My thoughts on Ubuntu Touch version 1 (Reviewed on Nexus 10)

I’ve just installed Ubuntu Touch version 1 on my Nexus 10 and the whole experience lasted roughly 10 minutes. If anything the experience has left me with a new found respect for the Android operating system.

Ubuntu Touch version 1, is a primitive alpha at best.

I was expecting at least a semi usable system, but sadly no. Version 1 is nothing more than a developer preview with a version 1 badge.

Having said that and while sipping on a late night tea getting over the disappointment, I’m not entirely sure what to make of this.

There’s still a boat load of work to be done

My gripes are mostly with the versioning. Giving Ubuntu Touch version 1 status is indeed premature. Perhaps Canonical realise how quick they need to get to the party and how much catching up they need to do, and I am sure they’ve followed their best software development practices and each department is somewhat satisfied they’ve reached their milestones and have a checkbox next to their goals, but I’m looking at this from an end users point of view.

The reality is, it’s a buggy as hell proof of concept that should really be labelled as an Alpha.

I really do not see how this release has made it out of dev preview? Are Canonical confused? Previously they had a developers preview, now they’re on v1 however they state, this is a developers preview – why not just keep it as a dev preview update?

The user experience is already going in the wrong direction

What Ubuntu Touch tries to offer is multi-tasking. To do this they’ve created a way to run 2 apps at the same time. 1 is the primary tablet app, the other runs in phone mode.

Firstly this idea is nutty! It would have been awesome to have a scalable amount of first class citizen apps. Clearly the hardware isn’t there yet, so the work around offers some relief, but in practice it’s a terrible idea.

I would really like to ask if anyone in the development team, particularly someone involved in the UI development actually took the time to load up Ubuntu touch on a Nexus 10 and go through a first impressions check list.

Even the most basic of functionality is cruddy. Settings loading up in the phone app space, while on a tablet? Brightness only adjusting the phone app space, and immediately forgetting the setting!

The OS comes with the most rudimentary of web browsers too, not even able to hold a cookie, when I tried logging into a site. Now I know its a preview, but at least bundle in a decent web browser, to give us some idea of the potential.

Improvement ideas

  1. Include a boot logo
  2. Flashing instructions were good and the whole process was easy – good job on this!
  3. Tap to log in – no no no, what’s the point of the circle then?
  4. Make the UI much more intuitive. Ditch the phone app, and introduce intuitive multi-tasking
  5. Bundle in a version of Chromium.
  6. Fix the lag

My prediction though is that Ubuntu Touch is going to be a bit of a failure. I can see all my improvement ideas being implemented except 4. I just don’t think Canonical are working with the right team to truly revolutionize usability or even to get it right. And no matter how technically brilliant the code might be, ultimately usability is what is going to win over hearts.


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