The Kernal Guy With A Computer

Ubuntu Touch Review

For around half a year, I’ve been using an Alcatel Go Flip 4 as my main and only phone. For the most part, I’ve been pretty happy with it. But there’s still some times where a smartphone comes in handy. Browsing the internet, writing, and navigation are severely gimped on a flip phone. So, when I decided to get a smartphone to use as a second phone, I decided on a Google Nexus 5 on which I would install Ubuntu touch. And so, now that I’ve got to play around with it, I think I can give a detailed enough review, and share my experience with you.

Install

The install process was less than ideal, but still pretty good. Once I had opened my Nexus 5 and enabled USB debugging, I immediatly connected the phone to my computer and started the process of installing Ubuntu touch. The installer itself was super easy, only requiring me to press a few buttons on my phone and click a couple check boxes. But after a around 10 minutes, tragedy struck. The install failed, and I had no idea what to do. My phone was now completely locked in Recovery boot. It took me around 15 minutes of searching to find out that the newer version of the installer was buggy. So, I went to the UBPorts Github, downloaded the installer, and eventually flashed my phone without a hitch.

Resource Usage & Speed

Ubuntu touch, all of the apps, and Lomiri are impressively snappy. I wouldn’t say it’s much better than stock Android, but it’s definitely not worse. I have noticed that the phone does get a little hot when watching internet video, but apart from that, I have yet to have any problems related to performance. RAM stayed consistently under 500MB on a cold boot, and CPU use seems very low too.

Package management

Openstore

This is the way you’re supposed to get most of your apps on Ubuntu touch. It’s a repository of free, open sourced apps made by community members and developers, packaged nicely into a well designed app. I had no issues downloading, installing, or deleting any native or web applications, and everything loaded extremely fast. Openstore is amazing, and F-Droid better be taking notes.

Libertine

If you want to install a traditional, desktop Debian package, you’re going to need a Libertine container. I haven’t used it very much, but from what I can tell, it seems pretty good. It took a long time to set up, but once I got the container installed, everything else went smoothly. I installed screenfetch, htop, and even Vim without any errors or slowdowns. Libertine is pretty decent, and much better than what you can get in Android.

Lomiri

Look & Feel

Lomiri is not only beautiful, but extremely productive. It makes excellent use of Unity’s traditional Ambiance theme to create an iconic look, but adds many features that unity never had. Everything from launching apps, switching windows, to answering a call can be done with gestures that work surprisingly well with a mouse and touchscreen. And don’t even get me started on the system tray. This is the most thoughtful, well designed system tray that I have ever seen. It has 10 seperate items that are all no more than one swipe away. The UBPorts team deserve some credit, because they’ve taken the unstable, ugly Unity 8 and turned it into something actually worth using.

Convergence

Convergence is the main feature of Lomiri, and it is executed flawlessly. I can’t hook my phone up to my monitor, but after turning my phone on it’s side and turning on windowed mode through the Ubuntu Touch Tweak Tool, I found the basic desktop experiance amazing. All of the keybindings you could use on a regular Ubuntu desktop were available. And in general, Lomiri just acts like good Ol’ Unity, bar the menu bar at the top left.

Conclusion

Ubuntu Touch is an amazing project that I would reccomend to almost anyone. It allows you to take an older, unsupported Android device that you might already have sitting in your closet, and turn it into a fully functional Linux machine that can make phone calls and use SMS. It is a great way to escape Google survalience without having to go and buy a flip phone like me. If you have the money, the technical know-how, and a phone carrier that doesn’t hate you, I’d reccomend you buy a phone and give it a whirl.