Ubuntu coming to high-end smartphones during 2014

by: Gary SimsDecember 11, 2013

Ubuntu phone now being guided by an advisory groupCanonical announced the launch of Ubuntu for phones back in January, but other than the unfortunate Ubuntu Edge episode there hasn’t really been much news about the fledgling mobile version of the popular Linux distribution. However, Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Canonical and its product strategy leader, has now revealed that the company has signed its first agreement to ship Ubuntu on mobile phones!

[quote qtext=”We have concluded our first set of agreements to ship Ubuntu on mobile phones.” qperson=”Mark Shuttleworth” qsource=”” qposition=”left”]Shuttleworth didn’t reveal who Ubuntu’s new OEM partner is, but he did say that Ubuntu will come to high-end phones during 2014. It also looks like this first deal is but one of many. “We are now pretty much at the board level on four household brands. They sell a lot of phones all over the world, in emerging and fully emerged markets, to businesses and consumers,” said Shuttleworth.

Ubuntu is designed to work on two types of smartphone, the entry level device which needs to have a dual-core processor and at least 512 MB of RAM, and the high-end that needs a quad-core processor with at least 1GB of RAM. The main difference between the two is that the high-end “Superphone” can also act as a PC when connected to a monitor, keyboard and mouse! If this is the type of high-end phone that Shuttleworth is talking about then 2014 could be a very interesting year indeed!


The mobile operating system market is becoming increasingly crowded and newcomers will find it difficult to make an impact. Besides Android and iOS, companies like Microsoft and BlackBerry are trying to increase their market shares while newer offerings such as Firefox OS and Tizen are trying to gain a foothold. Is there room for Ubuntu? Clearly Canonical  thinks there is. Along with partnerships with popular online services like Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Evernote, Amazon and Pinterest, Ubuntu has a secret weapon. Thanks to the Ubuntu SDK, native apps can be written to work across all versions of Ubuntu, on the desktop, Smart TVs, Ubuntu tablets and Ubuntu smartphones. This is something that Google and Apple don’t offer and something that Microsoft has botched with Windows.

Canonical has done a good job of getting carrier endorsements. Networks like Vodafone, 3, EE, KT, SK Telecom, Verizon, Deutsche Telecom, T-Mobile, PT, and others have all endorsed Ubuntu for smartphones. These companies have all signed up to Ubuntu’s Carrier Advisory Group which lets mobile operators shape Ubuntu’s mobile strategy.

Shuttleworth sees mobile as a key part of Ubuntu’s future. Although Canonical isn’t profitable today it could be if the company just focused on its PC and server business and dropped mobile. However, Shuttlworth thinks that dropping mobile would give Canonical “a lifespan measured in years, not decades.”

Since Ubuntu is an open source operating system, and Canonical will share the code openly, and thanks to the Ubuntu SDK developers, carriers and manufacturers are already able to build apps for Ubuntu. The question is, will they?

  • GillRigged

    I would love to have this on my G2.

    • MrMagoo

      Just got one on Friday! So far I love it! And as usual, since I do love Android, I’d love it as a dual boot for starters. Aclimate myself before full takeover. I’ve Ubuntu and have it installed on an old laptop, but I want to try out the mobile so bad!!

  • jonny555333

    The pictures at the top is the Galaxy Nexus.

    • Yes that is right. At the moment you can install Ubuntu on a Galaxy Nexus and a Nexus 4. There are no other pictures as the moment as the OEM hasn’t been revealed, neither has any designs for the hardware.

  • MasterMuffin

    Good, more competition is gud

  • endy

    My friends, may I introduce the next “Windows”?

    Think of the implications of an OS that could actually replace Windows. And the same could be said for Chrome/Android if Google is not careful.

    This is the biggest story of December. Thanks Gary.

    • mustbepbs

      Ubuntu, and by extension all Linux distros, cannot replace Windows in its current status.

      The learning curve is never ending considering you NEED terminal for most things, even something as basic as installing a Java plugin. A lot of applications don’t have Linux counterparts and their open source alternatives don’t measure up (I.E. QuickBooks and Office).

      As much as I love Linux, it’ll never replace Windows for the end user.

      • NeedName

        everything you say is true. . . however, a great majority of the world doesn’t have a PC or a smartphone, and if Ubuntu Touch can get to those people. . . it may very well be a “good enough computer” for them to do whatever they need, and that would bring a much needed user base to Linux which would help bring apps.

        But that’s a big IF. . . especially considering current mobile competition. Nonetheless, I’ll probably give it a spin :)

        • Arturo Raygoza

          I hear this argument made all the time on Ubuntu for PCs, if it can only reach those people who can’t afford windows office etc. but the reality check is that those who can’t afford windows but need it just pirate it instead of using Ubuntu.

          besides do you think someone who can’t afford a PC can somehow afford a “high end” Ubuntu phone to use as a PC? lol keep in mind that in countries where people can’t afford a PC the carriers don’t subsidize phones either. so its all full cost up front

          windows dominates the desktop because its got applications. that actually matter and Ubuntu apps suck hard. now that’s also what’s gonna leave Ubuntu dead in the water going up against the play store.

          I use Ubuntu 13.1 but I don’t fool myself either. its not mainstream and it won’t be

      • max

        You have not used Ubuntu last 2 years. I have used it 5 years and do not use terminal to install anything I want, the appstore built in is fast and secure! The programs I use work fine and most better than Winblows and secure, something Windows is incapable of.

        • mustbepbs

          I’ve actually been using it for the last 6 months, and if you ever need a piece of software that’s not in the app store (there’s a lot), you need terminal.

  • Valtheus

    The question for me is, how easily the developers can migrate their apps to the new platform. Right now even major developers have a hard time publishing their apps in both Android and iOS at the same time (usually they prefer to publish in iOS first, with an android version following after months).

    I guess that remains to be seen, because without a competitive app store, the platform won’t have much luck no matter how good it is or how many cool features it has.

    • venorme

      You have to read carefully. All desktop apps that work with Ubuntu for desktop are working with mobile as well. Both have same SDK.
      Really hope to use my high end phone as nettop next year.

      • Valtheus

        I read it alright. You didn’t understand what i said probably. I am talking about app development migration between different platforms… not between the Ubuntu ecosystem.

        • venorme

          Guess I was wrong))
          But I don`t think they have to migrate. There are fullsized apps for Linux desktop – why use cut mobile apps?
          Imagine steam on your phone…

          • Arturo Raygoza

            he means apps like angry birds that are on the play store not already native apps on ubuntu

          • venorme

            you do understand that playing full sized Assasin creed on your pnone is bit cooler than angrybirds? And you will be able to play birds – loads of emulators out there

          • Arturo Raygoza

            it sure is but we need to appeal to the masses with household names like angry birds. and please emulators? not that **** again, bad enough emulators suck on Ubuntu and I could never set one up, now they have to torture us with it again but now on phones? I’m sorry but I don’t see why there is a need for Ubuntu os. the only reason I would ever adopt it on my phone is if it somehow provided every thing android does wasn’t behind in developers to do list and if it provided ultimate privacy. hell if it marketed itself as the pro privacy alternative to iosand android then I’m very interested and I’m sure more will be too but it has to be as good as android in terms of development

        • MrMagoo

          Well they are both Linux based OS’s. Shouldn’t be rocket science if they’re righting the software anyway. And with power and RAM like what’s in a Note 3, Steam should definately be a possibility!!! Which would be awesome!!! :-)

          • Valtheus

            Aren’t they all unix based OS’s? That doesn’t mean they don’t have to use different SDKs to write their apps. It ain’t rocket science but it takes time.

            My point was, that developers must get interested in development for the OS, so it can compete with Android and iOS.

    • Arturo Raygoza

      I agree with you. but I also would love to use my phone as a PC. watch windows do it better

  • dean clarke

    On my note 3? Mmmm!

  • wat

    One problem with the dock is that image out (HDMI, whatever) and USB are coming out of the same port and need power in the dock to support both at once. Which means no USB or wireless with USB receiver keyboard and mice sets are viable at the moment. As for direct bluetooth to the device, there are a ton of mice but no real nice bluetooth keyboard I know of.

    • Adam

      nahh. Its like Samsung’s dock I guess. take a look at it anytime.http://www.samsung.com/us/mobile/cell-phones-accessories/EDD-S20JWEGSTA . But I bet theres 2 usb port instead, 1 for charging the other one for another thing.

      • wat

        Yes, Samsung have it on two of their phones and they’re the only two phones out there which support it (note 3 too?) and that is only with their proprietary dock. To get MHL to USB AND HDMI you generally need power to the DOCK to support both ports. Standard MHL on 99% of Android phones can not do this without the dock having external power which is a ball ache.

        • Adam

          because it would drain their battery.

          • wat

            No, because it would charge the device also

    • Dimitar Gospodinov

      it is not very hard to plug in a USB hub in the phone…

      • wat

        Yes it is, other than Samsungs there are none that can do HDMI AND USB (only one or the other) without external power to the dock. Check it out, Google “MHL to USB AND HDMI”

  • NeedName

    but will my WiFi work? /s

    On a serious note. I know many don’t like the idea of OS convergence, but I’m not one of them. I would prefer and OS on my phone that can also be a “desktop” replacement when “docked” . . . . as long as it isn’t Windows :)

  • Robert

    No matter how many efforts other do Samsung quality is out class.http://bit.ly/Samsunganalysts

  • David Mueller

    Can’t they build a launcher?

  • venorme

    OMG – just imagine Steam on your phone