A while ago, Ubuntu released a video showing off their OS for Mobile and Tablets with smooth animations and pretty impressive visuals. As such I was excited to see it in the ‘real world’ and whether it’d actually deliver that same experience. Ubuntu for smartphones and tablets might be a little late to the ecosystem but after spending a little time with the OS, it’s easy to see that Canonical has been paying strict attention to what users want, and how their OS looks and feels.
I stopped over at the canonical booth at Mobile World Congress 2013 to check out Ubuntu for tablets and mobile phones, and got one of the friendly staff to take us through the entire OS on video. Check it out right below:
If you’ve used Ubuntu before and are a fan of the Unity UI, you’ll be right at home with the new interface. The OS was shown off on a Galaxy Nexus, but Ubuntu stated that it will be optimised for all displays and screen sizes as well.
As you can see in the video, everything is super smooth, with great looking animations and the OS feels fast even on the hardware it was running on. Arguably, even stock android doesnt run that smoothly on the Galaxy Nexus, heh. While there are some parts of Ubuntu for mobile that feel like they’ve been borrowed over from Android, they have been improved upon, and Canonical have been able to run the OS smoothly, something that took Google years to figure out, on less intense hardware specs.
Things like the notification dropdown from Android have been tweaked and improved. The top bar of Ubuntu has several icons that offer you a quick glimpse into important things like battery life or new messages, and when you pull the notification drawer down, if you place your finger on one of the icons before you start pulling, you’re shown settings that are relevant to that icon. Pretty darn clever, eh? As a result you can take a quick look at your battery life and settings, or adjust volume controls, yada yada, all without leaving whatever app or screen you’re in.
Each app also has it’s own settings, which you can get to by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. It’s a gesture similar to Windows 8 but ironically isnt used in windows phone 8, heh. Similarly, if you swipe from right to left, you can switch to the last app you were using, and every swipe will continue to take you back through the list of apps you used. You can also swipe to access the launcher as well.
Ofcourse there are some things that still need to be perfected. Ubuntu has a huge focus on web apps as ‘first class citizens’ but if there’s anything that living with Symbian has taught me, it’s that web apps are still, very limited. For example, Facebook in a browser or Gmail in a browser will not notify you about new email, will it? Hopefully they’ll manage native apps for certain important things.
At the end of the day, for an OS that doesnt even have it’s own hardware yet, Ubuntu for mobile is pretty impressive. I’m not entirely sure how they’ll manage to take on the huge ecosystems that now exist with iOS, Android and even Windows Phone, or even if Canonical wants to. While I’m still pretty happy with my Android phone and Windows Phone, I’ll admit that I am very, very curious to see where Ubuntu lands up when it’s finally released with it’s own hardware.