Ubuntu Phone Developer Preview on the Galaxy Nexus

Saturday, March 2, 2013

As promised, here's my experience with the Ubuntu Phone OS.

As the title says, I installed this preview on my Galaxy Nexus and boy was I surprised how simple it was. It was in fact simpler than Flashing a ROM with fastboot or ROM Manager.

However, even though you need Ubuntu to complete the installation, it is possible to do so manually using any operating system; we won't get into that however.

Note: This is only available for the Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, Nexus 7, and Nexus 10. Also, this is a developer preview. Do not expect any bugs to be fixed in the near future, nor should you expect this to be a fully baked product. This is not a product for the average consumer. 


The installation couldn't be any simpler. After booting into Ubuntu, you'll want to open up terminal and add this repository by entering the following command:

  • sudo add-apt-repository ppa:phablet-team/tools

Then enter the following:

  • sudo apt-get update 
  • sudo apt-get install phablet-tools android-tools-adb android-tools-fastboot 

From this point, you'll need to unlock(root) your smartphone by following these steps:

  1.  Turn off your smartphone/tablet
  2.  Boot it into the bootloader by holding power/sleep+volume up+volume down
  3.  Plug it into the computer via the provided/compatible USB cable.
  4.  In terminal, type the command sudo fastboot oem unlock, followed by Enter
  5.  On the phone/tablet screen, accept the terms of unlocking.
  6.  Hit the power button to boot up the device into Android.

Once you're done this, you'll begin the initial installation process.

 Firstly, you must enable USB debugging via the developer section in your Android settings:

  •  on Ice Cream Sandwich (version 4.0) go to Settings and turn on USB Debugging (Settings > System > Developer options > USB debugging). 
  • on Jelly Bean (versions 4.1 and 4.2) you need to enter Settings, About [Phone|Tablet] and tap the Build number 7 times to see the Developer Options, activate USB Debugging via Settings > Developer options > USB debugging. 
  • on 4.2.2 you will need to accept a host key on the device, if you already had adb installed, do the followingOn the workstation-> adb kill-server; adb start-server

After doing this, the process becomes extremely simple:

  1. If you've unplugged your device since the last time we told you to plug it in, plug it in again. If not, skip to step two. 
  2. Open terminal if you don't already have it open. 
  3. Type in: phablet-flash -b
  4. Wait until all files, etc. are downloaded
  5. Should you have ClockworkMod installed as a recovery, your phone will automatically do it's thing, skip to step six. If not, the process of actually installing will be different but will follow this general pattern:

    Find pushed files with the names quanal-preinstalled-phablet-armhf.zip and quantal-preinstalled-boot-armel+xxxx.img. (replacing xxxx with the codename of your device.)
    Install them.
  6. Again, depending on what recovery you have installed, your device will either automatically reboot or prompt you on whether you want to or not. Should this not happen, perform a battery pull.
You now have Ubuntu Phone installed on your Nexus device.

My experience:

This article was released late due to the emotional turmoil I experienced during use. I wouldn't say that the Ubuntu Phone is bad, but I wouldn't say that it's a fully baked product yet. There are still a ton of things that need to be worked on, and I'm sure the Ubuntu Phone team knows this, but there's also a lot more they could have included in this preview. 

The Bad:

There were so many frustrations that I experienced, though a lot of it could have been avoided if I had read the release notes and through better preparation. For example, the "lock screen" was not functional. 

It was simply an image that you could not do anything with. In order to actually use the device, you had to swipe in from the left side in order to bring up the Unity bar. The most frustrating part of this problem was that you couldn't even pull down the notification/settings center. Again, you had to bring out the Unity bar.

Templates were installed and I couldn't stand this. Not only were there templates installed, there was no way to remove them from inside the device. Canonical gives instructions on how to do this in the release notes, however they had to be executed using a desktop computer running Ubuntu. Template contacts, Template media, template non-functional lock screen. 

The Good:

Thankfully, the experience wasn't all bad. I was happy at how simple the installation process was, I was also surprised. Ubuntu really is Linux for humans. The UI was generally functional and I enjoy the concept that the Ubuntu Phone OS is putting through with the use of the device's edges. Hopefully I'll be able to add to this list in the future.

Have a good afternoon and good luck in the future!

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