Ubuntu Touch is a mobile version of Ubuntu created by UBports. This mobile operating system is designed to be run on touch-enabled mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets.
While there are potential use cases for running Ubuntu on such devices, Ubuntu Touch is more significantly a step toward making Ubuntu a universal operating system that can run on almost any device (PC, IoT, mobile, etc.).
What Are the Benefits of Using Ubuntu Touch?
There are any number of benefits associated with using Ubuntu Touch. For starters, the software is free and open source. The open source design means that anyone with development experience can evaluate the code to verify that it is not compromising privacy. The Ubuntu Touch source code is available on GitLab.
Another benefit is that the software is easy to use. The installation process is almost entirely automated. Likewise, because Ubuntu Touch is based on Ubuntu, anyone who is used to working with Ubuntu should feel right at home using Ubuntu Touch.
Finally, Ubuntu Touch works on a variety of devices and may be a good option for those who are concerned about mobile operating systems spying on their every move.
What Apps Can I Run On Ubuntu Touch?
Because Ubuntu Touch is its own operating system and does not run on top of Android or iOS, you can’t install apps from the Google Play or iTunes app stores. However, this does not mean that Ubuntu Touch has no app support. You can get Ubuntu Touch apps through OpenStore.
There are currently more than 1,200 Ubuntu Touch apps in OpenStore. These apps fall into a variety of categories that resemble those offered in competing platforms’ app stores.
What Are the Hardware Requirements for Ubuntu Touch?
If you want to run Ubuntu Touch, you will need a smartphone or tablet that has at least 1 GB of RAM. Not all mobile devices will work with Ubuntu Touch, however. UBports lists five “promoted devices” which are optimally suited for use with Ubuntu Touch. These include PinePhone, Fairphone 2, Volla, Nexus 5, and OnePlus One.
You can run Ubuntu Touch even if you do not have one of these promoted devices. All you need is a computer that is running Ubuntu, your device, an internet connection, and the Ubuntu Touch installer.
It is worth noting that Ubuntu Touch relies on the Android Linux kernel and drivers. As such, you can only install Ubuntu Touch on Android phones, at least for now. Currently, the iPhone, Windows Phone, and other platforms are not supported, although they may be in the future. Understand, however, that Ubuntu Touch does not run on top of Android. It is a true bare metal operating system, but it does depend on Android drivers and the Android Linux kernel.
In addition, not every Android device runs Ubuntu Touch equally well. Ubuntu Touch provides a list of supported devices.
How Can I Get Ubuntu Touch?
Ubuntu Touch is open source and freely available to anyone who wants to try it (although UBPorts does accept donations).
To get Ubuntu Touch, go to the Ubuntu Touch website and click the Download Installer button.
What Are the Privacy and Security Concerns with Ubuntu Touch?
As with any mobile operating system, there are some potential privacy and security issues that you should be aware of prior to installing Ubuntu touch.
One such concern is that like any other Ubuntu deployment, Ubuntu Touch likely sends user data to Canonical. Another concern is that because Ubuntu Touch is open source and leverages Android drivers, it might not be as secure as other mobile operating systems. For example, applications running on Ubuntu Touch do not appear to be sandboxed as they are with other mobile operating systems.
Realistically, Ubuntu Touch probably isn’t an operating system for everyone. The casual consumer will likely have a better experience with iOS or Android. Even so, Ubuntu Touch offers a compelling alternative for tech-savvy mobile users who are concerned about their personal privacy or who just want to run Ubuntu on a mobile device.