How to Install Ubuntu Touch on Your Mobile Phone

Smartphones are becoming increasingly invasive, with tracking technology, user accounts and apps that log your activity. If you’re looking for a way to get things off the ground but still use a smartphone, a Linux phone is an option. But where do you start? The answer may already be in your pocket, thanks to Ubuntu Touch.

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Powered by UBports, Ubuntu Touch is now available on more smartphones than ever before. Do you want to try it? Here’s how to download and install the Ubuntu Touch Linux operating system for mobile.

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What is Ubuntu Touch?

First revealed in 2013, Ubuntu Touch was Canonical’s attempt to create a Linux mobile operating system based on its popular Linux desktop. Unfortunately, the company’s restructuring brought long-term ambitions for the platform to the fore, and Ubuntu Touch was abandoned, or so it was thought.

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Ubuntu touch boot

After the cancellation of the project, Ubuntu Touch was picked up by the community, which formed UBPorts. Like the similarly abandoned Unity, UBPorts continues the work started by Canonical, and now the operating system (which I liked when I reviewed the Meizu Pro 5 in 2016) is available on a much larger collection of phones.

Once installed, the Ubuntu Touch mobile operating system will give you a new way to use your phone. While apps can be lightweight, this isn’t a major issue, as many app features (social media, news, etc.) are actually built into the operating system. Effortless to use, if you have a suitable phone, this Android alternative is at least worth checking out.

What devices run Ubuntu Touch?

Currently, 76 mobile phones can run Ubuntu Touch, with varying levels of compatibility. These include:

  • OnePlus One, Oneplus 5, Oneplus 8
  • Google Nexus 5
  • Xiaomi Mi 6
  • Fairphones
  • Google Pixel 3a series
  • Sony Xperia 10
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
  • …and many others

(In addition, eight tablets also run Ubuntu Touch).

In general, these phones run Ubuntu Touch smoothly, although you occasionally run into problems with the cameras. Some phones need to be “bootloader unlocked” first; for more information, see the list of devices supported by Ubuntu Touch.

If you have a device on this list, you will be able to install Ubuntu Touch. Maybe you’re trying it out or revisiting it for the first time since Canonical dropped the project? In any case, the installation process is surprisingly simple.

What you need to install Ubuntu Touch on your phone

Ready to install Ubuntu Touch on your smartphone? You will need:

  • A PC: Windows, macOS or Linux
  • The right installer software for your desktop operating system
  • USB data cable
  • An unlocked bootloader on your Android device

The installer is available for Linux, Windows and macOS.

Download: UBports Installer for Ubuntu Touch (Free)

The software works the same on all three platforms. Ready to install?

Prepare your Android device for Ubuntu Touch

You should also make sure that your device’s bootloader has been unlocked.

This is usually easy, although you may need device-specific help to do this. Our guide to unlock Android bootloader will help you here.

You should also enable developer mode on Android, a process that is largely the same on all devices:

  1. open Settings > About
  2. Find Build number
  3. Tap this several times
  4. A pop-up window will appear indicating how many taps are required to activate developer mode
  5. Once activated, tap back find Programmer mode in the Settings menu

With developer mode enabled, you’ll also need to enable ADB mode:

  1. touch Programmer mode
  2. Find USB Debugging
  3. Tap to stop activate

Return to the Settings menu when finished.

How to install Ubuntu Touch on your Android smartphone

Installing Ubuntu Touch is surprisingly easy. The UBports website claims that “Installing third-party operating systems has never been easier!” and it’s hard to argue with this.

Here’s how you install Ubuntu Touch on a smartphone, using a Google Nexus 5 phone as an example. (This is one of the first devices to support Ubuntu Touch, so reliability is good.)

  1. Start by downloading and installing the UBports installer
  2. Then connect your Android phone using a reliable USB data cable
  3. Once this is done, run the UBports installer on your computer
  4. Your phone (or tablet) should be detected automatically
    Install Ubuntu Touch on your phone

  5. If the device is not detected, click Select the device manually e Select that’s off the list
    Ubuntu Touch Installer from UBports

  6. click install
  7. Configure installation options: It is recommended to use the default channel and check all three options
    Ubuntu Touch Installer

  8. click okay
  9. When prompted, reboot your phone (if you’ve already installed a custom recovery, reboot into it)
    Installing Ubuntu Touch on Android Phone

  10. Wait while Ubuntu Touch is installed, following the relevant instructions.
    Installing Ubuntu Touch on an Android phone

With the operating system installed, you’ll be ready to start using your phone or tablet in a whole new way. On first boot, you will receive screens to set up your location and connect to a cellular and/or wireless network.

Once that’s out of the way, Ubuntu Touch is ready to go.

Problems in Windows? Try Linux

Caught? Maybe you found that the installer app stops when you are rebooting your phone into bootloader mode? Whatever the case, if you’re struggling to install Ubuntu Touch using Windows, it’s worth switching to Linux.

You should be able to get away with this using a Linux virtual machine on Windows if installing Linux isn’t something you feel like doing. If not, consider dual booting Linux and Windows.

Don’t forget: you need to use a reliable data cable. Older micro-USB cables tend to be cheaply made and only good for charging. If you’re having trouble installing Ubuntu Touch on a phone with a micro-USB cable connector (that’s the trapezoidal connector), try changing the cable to a newer one.

Get started with Ubuntu Touch

It’s not Android, and it’s not iOS. It’s certainly not Windows 10 Mobile or BlackBerry.

No, this is Linux.

Having Linux on your phone is quite an exciting feeling. There’s a sense of liberation here, using a phone beyond the watchful eyes of Google and Apple.

Of course, it will require a whole different attitude to how you use your phone, but there’s a good chance that Ubuntu Touch will turn out to be a mobile platform that you’ll really enjoy using.

And if it doesn’t suit you, you can always go back to Android.

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