The smartphone platform war is over, at least for the time being. Blackberry OS has gone with the wind. Windows Phone has finally faded away into dust. Firefox OS died an unceremonious death. But one small open source software operating system called Ubuntu Touch continues to live in a very tiny corner.
Ubuntu Touch is a tiny blip on the smartphone map – that is if you really zoom in. If you do not zoom, it does not exist to the eye. But it is there and to be found running on less than 200,000 smartphones. It is interesting that when all the big names are gone, the 3rd smartphone platform left standing is perhaps the least known one.
Ubuntu Touch by UBports
The funny thing is that Ubuntu mobile was on its way out too, having been discontinued by Canonical. A community of enthusiasts called UBports took it up and have kept it going.
Ubuntu Touch is the touch-friendly mobile version of Ubuntu. This OS is developed and maintained by UBports, an international community of passionate volunteers.
Great Software Initiative; No New Hardware
Ubuntu Touch is good software, but it faces a severe problem. There have been no new Ubuntu phones announced in 2 years. That is a long time in mobile. But that is not deterring the UBports community.
What they do is work to make the software compatible with a range of smartphones and tablets that are already in the market. So, you can buy those devices and then install Ubuntu Touch in them, same way you can buy a laptop and decide whether to install Windows or some Linux flavour.
Could this be a forerunner of a coming age in which we will be able to install any mobile software on any hardware of our choice?
The current list of Ubuntu Touch compatible devices include: Fairphone 2, Nexus 5, OnePlus One, and BQ Aquaris M10 FHD tablet. There is a another, longer list of work-in-progress devices.
I was unable to install the new version of Ubuntu Touch on my BQ Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition when I tried it out last year. It used to be on the list of supported devices, but is no more listed there. I might give it a go again sometime.
In the meantime, if you want the flagship Ubuntu smartphone, Meizu PRO 5 Ubuntu Edition is what to get. It was released in 2016.
Ubuntu Touch for Privacy And Community
Ubuntu Touch remains a niche platform, but it offers freedom from Google and Apple’s constant invasion of user privacy. UBports claims that Ubuntu Touch “keeps you secure because most unsafe parts are blocked by default; the only way that the peepers and creepers can get a peek is if you invite them”.
Ubuntu Touch OS has a small community of users who value privacy. It doesn’t look like it is going to grow big any time soon, if ever. But Ubuntu Touch lives on. For now.