Ubuntu OTA-11 is the latest update to Ubuntu for phones and tablets — and it brings some big new features to the fore.
Among the changes OTA-11 brings to supported devices is initial wireless display support for the Meizu PRO 5.
A staged rollout, be aware that it can take up to 24-48 hours for all supported devices to be notified of the update (tip: remember to keep your Wi-Fi turned on as the update is around 100MB+ in size).
OTA-11: What’s New & Improved
So what’s changed?
We’ll cover the wireless convergence of the Pro 5 phone separately. First, a look at a bunch of the more… noticeable changes that arrive in this update.
The first big change you will notice is that the Unity 8 Dash now rotates to match the orientation of your device. This reverses an earlier design decision which ‘locked’ the Dash in portrait mode on phones, and landscape mode on tablets.
The Home Scope is now populated with information before you unlock your device (and the next two scopes populated after you unlock). Though this is a small sounding change it is one that will have a big perceptual impact on how responsive the system feels.
The Network Manager backend has been bumped to version 1.2, the latest upstream release, and location detection is improved thanks to the use of a new ‘fusion engine’ provider.
The Unity 8 interface now supports “dynamic grid units”, a way for developers to build applications that scale well across screens that have differing resolutions. The Dekko e-mail app is one of those already using it.
Phone and messaging apps have been removed from the tablet builds as these apps require cellular functionality which is not present.
Ever been buzzed to death by e-mail notifications after you connection to Wi-Fi? Well that’s fixed for Gmail (and other apps). You’ll now only be buzzed once per app type, and not once per notification.
Among the multitude of notable bug fixes you’ll find:
- Interrupted downloads in Browser app now show notification
- Fix for website colour theming in browser
- You can now upload photos to Facebook from the web app
- Fix for broken Facebook/Twitter uploads via Gallery app
- See IP Address displayed for wifi access points
- Username and password fields added to OpenVPN connection
- Gallery app now updates image when accessed through content picker
- Support for accessing camera controls in landscape mode
- Suspend fixes for MX4 and E4.5
- Fix for blurry images taken on the MX4 under low light conditions
- Working Google Hangouts through the web-browser app
- The Telegram app can now run in landscape mode on the M10
Ubuntu Web Browser App
A user-agent string override means Google Hangouts now works on Ubuntu phones and tablets. Plus:
- Dynamic Ubuntu version number in the default user-agent string
- Improved memory management for background tabs
- Proper handling of window-level keyboard shortcuts
- Redesigned media permission request dialog
M10 Tablet Patches
The Ubuntu M10 Ubuntu Edition tablet hasn’t had the best of receptions. Poor performance, laggy animations and too may rough edges have led many leading tech publications t tell their users to not buy one.
OTA-11 is the first major update to land on tablet since its launch earlier this year. And, thankfully, it comes with a boatload of band-aids to help heal the sore points highlighted in recent reviews.
Alongside abstract catch-all changes like “improved performance” and “better graphics handling” come a stack of smaller bug fixes and usability improvements.
For example, in convergence mode ‘keyboard focus visuals’ (i.e. highlights) fade in and out on text fields, and the bottom edge can now be access/triggered by pressing the tab key on a connected keyboard.
Apps that run in desktop/windowed mode now display an application title in the top bar, and apps can now show multiple windows (not just one, like before).
Finally, for legacy app fans, software running in a libertine container should now look nicer, with some initial work on improving app theming landing in this update.
Wireless Display Convergence
The big “new” feature of OTA-11 is support for wireless convergence on the Meizu PRO 5 smartphone.
‘Canonical say all future Ubuntu smartphones will support wireless display’
I have a PRO 5 connected to a TV as I type this and can confirm that the feature works incredibly well — and it’s only going to get better from here.
When updated, the Meizu PRO 5 smartphone doesn’t gain the ability to “mirror” its screen to a compatible monitor or TV over a wireless display adapter dongle but converge into a full Ubuntu desktop UI, complete with windowed apps, pointer-led app switcher, keyboard shortcuts, and all the other fluff.
- Can’t currently be used a ‘extended desktop’ for the M10, but this is on the roadmap
- Should work with most wireless display dongles, including the Microsoft Display Adatper
- All future Ubuntu smartphones will have this capability
- Currently only provides a “Desktop” interface (no staged mode)
- Pro 5 + OTA 11 won’t have x11 apps; just phone apps. this will be resolved in the future.
Which Ubuntu Devices Support Wireless Display?
Canonical’s Richard Collins told me that all future Ubuntu smartphones will support wireless display.
What does that mean for the Bq Aquaris E series and the Meizu MX4?
Well, for now it means you can’t use these devices to ‘convergence’ to a wireless monitor. This will not come as a surprise to those of you who read this site regularly.
But you have to also bear in mind these phones never promised they would be able to.
Still, don’t lose hope.
Canonical say it is not technically impossible to get the early Ubuntu smartphones casting over Mircast, but that it is perhaps functionally unfeasible (i.e. the feature uses on-chip encoding to deliver output and the existing phones don’t have a newer version of the on-chip code required encode it at an acceptable framerate).
They add that while ‘chipset limitations’ prevent these devices from being part of the convergence club for the time being, this is all open-source software: the community is encouraged to dig in to try and get it running.
The older phones are still very much supported — just not with every feature.
The feature arrives on Pro 5 (and the M10, though it may not perform quite as well as the Pro 5 just yet). Ubuntu phone users are urged to stress test it as much as possible so that areas for further optimisation and improvement can be identified.
With the Pro 5 now part of the convergence club Canonical is to focus on moving the desktop experience forward in its next over-the-air update.
We’ll have more to share about what that will entail over the coming weeks — you wouldn’t want too much excitement in one day now, would you? ;)