An Ubuntu Phone Post Mortem

Taking a break from the OnePlus hype, here’s something completely different: a post mortem by a developer for Ubuntu Phone listing their reasons for why that platform failed. Of course you could argue that it was doomed from the start; if BlackBerry and Windows Phone couldn’t compete against Android and iOS, what chance could a smartphone version of Ubuntu possibly have?

It turns out that Canonical, Inc. only ever wanted 1% of the mobile market, and obviously failed to even capture that. Here are some explanations:

1. It didn’t target a profitable niche.

It started with the promise of a super-phone but the reality ended up being a couple of cheap handsets and tablets from a Spanish OEM. Pretty hard for Linux nerds to get excited about that.

2. Bad user experience and skewed priorities.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: nobody really cares about plugging their smartphone into a desktop monitor and keyboard.

3. The devices were too hard to get.

I can attest to this. I once inquired about Ubuntu Phone at Sincere House, the mall in Hong Kong devoted entirely to mobile phones. No one there had the slightest idea what I was talking about.

4. Focusing on irrelevant tech.

See #2 above.

5. Life as an app developer was too hard.

Ubuntu Phone had its own SDK, with no abilities to cross-compile from Android, iOS, Windows, even X11. Oh, and apparently it also broke frequently when updated, sometimes for weeks on end.

If you’re a desktop Linux user like myself, or just want some dirt on the smartphone OS that never was, you can read the full story below.


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