The wait is over. Canonical has unveiled Ubuntu for phones after the countdown timer on its website ticked to zero. The new operating system will be showcased during CES on January 8, 2013.

The operating system promises a less cluttered interface than its contemporaries, and one of its most unique features is that it can become a full PC and thin client when docked. The OS also comes with native core apps and lacks a Java overhead. It also uses the same drivers as Android, so our friendly neighbourhood hackers shouldn't find it too hard to port Ubuntu onto existing Android devices.

The company will also be releasing its own SDK for the new operating system that will let developers create native or HTML5 apps. It will allow developers to re-purpose web apps fast so that they look and work like native apps.

Looks remarkably similar to Nexus devices

This isn't the first time Linux is coming to your pockets

For the interface, Canonical is sticking to the Unity UI that is present in current builds of Ubuntu. It features the side pane that lets you multitask and pin apps for easier access. Switching between apps is also easy as the UI is based on gestures. The UI makes use of all the edges of the screen to minimise navigation. A short swipe from the left edge reveals the side pane that can be used to navigate to your favourite apps or the homescreen. A full left-to-right swipe reveals a screen showing all open apps, while a full swipe from the right brings you to the last app you were using. Swiping down from the top reveals notifications about messages and calls, and just like in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, you can easily reply to texts or respond to notifications from the drop-down panel. A swipe upwards from the bottom edge reveals the app controls.

All the basic smartphone features, like web browsing, SMS, MMS, photography, email and media, are all supported. Canonical will also be partnering with OEMs and ODMs to bring the operating system to a wider audience.

Ubuntu will also bundle Ubuntu One, its free cloud storage service, with the mobile OS, just like it does for its desktop variant. The service will let you automatically upload all your data, media, files and apps to the cloud, so they can be accessed from the desktop or other devices.

A docked phone gets a full fledged desktop OS

A docked phone gives you a full-fledged desktop OS

Canonical has also unveiled the requirements for a smartphone to run Ubuntu. The entry level version will lack the ability for desktop convergence. Here are the minimum requirements and possible specifications of an entry-level Ubuntu smartphone:

  • 1 GHz Cortex A9 processor
  • 512MB-1GB of RAM
  • 4-8GB eMMC+SD for flash storage
  • Multi-touch support

The company has also shown the specifications of a high-end 'superphone' that will run Ubuntu:

  • Quad Core A9 or Intel Atom processor
  • Minimum 1GB of RAM
  • Minimum 32GB eMMC+SD for flash storage
  • Multi-touch support
  • Desktop convergence

It was revealed back in October that Canonical was planning on porting Ubuntu to mobile phones in 2014. This move is possible thanks to the relatively-touch friendly Unity UI featured in newer Ubuntu builds.

To compete against the current powerhouses of mobile OS', Canonical is planning on unique features such as shipping different versions of the OS to each device, but giving users the ability to switch between them at will. This leads to interesting ideas such as letting users turn their phone or tablet OS into a full-blown desktop OS.

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