Ubuntu Touch, Nowhere near ready yet

I dropped my android phone at congress, I was trying to figure out which direction to walk in the compass was spinning wildly being absolutely no help. I slide the phone into my pocket missed and the screen cracked on contact with the ground. The phone had a terminal diagnosis then, but I soldered on for as long as I could.

Eventually the nexus 5 dropped the cellular network and I travelled 40 minutes to a vet when I didn't need to. The next day I jumped on to the bq site and ordered my ubuntu edition E5.

The BQ sales process was just terrible, it didn't help that my email provider decided I didn't need to receive email that weekend. The BQ site is really badly laid out, confusing and proactively difficult to login to and view your orders. They don't offer tracking number, so I don't know where the extra €10 'international' shipping went.

The ubuntu touch os out of the box is annoying as any other smart phone, you are run through the standard dialog that asks mostly pointless questions. The version of ubuntu touch that ships on the E5 is "really old" (with really old being may 2015, 9 months prior). I was unable to install anything from the ubuntu app store (well I installed a hex colour picker, but that doesn't count).

I tried to check for updates, but the phone was happy believing it was all up to date. I searched for a while, but any search term with 'ubuntu touch' results in ubuntu users having issues with their touch screen laptops. Eventually I fell into the #ubuntu-touch irc channel and asked.

And I waited...three hours later on my third time asking someone suggested I try updating. There isn't wifi at work, I wondered if the ubuntu touch os is so broken it won't acknowledge user settings and will only look for updates on wifi. I tried at the hackerspace later that night and I managed to update to OTA9.1. This is the latest release version.

I don't know how this operating system is for. I have been using free unix desktops for a decade, I can't see anything in ubuntu touch that I want. The default system shows a collections of scopes, scopes are an advertisers dream.

There are default scopes like, weather, music, video, news and the scopes are populated by scope apps that create a feed for each theme. There are loads of different input services for them as well, so if you use facebook, instagram, flicker, 500px you will have a nice full feed. If you use one, or none of them you won't have anything. I saw the scopes and thought of windows crap wear.

I turned off all of the scopes as soon as I could.

Here is a short list of issues I encounter:

Out of the box

  • No updates were shown as available on 3G
  • Updates became available to download on wifi
  • Unable to download apps from the ubuntu app store
  • Unable to run any software other than browser
  • No way to find out the phone was an entire naming scheme behind without wifi
  • The UK (and English) support site doesn't mention the Ubuntu Editions at all. The Austrian one does.

General System issues

  • All advice assumes you are running ubuntu on the desktop
  • Phones always seems to be low on memory
  • You are stuck looking at the apps scope
  • No way to have a phone wallpaper, just apps
  • If you turn off all of the scopes there is no way to add them back in
  • No way to import contacts into the phonebook, yes on a phone
  • There isn't a calendar
  • There is no count down alarm timer (make noise in 20 minutes)
  • Bluetooth volume is massively reduced (unable to hear anything out side)
  • Removing wired headphones doesn't pause playback
  • Volume transfers when plugging/unplugging head phones. Play music full volume on speakers, plug in headphones, go deaf.
  • Headphone buttons don't work
  • It can take still running paged out apps 10 seconds to become active. This was seen on the alarm clock app
  • No security
  • No encrypted storage
  • No way to hide notification bodies on lock screen
  • Default lock screen leaks data (how many calls, how many messages)
  • UI Bugs everywhere
  • There is gravity scrolling sometimes, I can't tell you when though
  • The alarm time picker has gravity scroll when you don't want it and doesn't when you want it.
  • When you switch to paged out apps, sometimes they will be out of focus. This is your only idicator they app isn't actually running. Don't worry it will restart entirely within 10 seconds
  • There edge swipe gestures, but they only seem to work at the most annoying times
  • The left swipe menu is useless when the default screen is a page of apps
  • In the browser you access multiple tabs with a bottom up gesture, scroll in landscape mode is nearly impossible.

General App usage

  • The apps are either written by Canonical or some random person, these apps wants my login credentials
  • There are loads of apps available, as long as you want a news app from a minor regional newspaper
  • Nobody wants scopes
  • Built in apps (twitter, youtube, etc,) are just web views and they are terrible.
  • Can't tweet photos from twitter app
  • Can't send photos on telegram app
  • The Canonical provided apps have led to no good alternatives for apps (youtube, twitter, etc)

Specific Apps

  • Podbird looses progress in podcasts
  • podbird redownloads podcasts on new wifi networks
  • podbird doesn't have any play back indicator for podcasts other than the currently playing
  • podbird can't handle many rss feed urls
  • podbird can't bulk import podcast urls
  • Ureadit can't show the first item in the list in portrait
  • ureadit has no touch area for gifs
  • No way to refresh feed without a long scroll up
  • On out of memory feed/message thread is reset or cleared away

Other people agree, I have installed android and life is better.