WATCH: The Ubuntu mobile operating system is revealed for the first time

Callum Tennent
March 4, 2015

There are nerds, and then there are nerds. If you’re on this website, you’d probably consider yourself a bit of a phone nerd – sure. But have you ever considered using Ubuntu before? Do you even know what Ubuntu actually is? Perhaps not, and we certainly don’t blame you. True nerds do though, and we suspect that this latest revelation is aimed more towards them than the average (or even above-average) smartphone aficionado.

Ubuntu is currently best known as an open-source computer operating system. It’s completely free, and designed as an experimental and entirely customisable haven for developers. So, what do you think its brand new mobile operating system is going to be like?

Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, has now revealed its vision for a new mobile platform for the first time. “We’re taking on Android” said Canonical mobile vice-president Cristian Parrino. A slightly wry statement, perhaps, but it’s not entirely without base.

Android lovers love freedom, customisation, depth – all the things that you don’t get so much with iOS. All the things that you do get with a PC, only in your hand. Android has also been the best option to date for those who like to really dive into the depths of their PC and make the most of it. Comparatively, though, it doesn’t quite reach the same levels.

This video unveiling of the new Ubuntu mobile OS in action gives a taste of what you can expect. Does it look massively different to anything else we’ve seen before? Well… No. Not quite. But then again we are discussing a mobile platform here – there is only so much you can do with a touchscreen. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

There are definitely some nice features though. Scopes, for example, seem to sort of take the place of homescreens. Instead of sliding between various screens of app shortcuts you’re instead offered different media as sorted by content. In the video you see a ‘Today’ scope followed by an ‘NearBy’ scope followed by ‘Apps’, ‘News’, and ‘Music’ scopes. The idea is that rather than dip in and out of apps you can instead see all content of a certain type from all of your apps in one place (like SoundCloud, Spotify and your own MP3s appearing within Music).

Apps still exist on their own as well – scopes just make for a nice, fluid way of presenting their actual content. It does mean that developers will likely have to take a slightly different approach when creating for Ubuntu, so we’ll soon see if the gamble pays off.

The whole OS seems to be driven by gestures rather than the traditional homescreen/in-app binary style we’ve become so used to.

Take a look at the video for yourself at the top of the page, and ask whether or not you’d be willing to take a gamble on an Ubuntu handset when they eventually hit stores. There’s already two in existence: the Aquaris E4.5 UE from little-known Spanish BQ, and an Ubuntu-equipped Meizu MX4.

The Aquaris is, unsurprisingly, the more budget option, priced at around the £125 mark. The Meizu MX4, though, is a phone we already know well. It’s a really rather impressive phablet from one of China’s most up-and-coming manufacturers, and to see such a capable device running Ubuntu is a terrific showcase for the new OS.

Neither are available on general sale just yet, but we’ll be sure to keep an eye on things to let you know when things change.

About the Author

Callum Tennent

International playboy/tech journalist.

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