Ubuntu-on-a-phone folks UBports emit OTA-19, warn some devices face the chop in future

This could very well be the last release based on 16.04


Ubuntu Touch was Canonical's attempt at a mobile version of its OS, subsequently ditched by the Linux outfit and now maintained by UBports, which has just released the latest update, OTA-19.

OTA-18 dropped in July and the company warned that 19 would arrive before Ubuntu Touch was dragged to the 20.04 version of the operating system on which it is based. For now, Ubuntu Touch remains based on 16.04 and, like the previous update, 19 remains relatively light on features even as the device list grows.

While 28 devices were supported by OTA-18, 39 are on the list for OTA-19 (including some extra OnePlus and Xiaomi kit) although the PinePhone and PineTab remain missing in action.

New features include the blessed relief of the keyboard not automatically popping up in the messaging app while a critical media-hub bug, which stopped devices sleeping when two pieces of audio were played in rapid succession, thus resulting in a swiftly drained battery, was among the fixes.

However, there is no getting away from the distinctly elderly 16.04 version of Ubuntu on which the operating system is based, despite the fixes applied in OTA-19. Ubuntu 20.04 is beckoning and the small development team behind Ubuntu Touch admitted in a recent Q&A that would mean "we will have to leave some things behind."

In this case, the likes of BQ smartphones might be for the chop in future versions. "The problem with those early devices," explained the team, "is they were ported by Canonical but the source code to the Android side remained with the vendors."

Other devices are also at risk as the team decides where it should expend its energies in the 20.04 effort. "If there are people in the community who want to keep the old stuff and are able to maintain it, they are welcome to do that but the core team does not have enough resources to do that," the team added.

Ultimately, there is no rush to shut down server support for 16.04 on older devices but it appears to be coming. "Remember that we have supported these devices long after the manufacturer lost interest in them," they said. And, at some point, the time must come to bid farewell to that old device. ®

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