The latest release of Ubuntu Touch for smartphones and tablets is starting to roll out and for the most part this release focuses on stability, bug fixes, and adding support for more devices. But Ubuntu Touch OTA-15 also paves the way for the next few releases, which will bring much bigger changes.
Probably the most interesting things about Ubuntu Touch OTA-15 are that it brings improved support for the Volla Phone and other devices designed to ship with Android 9, and adds support for a few new devices including the Google Pixel 3a and F(x)tec Pro 1 and Pro 1 X.
The Volla Phone is an interesting device, because it’s a phone that was launched through a crowdfunding campaign with the promise that users would be able to choose either a pone pre-loaded with the Android-based Volla OS or Ubuntu Touch, and the phone is now starting to ship to backers, which is why the UBPorts team has been working to ensure that the operating system runs smoothly on the phone.
(If you didn’t pre-order a Volla Phone through Indiegogo), you can now order one from the Volla Shop for €359, or about $440 US).
According to the OTA-15 release notes, the latest stable channel build of Ubuntu Touch now supports smooth audio playback on the Volla Phone, allows pictures taken with the phone’s camera to be rotated correctly, and there are some cellular improvements as well. These changes should hopefully apply to other Android 9 devices as well.
Meanwhile, folks who want to install Ubuntu Touch OTA-15 on the Pixel 3a or F(x)tec Por 1 smartphones can now do that using the UBports installer. Other newly supported devices include the OnePlus Two, Xiaomi Redmi Note 7, and Samsung Galaxy Note 4. These phones join a growing list of devices that receive official or community support.
Two devices that will not be getting this release, though, are the PinePhone and PineTab. UBPorts notes that they’re updated independently of other devices and will not get a release called OTA-15.
As far as new features in OTA-15, here are a few highlights:
- The Morph web browser supports swipe-to-dismiss for browser tabs and features a new app icon.
- There’s now support for redialing the last called number using a Bluetooth headset or other Bluetooth devices (but call audio over Bluetooth is still broken).
- Various bug fixes, improvements to error reporting, and other changes have been implemented.
In a blog post, UBPorts notes that when OTA-16 rolls out in late January or early February, it will include a couple of major changes:
- UBPorts will transition from Qt 5.9 to Qt5.12, which should lead to smaller and faster packages for apps and system software, reduced memory use, and quicker app launch times.
- Ubuntu Touch will be ending support for the Oxide web rendering engine. That will likely cause some older apps that rely on Oxide to stop working, but since Oxide hasn’t received an official update in three years, continuing to use it to access web content would be an unnecessary security risk.
Among other things, those changes will also help UBPorts eventually update the base of the Ubuntu Touch operating system from Ubuntu 16.04 LTS to Ubuntu 20.04 LTS, but it’s not clear exactly when that change will happen (certainly not in time for OTA-16).