ubuntu-phone-1

Ubuntu Touch – a preliminary review

Browser
The browser is one of the more stable apps of Ubuntu Touch. It can handle almost everything except flash. Ubuntu Touch will not support flash at all. The browser was quite responsive to touch and scrolling was smooth. The pages loaded quite fast. I did not run any benchmark test though.

Weather app
I really like the look of the weather app. It’s shaping up quite well. It shows daily temperature, humidity and wind speed. It also dynamically changes colour w.r.t  the temperature. One functionality still missing is 3-day or a 5-day forecast.

ubuntu_touch_weather2 ubuntu_touch_weather

Music & Video apps
They are still under heavy development. Music player can play mp3 without need of extra codecs. I tested a number of .mp3 files, all worked fine. I could not get the video player working though.

ubuntu_touch_music_app

File Manager
File manager is fast and responsive. Navigation through the folders is very smooth. It support list view and hidden folder view. A grid view  is not supported yet.

ubuntu_touch_ filemanager

Calendar
Calendar is one of my favourite apps of Ubuntu Touch. Its beautifully designed, has a very nice colour. According to me, its the best looking calendar app yet on a mobile OS. Adding new event is supported locally. A one way sync with google calendar is supported. It’s a good start I must say.

ubuntu_touch_calenar2
Friends app
This app is currently one of the most stable apps on Ubuntu Touch. You can sync Twitter and Facebook and get updates from both. You can also post to both the social networking sites.
friends_app_ubuntu

Camera and Gallery apps
Camera app can take pictures and videos without issues. It has basic functionality of zoom and flash. No fancy camera effects are supported yet.The camera app supports the front camera too. All photos are stored in pictures folder, accessed by the Gallery app. The gallery app is a  very well designed app. It works well at this stage.

Phone Signal, Wifi & 3G
Phone signal on Nexus 4 seemed weak when compared to Android on the same device and sometimes the phone displayed “no signal”. Wifi and 3G (GSM) are working. You can browse the internet comfortably on 3G data.  A recent bug fix now allows Ubuntu touch to connect automatically to  saved wifi networks on reboot. One thing I must point out, channel 13 on wifi networks do not work for Ubuntu Touch. The phone just simply refuses to recognize the wifi signal. This doesn’t happen on my laptop which runs Ubuntu 13.10

System Settings
System Settings allows you to automatically download Ubuntu Touch updates when connected to a wifi network. You can also change your background wallpaper, add accounts – Facebook,Twitter, Google and Ubuntu One are allowed. U1 is required for downloading apps from the app store.

ubuntu_touch_update

Performance, Stability and battery
Ubuntu Touch development team have decided to publish 3 images per day to minimize regression. Every second day, they will promote a build which can be used . At this stage performance is not that good. The OS is sluggish, which is very evident when you open 3 or more apps and try to scroll. It slows down so badly that it looks as if you are watching a movie in slow motion. Battery backup is really bad too. You cannot get more than 4-6 hours at this stage.

Unity 8 and Mir
A big part of this performance and battery issue lies with Mir. Mir is the new display driver for Ubuntu Touch. Its still in alpha I would say. Unless Mir is sorted Ubuntu Touch wont see any performance or battery life improvement.

The App Store
Ubuntu Touch allows third party apps from the appstore. You can also download applications from the Ubuntu App Store . Currently there are more than 30 apps available for download. A few games, torch apps, stock ticker and a  number of webapps for Google Maps and Open Street maps. There are no chat apps at the moment yet. That is a serious drawback.
ubuntu_touch_app_store

Conclusion
Currently there are performance, stability and battery issues plaguing the mobile OS. There are no apps yet to synchronise emails like Gmail, Google Drive, Hotmail or any cloud storage. There are no chat apps either. No Whatsapps, Line, Tapatalk or Gtalk. So, at its current state we cannot use UT as a daily driver.
Having said that, the Ubuntu community are taking good interest in Ubuntu Touch  and the devlopment is going great guns, things are steadily improving. Even this early in development stage, there are about 30 completed third party apps in the app store. The team has till April 2014 to get Ubuntu Touch ready for prime time they are confident they will be able to. Until then we have to play the waiting game.

PS: If you are still interested to try Ubuntu Touch find the list of compatible phones here.

About Sayantan Das

Sayantan is a Sr. IT Consultant working at Srinsoft Technologies, Chennai. He has over six years of work experience with more than four years as a Linux System Administrator. He is a Linux enthusiast and a blogger. He is also a regular contributor to the Ubuntu Manual.

30 thoughts on “Ubuntu Touch – a preliminary review

  1. > No chat apps
    > No gmail apps

    Since there are existing open-source chat applications for ubuntu, and several open-source mail applications out there, when I get my tablet in a few weeks and install Ubuntu Touch, I think I’ll fork some of these existing (and direly-needed) programs and make an Ubuntu-Touch compatible frontend, and put them on the App Store for free.

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