Announcing Ubuntu For Phones

Today we announced the Ubuntu for phones platform.

This is the culmination of an extensive period of work, and pushing Ubuntu another step further in building a consistent, elegant, beautiful Operating System and experience across the desktop, cloud, and devices.

The design and implementation of the phone is beautiful. You can immediately tell it is Ubuntu; the Unity mobile experience looks clean and consistent with the desktop and touch is stunningly integrated. The Ubuntu for phones experience is designed to make all your phone content easier to access and your apps more immersive โ€“ every edge has a specific purpose, making all your apps, content and controls instantly accessible, without navigating back to the home screen every time. It’s a uniquely, beautifully converged experience.

Ubuntu, clean and consistent across mobile and desktop.

Ubuntu for phones is not just limited to just the Operating System on the phone screen itself. Ubuntu also has the technology, as demonstrated with Ubuntu For Android, to boot a full Ubuntu desktop from the phone when it is docked with a screen. This provides a complete Ubuntu experience in your pocket, for both your phone and your desktop, with a clean consistent look across both screens, and with all your content available on your phone and desktop using Ubuntu One. This is revolutionary.

To be quite clear, this announcement is not for a physical Ubuntu Phone that you can purchase yet. The announcement is for the Ubuntu for phones platform that we are presenting to handset operators and OEMs as a solution that they can bring to market. The Ubuntu phone offers great performance on handsets with a low bill of materials, while opening up new opportunities for phone and PC convergence at the top end of the market. This is no mockup or flash demo though; this is a real platform, and you have to see it in action…it really is stunning.

As part of this work we will have an extensive presence at the Consumer Electronics Show next week in Las Vegas. We will be exhibiting there, demoing Ubuntu for phones and in meetings with OEMs and operators to get this baby in your pocket as soon possible. I will be presenting at the booth for the week too, and I will be discussing the new developer platform that is part of Ubuntu for phones.

For Developers

So that neatly leads me to developers.

The Ubuntu for phones platform does not just present a fantastic integrated phone experience, but we have also been working on a powerful developer platform to make building apps for the phone simple, powerful and fun.

The phone platform supports applications written in QML, HTML5, and OpenGL.

We have been working on an SDK with a special set of phone components (think widgets and other UI elements) that run on top of QML and Qt, and the applications look and feel as beautiful as the rest of the phone platform. Also remember that Ubuntu has great support built in for web apps, which means that taking a web app and building a native phone (or desktop) experience is a piece of cake. Oh, and all those scopes in the Ubuntu desktop, well, they map neatly to the other devices such as TV and now phone too. This is what Unity is all about: a unified experience across all your screens.

This means that developers have choice in how they build their apps and don’t have the overhead of the Java virtual machine when writing and deploying their apps. All in all, Ubuntu for phones offers an awesome developer platform.

Now, the SDK is still very much in active development, but today we are also releasing a developer preview. This preview includes the new Qt 5 which was recently released, as well as the QML Phone Components, and we have a full tutorial that shows you how to get started building a QML app for the phone.

Get Involved

As part of this work, we want to build an awesome library of applications that will run out of the box when a operator/OEM delivers Ubuntu on their handsets. As such, we are keen to work with our community to build out this library of apps, and we are looking to you lovely people to help!

If you have Qt/QML programming experience (or can get up to speed with the platform) and would like to help build these apps that will ship with an Ubuntu phone, we would love you to join us! Simply head over to the phone page and fill in the form. We will then get in touch with you over the coming weeks.

This work will have full support from the design team to help with the design and layout of the apps, and we will also have mentoring and project management to ensure everyone who participates enjoys helping with this wider effort. This is a great way to help get the Ubuntu phone in front of millions of users.

2013 is off to a wonderful start for Ubuntu and continued spread and growth of Open Source and Free Software. Let’s make this year count. Fire up your engines. :-)

  • Joey “JoeLinux” Espinosa

    Nice. I may have to sacrifice my Nexus 7!

  • Lucas Betschart

    Finally you did choose the best technology (Qt) :)

  • Joel McLaughlin

    It sounds promising Jono and I want it to work. However, I’ll wait until there’s shipping hardware. :-)

    I am sure you may be able to use this on a Galaxy Nexus or Nexus 4….but I bet it will only be GSM. (note: if I am wrong, then let me know! )

  • DavidR.

    Great convergence! Would be nice to try it out in some old hardware too.

  • bas r

    A very interesting step for Ubuntu. Keen to see where this leads. Please, make sure it fits into the ecosystem people are in right now.

    For me that would mean to see Exchange compatibility, a Sonos controller and a Whatsapp client (which is key for most of my fellow Dutch citizens ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Would be hoping to see a dual sim implementation.

  • vbrundx


  • Roland Pinto

    Will Unity on the desktop also switch to qt/qml?

  • rzr is #UbuntuPhone open ? I plan to adapt it for !N950Club which already support !Ubuntu #Chroot (watch video)

  • bubbleman

    why Qt when Canonical’s main application is Gtk+Nux? and mind, i like Qt

  • inashdeen

    you should. haha

  • Krzysztof Klimonda

    Hey, Ubuntu Phone doesn’t seem to be using Qt Quick, any reason for creating your own API on top of QML?

  • Ian Bicking

    What’s the HTML5 app support look like? I see some reference to “Unity Web Apps” (but it isn’t linked), and googling gets me here:

    Is that the support we should expect? It seems very slim.

  • Nolan


    Like many others, I am excited about the possibility of having Ubuntu on my phone. There is something that concerns me however, and as Canonical’s community manager, I hope you might advise me on how to address my concerns within Canonical’s community framework.

    I’m blind. I understand that Canonical cares a lot about accessibility. Unfortunately, word from the accessibility team is that they are so understaffed that only LTS releases can be made accessible. The fact that the next accessible Ubuntu release will not be until 14.04 is at odds with Mark Shuttleworth’s recent blog post, which stated that his goals for 2013 were to leave no users behind.

    My concern is that Canonical’s goals are to put Ubuntu on my desktop, TV, tablet, phone and server. Ambitious, to be sure. But the accessibility team’s goal is to make 14.04 the next accessible Ubuntu release. Meanwhile, my 12.10 desktop accessibility subsystem hangs regularly, requiring reboots several times per day. I cannot use lenses at all, and I often find that I can’t arrow through launcher menus and get spoken feedback. Sometimes I lose accessibility on the login screen, and I can no longer tab to some controls under Lightdm. Libre Office menus are entirely inaccessible, and when I ask about this and other issues on the accessibility lists, I’m told that I can’t expect things to work until 2014. Furthermore, I’m not just a user. I am also a developer, and would love nothing more than to port some of my Android apps to Unity. But I don’t want to develop on a platform that I struggle to use.

    One’s first response to this might be “Ubuntu and all the projects it is based on are open source and community, so join the community and contribute.” That sounds quite sensible, until you consider that I get that response everywhere I bring accessibility concerns. “Android/HTML 5/Chrome are community projects, so join in and help.” I did, and develop a screen reader and a number of other accessibility solutions for the Android platform. Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in a day, and at some point, I don’t want to be asked to take up the slack when the entity with the purse strings puts its money everywhere other than accessibility. Fortunately I have a paying Android accessibility job, but Ubuntu and other companies need to invest financially in accessibility rather than hiring a handful of people and hoping they’ll catch up while teams upon teams of other developers write lots of inaccessible green field code.

    So my question. How do I work within the Ubuntu community framework to advocate for Canonical to expand its accessibility team? If Ubuntu is going to be everywhere, it absolutely cannot leave people behind as Mark stated last week. I don’t have time to take up development myself (without dropping Android development and having those people tell me I should develop access there if I want it :) but I do have the passion to advocate, and am sure other folks who need accessibility do as well.

    Hoping to one day be a Ubuntu for Phones app developer rather than an Android one,

    — Nolan

  • jmsm

    I really like Ubuntu! It has been the only OS installed in my computers for several years now, and i already installed it in dozens of Desktops and Laptops, for my friends and family. Nevertheless, there have been some very strange decisions lately… Unity-2d, which used QML, was dropped and because of it Ubuntu TV is being ported to Unity (3D), now Ubuntu Phone OS uses QML. I know the interface is different, but is this something like Unity-2d but with another design? I don’t understand… can someone explain? First there was Netbook Remix, then Netbook Edition (at least i think it existed, but i might be wrong i don’t quite remember now), then Unity using mutter, now Unity using compiz… Unity using QML was dropped now QML is being used in this new project… What is going on? I know software is in constant evolution but this is just odd, to say the least…

  • dylan-m

    Looks really exciting. Congratulations!

    Can we expect some source code around the time Canonical releases the Galaxy Nexus image? I’d be really interested to learn about some of the technical decisions. For example, how much of the existing Unity code is being used, and what you’re using instead of Compiz ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Keith Pawson

    I can’t wait, this is exactly what I was hoping would happen, awesome news to the start of 2013!

  • Franck Routier

    I can’t see any mention of a Location API in the developpers page. Will QtLocation be available ? What are the plans on this key feature (data provider for maps, …) ?

  • tony cossey

    My only concern is one of software patents, look at the recent battles and googles purchase of Motorola just to grab the patents…..

  • Julian Fernandes

    This looks awesome and I’m really excited to test it out. I’m already trying to sell my SII to get a Nexus, since I’m not sure if SII and SIII will get a image soon.

    But I do have a quick request for you Jono: could you share the default wallpaper, please? It just look awesome hehe

  • David Planella

    What you can download as the SDK preview is the user interface toolkit. It is not another layer of APIs, but rather Ubuntu QML components app developers can use as building blocks for their Ubuntu apps on the phone.

    When they develop their apps, they’ll generally be using the components and types from whichever libraries they want to import. These will include Ubuntu.Components, QtQuick 2.0, etc.

    You can see how Qt Quick is used along with the Ubuntu components in the tutorial:

    I hope this helps clarifying things!

  • payload

    Looks awesome! Hope Ubuntu (is it “you” or “we”?) emphasizes security and privacy a little bit more. Thinking of the amazon lens defaults and its PR.

  • Anonymous

    Can we expect an official image for the Nexus 4?

  • @k0a1a
  • bb cc

    Will it use full Qt5? So i can develop C++ Qt apps for ubuntu phone? Did only see Qml on the developer page and not Qt/Qml.

  • Peter Vรกgner

    Hello, I agree with Nolan. We need if canonical would start taking accessibility more seriously. Nowadays all mobile platforms are trying to catch up on accessibility compare android and IOS for example and realize that they adopted accessibility after years of existence. Now dont do the same mistake and try to start cooperating with accessibility developers as soon as possible. If you lack man power then please hire a bunch of skilled people. I think these people are willing to work for a good project they just need something to cover their expenses. Currently I am seeing ubuntu as a distro that brought many visually disabled users to linux because this was first widelly know attempt at including full accessibility in an OS. Now level of accessibility is decreasing with each release and even we havent heard about accessibility considerations for this new platform.




  • CSRedRat

    Ubuntu Phone is great!

  • Lilian A. Moraru

    A QML Application can’t work without the C++ code that starts it. So, yes, you will be able to use C++ Qt(I am not an official but I assure that it is like I say).