Community Driven Ubuntu Phone Core Apps

When we announced Ubuntu for phones on the 2nd January, we also had a call for volunteers to help create the core applications that would be part of the platform. Like any phone OS we need to provide a calendar, calculator, email, social media apps and more. Ubuntu has long been an open community project and we wanted to work with our community from the outset to work on a set of apps that we can all be proud of.

To do this we included a form on and asked interested Qt/QML developers to fill it in if they were interested in participating. In just a few days we had over 1500 people fill in the form, expressing tremendous interest in being part of these projects and making an awesome Ubuntu phone platform.

We then finalized our list of apps that we think we need and then reached out to the most experienced of these volunteers and broke them into teams, with one team per application (these teams are fairly small, we couldnt use everyone who volunteered, but we will be having an Ubuntu Phone App Showdown in future, so stay tuned!)).

For each of the applications we then worked on some user stories and functional requirements to deliver the core functionality in each of these apps and documented them on the Ubuntu wiki. These applications are all available here.

Call For Design

So, we have a good set of developers assigned for each app, but we would like to invite our community to contribute design ideas for each of these apps. We have already defined a set of user stories and functional requirements, and for each app we have also defined a set of the core screens and functionality that we will need design for. We would like to invite you wonderful designers out there to contribute your design ideas, and these ideas can provide food for thought for the developers.

To do this we are using the popular Balsamiq online mock-ups tool, and the Balsamiq folks have very generously provided an Ubuntu MyBalsamiq site where all of these designs can be storied, commented on, and refined. As such, you can contribute your designs there and then link them to the wiki page for the application the design is for.

A while back I asked Ivo Weevers, head of the design team at Canonical, for a set of design guidelines for these contributed designs to follow, but unfortunately his team has not had the time to deliver this yet, but we do have a simple set of overall design suggestions we would like to ask you to follow as well as some example designs that you can use to match your work to.

If you would like to contribute some designs, simply pick one of the following apps and follow the instructions on the page:

If you don’t want to contribute a design but would like to offer input on the existing designs, simply click on the designs submitted on the wiki page and you use the comments box on the MyBalsamiq site to provide your feedback. I would like to also encourage you folks to share your designs on your blogs, on the Ubuntu Reddit, on social media, and other places!

Obviously not all designs will ultimately be implemented, but the goal here is to primarily provide a great opportunity for the best designs that match the design ethos of the Ubuntu phone to bubble to the surface.

Other Contributions

All of the applications we are working on here have Launchpad projects set up and the code will be publicly available and Open Source from the beginning. We are currently working on a base template project to land in each trunk for the development teams to get started from.

There will definitely be other opportunities for contributing in the future (e.g. icon design, QA, testing), but for now we are focusing on the design and development phase. Stay tuned!

Keeping In Touch

To other members of the Ubuntu for phones community, be sure to join the #ubuntu-phone IRC channel on freenode and you can join the mailing list. I will also be providing regular updates on this work on my weekly Q+A videocast every Wednesday at 7pm UTC on Ubuntu On Air.

  • Anonymous

    Great news – keep up the good work!

    By the way, I misread a line as “then reached out to the most experienced of these volunteers and broke them into tears“.

  • Jared Jennings

    Note taking app :)

  • Dylan Taylor

    I submitted a request to be a volunteer developer, and I never got a response back. If I wasn’t selected for one of the teams, is there anything I can do to help?

  • Anonymous

    If ubuntu phone in future will have “Desktop convergence” feature, and as Mark told ubuntu phone and ubuntu desktop is one OS, all apps must have at least 3 versions of interface: phone, tablet and desktop. If I open folder on phone and then connect phone to dock, I want see the same folder in desktop version of file manager. If I watch photos on monitor and then take out phone from dock, I must see last photo on phone version of gallery app.

    We will have separate apps like nautilus for desktop and another file manager for phone, shotwell for desktop and another app for phone? Will be cool to have only one app, but with different interfaces, which are changed according to screen size.

  • Frank Kaufmann

    Cool. There is actually already a Terminal App written in C++ with QML

  • Frank Kaufmann

    This is what Qt is all about. One application on multiple device formfactors.

  • Joseph Mills

    You know what I do not understand. Ubuntu and canonical want people in there free time to make apps for the phone. But here is the thing.

    1) only the people that are in the “popularity circle” have got the phone core code.

    2) If “you” want people to create apps. Don’t thread them down. Don’t tell them one thing and do something else. Follow up with the thing that you say that you are going to do.

    3) How are we to know what things we can or can not use on the phone if we can not see the source ? (qtdee,qtbamf,gconf,utouch)

    4) For the people that are in the “inner circle/popularity contest” that do have a phone that do keep on posting about making things. Are you really that in-sensitive towards others ? I mean don’t you think that there is other people that are sitting on there hands just waiting for this. And here you are shoving it in people faces. Then to top it all off you ask us to make apps for it. That my friends are just plain old rude.

    anyone else feel that the phone was released to early and if they want to release things like this(with the branding of opensource) they should also release the source code at the same time?

    for all the people that maybe doing some of the stuff that I was talking about above. Maybe you should truly look into that. think about how other feel about this. Think about what you are making this all “Look Like” with popularity contests and what not. Oh also you have a phone. Why dont you just create apps and stfu about it untill others can join you. Not mad just saying

  • Børge / forteller

    Great! All the best of luck!

    I’m just wondering though why you went with Balsamiq? Online it uses Flash and pops up nag screens. Desktop version costs money.

    Why not for example Moqups, which uses HTML5 and is free/gratis to use?


  • Michael Hall

    Balsamiq was what we knew, thanks for pointing out Moqups though

  • Anonymous

    Hi Joseph,

    Some responses:

    1) If by “popularity circle” you mean “Canonical employees who worked on the phone code” then you are correct. The code has not been released yet, but we are currently working on getting the code ready. This requires lots of boring work such as sanitizing the code, adding license details, adding comments etc. This takes time, but needs to be done. Importantly though, you don’t need the phone code to write a phone app, you just need the SDK developer preview which is available at

    2) I don’t know what you mean by do one thing and then do something else.

    3) See (1). The source is coming.

    4) What are you talking about? Do you mean Canonical people posting about the phone? If so, I am sorry, but we are not going to stop talking about the phone just because some people are excited to get hold of it and don’t have it yet. All in good time, my friend. :-)

  • Anonymous

    I will ask David Planella to check into this. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Does this mean, that nautilus will be replaced with new file manager? Or all default apps will be replaced with new QT apps?

  • Alexandre Figueiredo

    The good thing of start later is the oportunity of doing the right thing. To do what works. To get the best of what exist and make something new. And, pls, don’t forget to keep it simple.

  • Anonymous

    // off-topic there was appshowdown for ubuntu:

    Why those apps are not available for 12.10 and 13.04? I can’t install them!

    // off-topic 2 ubuntu is 8 years old and still doesn’t have default calendar app :(

  • Anonymous

    google talk/jabber client? Will be cool to have jabber in ubuntu one account.

  • J.C&TheGang


  • zimm3rmann

    Great post, and a great way to do core apps.

    Can you also add ? We are actively adding new content there, and that way /r/ubuntu doesn’t get full of UbuntuPhone posts.

  • zimm3rmann

    Oh and additionally we will gladly add any canonical.staff that are involved with Ubuntu Phone as moderators.

  • Sid Payton


    how long will this “contest” be?

    I would like to contribute but have to wait two more weeks because of my bachelor thesis. Thanks for the heads up.

  • solomon sunder

    I agree with you about different interfaces for the same app. But I would love to have a dock that works wirelessly like a combination of Airdroid and NexPhone. It is only a matter of time before Google brings such a device.

  • CSRedRat

    Your design the best!

  • Shane Guignard

    I too submitted a request, still no response. not even an acknowledgement.

    Maybe they already have all their DEV’s they need, but i know for a fact that a friend of mine who did get a reply has personally put in a word for me to take his place and i still have not heard from Ubuntu or David.. Oh well.