Ubuntu Touch OS for mobile devices… by UBports

Ubuntu Touch was/is an Ubuntu flavor OS targeting mobile devices, originally released by Canonical. There’s a bit of a history there but in short – although promising, it was eventually abandoned by Canonical (why!?) only to be recognized for its potential and later on picked by an independent group of volunteers at UBports. Thank God for them!

Guys, seriously – keep up the excellent work!!

The 3 most important keywords (IMHO) are:

  • freedom (of choice)
  • privacy, and
  • convergence

Although I truly get the idea behind ‘convergence’, my inclination towards trying out this OS was as a result of wanting back my ‘freedom’ and ‘privacy’! Call me outdated, old-fashioned and what not, but freedom and privacy are somethings we take for granted.

My first experience with Ubuntu Touch was back in 2014 when a colleague at work flashed his Nexus 4 device. Although a bit sluggish and clearly in need of improvements in some areas, I was – pleasantly surprised!

Then I forgot all about it. Until now, when Linux based mobile phones (such as the Librem 5 and the Pine 64) are creating ripples – small, but potent ones nevertheless!

So I set out on trying it myself.

First order of business was getting my hands on a phone I know was officially supported.

Now before continuing any further, let’s get something out of the way first! Yes, this might be one of it’s biggest weaknesses (a small list of supported devices), but it’s not something that’s difficult to bridge. And there are other forces at play as well (e.g. the business interests of the industry’s giants)!

Come to think of it: how many mobile phones out there that you’re aware of, which are supported by iOS!? Yours one and only – the iPhone! Yet, it’s global appeal (and impact!) has been nothing but astonishing since it’s official release back in 2007.

I believe the point I’m trying to make is obvious. If it isn’t, refer back to the Librem 5 and Pine 64 phones! Signature devices – with a signature OS! Why not?

So… after a current colleague of mine 🙂 has graciously borrowed his own One+ One, my journey of exploration began.

Ease of installation? I faced some challenges, almost as soon as I began. I’m sure it’s specific to the phone I had – previously rooted, although I doubt this was causing it, but using the latest Windows installer hang while the phone was in fastboot mode. Three episodes of the Big Bang Theory later – and still nothing. Then I tried the same approach – this time using the latest Linux installer. Hanged almost identically – while in fastboot mode!

Then I decided to go the manual way. All the steps are described on the UBports page for the One+ One.

My 1st attempt: under Windows 10. Failed. More specifically at:

fastboot oem unlock

My 2nd attempt: under Linux Mint. Failed as well. Also at:

fastboot oem unlock

Both times I have experienced the same behavior: the phone would hang while being in fastboot mode.

And just FYI only:

  • booting the One+ One into fastboot mode is done by simultaneously pressing & holding the Volume Up & Power Key
  • booting the One+ One into recovery mode is done by simultaneously pressing & holding the Volume Down & Power Key

I believe there’s a mistake on the last one in the instructions posted online. You could also accomplish the same by issuing adb commands in the terminal.

My 3rd (and final) attempt:

sudo fastboot oem unlock

And that fixed it! I really don’t know why I did’t think of it the first time. When issuing any of the commands given in the online manual setup instructions fails – or doesn’t yield the expected outcome – sudo!

Everything else after that fell into place. I was greeted by the recognizable Ubuntu styling – which by the way – I absolutely love!

I took the phone for a quick test drive, made few calls (pleasantly surprised by the quality btw), browsed through the app store (you won’t find most of the usual suspects there, but trust me – the time will come), made a couple of pictures (not too bad either), a bit of sluggish (but just a tad :)) – overall, not a bad experience at all. I just might stick to it.

In the mean time, I’ll keep on testing. And advocating!