Color emoji in the keyboard
New: color emoji in OSK

Roll out of Ubuntu OTA-12, the latest update for Ubuntu Phone and Tablet, is now taking place.

The latest update brings a number of changes, improvements and tweaks to the fledgling mobile platform.

What’s New in Ubuntu OTA 12?

Wireless Display on M10

The ability to connect to a wireless display from the Bq Aquaris M10 Ubuntu tablet is this release’s big headline change. Canonical demoed the feature last week.

“This [feature] gives users the full Ubuntu PC experience running from [a] tablet,” Canonical say.

“All the services running from your tablet are now available on the desktop through just a wireless dongle and no cables — giving you the full Ubuntu convergence experience.”

It should be noted that it’s still early days for Aethercast, the technology used to connect ‘wirelessly’ through Miracast capable equipment and many cheap n’ cheerful Miracast dongles are not supported.

Install Desktop Apps

Play videos directly in Scopes

OTA 12 users of ‘converged’ devices — i.e., the M10 and PRO 5 — can, Canonical say, “install any Ubuntu conventional desktop app to use on [their] Ubuntu phone or tablet when a mouse and keyboard are connected.”

Don’t get too excited about this just yet. Canonical’s blurb is a slight over simplification of a fairly involved process.

While it’s true that you can now install traditional desktop packages on the M10 and Pro 5 devices it is not as simple as fingering icons on your screen (at least, not in this OTA).

You’ll need to dive into the command line and run a bunch of commands to install the likes of Geany, Rhythmbox, and Chromium on your tablet or phone. There’s no guarantee that all X11 apps will work perfectly, either.

Fingerprint Unlock

The fingerprint reader on the Meizu PRO 5 handset is now hooked up and working. Head into the settings > security section to scan a fingerprint and get started.

Notification Sanity

It just got much easier to open an app/message from a notification in the Messages indicator: just tap anywhere on the notification.

In previous builds you could only “open” the app/message/etc. by tapping the small icon on the right-hand side of the notification.

Other Changes

Outside of these two big “convergence” focused features there is plenty of spit and polish to the overall Phone and Tablet user experience.

The on-screen keyboard will now work for X apps, meaning you can finally use the (outdated) version of Firefox to browse the web without a keyboard.

Remember those Unity “love handles” that were on the desktop a few years back (see image below)? Well, they’re back. They’ve been added to Ubuntu Touch to make window management far more tactile and touch friendly.

Unity love handles

Web Browser

The Ubuntu web-browser app is continually getting better. In this OTA it improves touch-selection of texts, supports link hover text, only loads the tab in view when restoring a session, and adds initial support for zoom.

Other Changes

  • You can now watch local videos directly from Video Scope.
  • Web browser update, including better zoom
  • Color emojis in the on-screen keyboard
  • Cellular data toggle in Settings and Network Indicator
  • Screen no longer dims when launcher is open
  • Messages app supports message forwarding
  • Window snapping
  • Location indicator now has icons for in use, idle, and inactive states
  • Scope and Dash buttons have changed from orange to green

Want to know even more? Check the OTA-12 commit log for a full list of changes in this update.

Bonus Guide

How To Install More Desktop Apps on Ubuntu Tablet

All traditional desktop apps are installed in a container. To create a container on a compatible Ubuntu device you need to connect your device to your Ubuntu computer and use phablet-tools to connect to it.

You need to enable developer mode to do this and this comes with its own risks. Head to Settings > Developer to learn more.

1. Run the following command to create a new container called “Example Container”:

libertine-container-manager create --id example-container --name "Example Container"

2. To install an app from the archive, e.g., Leafpad, in Example Container, run:

libertine-container-manager install-package --id example-container --package leafpad

3. To remove an app, e.g., Leafpad, from Example Container, run:

libertine-container-manager remove-package --id example-container --package leafpad

Desktop apps with a .desktop file should appear in the X Apps Scope (you may need to add this).

There are near-future plans to make this process more “accessible” to the average Joe.

If you plan on installing regular apps on your Ubuntu Phone just keep in mind that it’s still very early days and not everything will work (also: be prepared for a big hit on battery. Running full-fat apps on a mobile device is a hungry affair).

News Ubuntu Phone OTA-12