Ever

    • DroidzFX

      Best unlocked device on Verizon. Appreciate that.

      • Jarred Sutherland

        Only unlocked device on Verizon. 😉

        • False, my dna is unlocked and s off. But I guess the nexus on Verizon is the only unrestricted one

          • Jarred Sutherland

            Officially unlocked. I know other devices have been hacked … but that’s not official.

          • OG Droid……?

          • Will that thing ever die?

          • Never.

          • tomn1ce

            mine died on the operating table….can’t get 3 screws off to replace the display…

          • Jarred Sutherland

            Ah … very good point, forgot about the ol’ Droid.

          • John


          • Still wrong. All Samsung phones until the GS3 on Verizon were shipped unlocked. The OG Droid was shipped unlocked too. Not sure whats up with LG phones but I think they come unlocked,

            The Galaxy Nexus was the only one that was officially “unlockable” (unless you count the partial unlocks that HTC gave us for the ‘bolt, Rezound, and the few others).

          • PhoenixPath

            No phones are shipped unlocked. They may be un-encrypted and not require hacking to unlock, but they ship locked and require fastboot to unlock.

            yes, even Nexus devices.

          • Nope. I was the lead dev on the Stratosphere, and I know for a fact that the Stratosphere, Fascinate, and Charge were shipped unlocked.

            Now keep in mind, unlocked does not mean pre-rooted – unlocked means that flashing things does not require a signature verification or an encryption key, which Odin (download mode) didn’t on those models. Starting with the SG3 and then the Note 2 (not sure about the Stratosphere 2, but I would assume it is too), keys were required to flash anything.

            When you unlock a phone on htcdev, you can fastboot w/o signatures or keys on certain parts, but you do before hand. Same with the Nexus, keys are required for updates before you do the fastboot oem unlock. So they are “unlockable” in that aspect.

            Going back over what I said, that means the OG Droid was shipped locked since SBFs have signatures, so I got that wrong. However, I know Samsung phones weren’t… otherwise the Stratosphere would have never gotten root or recovery.

          • Sure, but that’s like saying cars don’t come unlocked when you buy them.

            Difference is, with a nexus, you have a key. With the rest of the fleet you have a brick.

          • PhoenixPath

            So rather than be specific you’d rather be wrong?

            Well, I suppose that’s your choice.

            (FYI: AS Stephen pointed out, I was incorrect anyway. There have apparently been a very few devices released without locked bootloaders. Amusingly…none of them Nexus.)

          • PhoenixPath

            Not even that. It is sold locked. You have to fastboot to unlock it.

        • ReeceOtteman

          as Paula explained I am taken by surprise that a mom able to profit $8950 in a few weeks on the internet. did you look at this web site

          • Marielena

            Really !!

          • Jarred Sutherland

            INDEED SHE DID!

        • Otto Dieffenbach

          OG. Respect your elders son. In android years its 50.

          • michael arazan

            Poor OG, was a perfect specimen, how did blur spawn from it? And after several Generations of bad stock it will bring us a new king, the X. Kind of like star wars Annikan to darth vadar and the empire ruled and now it’s spawn shall bring peace to the Android universe. Yeah that was stretching it. Just listened to a Mark Hamill interview today.

          • Danrarbc

            Didn’t Blur ship on the Milestone though?

      • ReeceOtteman

        like Susan implied I cannot believe that any body able to earn $5007 in a few weeks on the computer. have you seen this site

    • EC8CH

      Thank God I’ve got a N7 too…. I’m so trying this out.

      The all gesture UI looks so awesome. A lot of the ideas they talk about regarding the limitations of other UI’s including Android sound right on to me. They have some really great ideas and I hope Android moves in this direction.

      It will probably be all laggy and I’ll hate it though.

  • KleenDroid

    I think I’ll make a backup and give it a try on my Nexus 7 just to see what’s up.

    Every device should be a Nexus.

  • Guest

    No offense, but I think if anyone has figured out how to unlock their bootloader and install a custom recovery, they probably don’t need “7 steps on how to install a custom OS”.

    It would probably be more effective to teach people how to do it from start to finish, or, just say “here are the files! Go to town!” for anyone already familiar with the process.

    • Tony Allen

      No offense, quit being a douche. 🙂

    • so you just assume a completely different OS is going to install just like an android OS?
      while i know exactly how to install the latest and greatest ROM on my phone/tablet, i wouldn’t know the first step in installing Ubuntu. this helps me out.

    • xXChristianYOLOSWAG4Jesus69xX

      Implying everybody that unlocked their bootloader and installed a custom recovery using a one-click toolkit know exactly what’s going underneath the hood.


    Anyone know if it’s possible to dual boot?

    • mike

      You flash like ROM so if you have multi boot like boot manager maybe

      • duke69111

        Yea, I wish Boot Manager was still in development and being updated.

  • Shane Redman

    So what you’re saying is there’s no Toro….hate you VZW

    • KleenDroid

      I don’t really want it on my phone since it wouldn’t work right anyway. I’ll try it on my 7…

      But don’t worry they will get it for Toro.

      • Shane Redman

        Very true. Mad I sold my N7 now. I don’t get all the hype behind Ubuntu so I was willing to try it. Oh well

        • they hype is having desktop like computing on a mobile. i had been hoping for this since before OSX was abandoned for ios on that pad-paper weight. android has been the only real contender and option for versatility/openness on a mobile platform. with android and ubuntu playing nice together and possible dual boot scenarios and quick desktop replacements by using a simple hub running alongside android, this is a big step. now to pray for powerlaces and mattel hoverboards by 2015.

      • trying with my N7 first as well. got the community toro hack but waiting till tomorrow afternoon to flash to play with it.

  • sc0rch3d

    poor poor toro