Amidst the vast array of new smartphones and tablets on display at Mobile World Congress this year, Canonical were also on hand to showcase a very different mobile experience in the form of Ubuntu for smartphones and tablets.
We first glimpsed this new mobile OS at CES where their mobile team had replaced the stock Android experience typically found on a Google Nexus 4 with Ubuntu, but this time around we’ve been able to see how the operating system scales to the tablet experience running on the Google Nexus 10’s hardware. The key focus of UI navigation with Ubuntu is to keep it as buttonless as possible; that is to say not unlike BBOS 10, a lot of the primary navigation is done through swiping across from the edges of the display.
As you can see the primary application drawer simply slides in from the right and many of the apps aren’t simply bigger than their smartphone equivalent, but also accommodate greater UI control thanks to the extra space. The Ubuntu tablet experience also mirrors its phone counterpart with the notion of keeping you within your current application, whilst allowing you the capability to do things such as toggle WiFi or reply to a message. Swiping up reveals context sensitive menus depending on the currently active app, swiping from the right takes the user back a step and swiping down reveals the notification bar.
In addition to the intuitive UI navigation, two other great inclusions as the OS’s ability to run both native and web apps side by side and the unique tablet feature of having split screen multi-tasking across apps, not unlike Windows RT and Windows 8.
The Canonical team will continue to refine the Ubuntu experience in parallel to the community who will no doubt cook up their own tweaks and changes to help create and engrossing mobile OS alternative. A final tidbit was also that users may expect to see hardware pre-installed with Ubuntu’s mobile OS within a year, potentially heralding a new combatant into the mobile space.