Canonical announced Ubuntu for phones back in January, and then quickly promised to ship hardware by October of this year. Now, developers of the Ubuntu Touch project are promising a usable build of the software by the end of the month. Even so, major features like app installation and camera functionality are still a ways off.
On his blog, VP of UbuntuEngineering Rick Spencer posted about how the Ubuntu Touch developers have committed to making a usable build by the end of May. Spencer explains that to truly gauge what needs work, the developers need to “eat our own dogfood,” and use Ubuntu Touch day in and day out. Getting this software into a state suitable for daily use is a big step towards readying it for the public. That said, don’t expect this to replace your vanilla Android install just yet — it’s still early days.
If all goes as planned, phones running Ubuntu Touch at the end of the month will be able to make and receive calls, send and receive text messages, use WiFi and 3G to browse the web, add and edit contacts, successfully use the proximity sensor, and retain user data after software updates. That’s only the basic functionality, so important features will still be missing at that stage. Spencer specifically notes app installation and Nexus 7 camera functionality as notable absent features. Still, the hope is that this dog food mentality will help accelerate the development, and allow for more polished software by October.
Are you dead set on trying out this unfinished software? Well, the power is in your hands. If you have a Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, Nexus 7, or Nexus 10, you can install the Touch Developer Preview for Ubuntu by flashing your firmware. It’s extremely unstable right now, and it could even potentially brick your device. Unless you’re willing to turn your smartphone or tablet into a paperweight, just wait until the finished version is ready in a few months.
It remains to be seen if Ubuntu Touch will be the open platform that Android always wanted to be, or if this will stay a quirky niche project relegated to a tiny sliver of marketshare. Either way, Linux fanatics have a lot to look forward to in the coming months. Canonical is taking the mobile market very seriously, and it has its work cut out for it as Mozilla gears up for the release of Firefox OS.