The community of developers who have been keeping the dream of Ubuntu phones and tablets alive since Canonical abandoned the project have announced that the first stable build of Ubuntu Touch based on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS “Focal Fossa” is here.
Ubuntu Touch OTA-1 Focal is officially supports five phones at launch. It can also run on a number of other phones, but some features may not be fully functional yet.
Ubuntu Touch was originally developed by Canonical, the company behind the popular Ubuntu GNU/Linux distribution for laptops, desktops, and servers. But after Canonical gave up on the idea of porting its operating system to smartphones and tablets in 2017, a group of independent developers formed the UBPorts community to pick up where Canonical left off.
In 2018 the team updated the base operating system from Ubuntu 15.04 to Ubuntu 16.04 LTS. But Canonical has ended mainstream support for that operating system, so the developers have been working on an update to Ubuntu 20.04 for the past few years.
Now the team says it’s stable enough to release as an official update for a handful of supported devices:
- Fairphone 4
- Google Pixel 3a
- Vollaphone X
- Vollaphone 22
Builds for the PinePhone, PinePhone Pro, and PineTab are also in the works… but since these devices are designed to run a mainline Linux kernel, they’re not part of the OTA update schedule that applies to most Ubuntu Touch-compatible devices.
So far, there are builds of Ubuntu Touch Focal Fossa for the PinePhone and PinePhone Pro, but there’s currently no support for auto-rotate, camera or flashlight capabilities, GPS, or OTA updates. And the PinePhone modem is said to be unstable.
While Ubuntu 20.04 is a few years old at this point, it’s an operating system that will be officially supported at least until 2027.
In addition to the updated base operating system, OTA-1 Focal also brings a number of other improvements, including backported versions of the Ubuntu 22.04 Network Manager and Bluetooth stack and updates and improvements for a number of apps.
While Ubuntu Touch is a Linux-based smartphone operating system, it makes use of Halium so that the operating system can communicate with smartphone hardware using Android drivers. OTA-1 Focal supports devices that shipped with android 9 or later.
And while a key draw to mobile Linux software like Ubuntu Touch may be that it’s not Android or iOS, there are some mobile apps available for those platforms which may not run natively on Linux. So Ubuntu Touch supports software that lets you run some Android apps in a container.
One other change is that the team has forked the Unity8 user interface and given it a new name: Lomiri. This is a change that’s been in the works for a long time, but in the OTA-1 Focal release announcement the UBPorts teams notes that Lomiri is now available to other GNU/Linux distributions that want to make it available to their users.