Software company Canonical made waves recently with the announcement that Ubuntu, the popular open-source operating system, was making the leap to smartphones. But does the world need another mobile operating system? The folks at Canonical seem to think so. And after going hands-on with the latest build of Ubuntu Mobile during Pepcom at CES 2013, we tend to agree.
During our demo, the Canonical rep used a Google Nexus phone that ran the new OS. Instead of a lockscreen, Ubuntu Mobile appealed to our inner artist with a colorful infographic of our recent phone use. Another notable difference is phone navigation. Ubuntu Mobile ditches the Android's familiar buttons (Back, Menu, Search and Home), using the edges of the display to navigate between apps, menus and notifications.
For example, a small swipe from the left edge of the display revealed all the phone's apps. A swipe from the right edge scrolled through apps. Accessing the notifications shade involved a gentle pull from the top edge. However, unlike Android, we were able to scroll left or right to access both settings and content like music and movies. An upward swipe reveals the menu, meaning users would only see the menu when they wanted to.
As the rep took us through the demo, we were impressed with the speed and fluidity of the navigation. Despite running on a year-old phone, navigation was blazing fast. The UI is very clean and lovely to look at. Previewed images in the gallery were large and inviting, as were the app icons in the app bar. It's a very compelling case of art intersecting with technology.
We were also told that when docked in a compatible device, an Ubuntu mobile device will be able to run the full PC version of Ubuntu. While the rep was unable to give us carrier information, he said that Ubuntu smartphones would be hitting stores sometime in 2013. Overall, Ubuntu Mobile is a breath of fresh air in a room filled with Android and iOS. The UI is remarkably fast and beautiful, and with the legions of Ubuntu fans, Ubuntu-powered smartphones could become the dark horse in the smartphone race.