Remember Ubuntu for Android? It’s not dead, but it’s in limbo

by: Andrew GrushApril 29, 2014


In early 2012, Canonical took its first dive into the world of mobile computing by introducing an ambitious effort called “Ubuntu for Android”. This project’s goal was simple: it was about merging the mobility of Android with the desktop-functionality of Ubuntu Linux.

Basically, this meant that Android devices running Ubuntu for Android would still work the same as always when on-the-go. When these users needed a more traditional desktop experience, however, they could hook their phone to a monitor and keyboard and their Android handsets would instantly turn into full-fledged Ubuntu computers.

This project’s goal was simple: it was about merging the mobility of Android with the desktop-functionality of Ubuntu Linux.

The Ubuntu on Android project had a ton of potential, but it was more than likely never meant to be a major area of focus for the company, and instead was simply a way to ‘break in’ to the market. In January of 2013 Canonical revealed they were expanding their mobile efforts beyond just letting Ubuntu co-exist with Android. Instead, Canonical announced what is often referred to as Ubuntu Touch.

The big difference between Ubuntu for Android and Ubuntu Touch is that the latter is designed to run as a replacement to other mobile OSes like Android, while the former was meant to compliment an existing Android installation.

It still remains unseen whether or not Ubuntu Touch can establish itself as a real alternative to Android, iOS and Windows Phone, but we have to wonder: what ever happened to Ubuntu for Android? According to a recent bug report, the project is more or less listed as dead with Canonical’s Matthew Paul Thomas stating the following:

[The website] describes Ubuntu for Android as “the must-have feature for late-2012 high-end Android phones. Ubuntu for Android is no longer in development, so this page should be retired, along with [the features section].

So does that mean the project is done for good? Yes and no. Reaching out to Canonical, we learned that while the project is no longer in active development, it’s not necessarily dead either. Here’s their official statement on the matter:

We are very happy with the reception of both the Ubuntu 14.04 LTS desktop, and the early Ubuntu phone images. We think these development show a desire in the market place for Ubuntu, and an Ubuntu for Android (U4A) solution would be a good way for it to reach users.

We still believe that U4A is a great product concept and that consumers would welcome the feature. The development within Ubuntu for U4A is complete. To take the development further requires a launch partner in order to make the necessary modifications on the Android side.

We are currently not in concrete discussions with launch partners, but we are still very much open to such a partnership. We are focused on Ubuntu for Phones at the moment, therefore we are not actively pushing for Ubuntu for Android.However, if a prospective partner steps forward, we are very much open to launching Ubuntu for Android.

Bottom-line, Canonical feels that Ubuntu for Phones (and tablets) should currently be their priority, but they are open to working with any potential partners that wish to continue pushing the U4A initiative further.


  • asdf

    Does anybody know how to get Ubuntu for Android on your phone? Or did the project never make it to a release stage?

    • MasterMuffin

      Safe way is installing multirom from Google Play (works at least for Nexus devices). It’s still so early beta that it’s just a cool thing for every nerd to do, but definitely not a daily driver :)

      If the multirom app doesn’t give your phone the option to install Ubuntu, there still may be a build in XDA’s subforum for your phone model

  • MasterMuffin

    Am I the only one who is bothered by the fact that the phone in the picture has Android 2.3? :|

    • bizznit

      No, i get you bro. :)

      • MasterMuffin

        Good :)

    • Timmy

      At least it’s not an iPhone.

      • MasterMuffin

        Yea I can’t believe people actually advertise Android stuff with iPhones :D

        • mobilemann

          i ran gingerbread on my old 3gs:D

          • MasterMuffin

            And now try that on iPhone 5s!

          • mobilemann

            wish i could! First i don’t have one, and second the boot-loaders are locked down tighter than a ducks butthole! But so are my note’s. Ces’t la vie.

          • Woe, Is [S]unjay

            How do you know the tightness of a duck’s buttonhole? Have you ever been in there?

          • MasterMuffin

            Do you even want to know?

          • Woe, Is [S]unjay

            Lol, no. It may be too graphic for my imagination.

          • Woe, Is [S]unjay

            It won’t work. No exploits.

          • MasterMuffin

            I know :)

    • It’s because Ubuntu for Android was based on Webtop that only worked on GingerBread. Later versions of Webtop (version 3) on ICS where basically Android running the tablet interface.

      • MasterMuffin

        Source links on a comment, cool :)

      • Alex Chiang

        Ubuntu for Android is not based on webtop at all, other than initial inspiration and both being convergence solutions.

        The latest version of UfA was ported to JellyBean MR1.

      • thartist

        Then if it was based on Gingerbread, they pretty much have to start over. Hmpf…

    • David Jeffers

      that’s just when the U4A started xD

  • cbstryker

    I am disappointed by this. While I love Ubuntu (and Linux desktops in general) I’m not yet interested in Ubuntu as my main phone OS. I still want Android as my phone OS and Ubuntu as my desktop OS. They are both used differently and have their own applications (in terms of functionality and what they are used for). I would love a laptop dock for my phone that functions as Ubuntu while in laptop mode, but then is Android when I remove it from the dock/connector. This is my dream for mobile devices. When I can take my phone when I walk into work and connect it or “sync it” with my dummy workstation, so that everything is running off of my phone, then I’ll know future tech has arrived. I know that this is 100% possible already, but the standards and implementations are not there yet for this type of scenario.

  • Ojzor

    Just release the source already! The community will take it from there. I would love this feature on my galaxy note 3.

  • kozjegyzo

    I’m still crossing my fingers or this to become a reality. I love Ubuntu, have it dual booting on all my PC-s. It would be so awesome to have it on my phone…