Ubuntu Phone has a small amount of apps expecially when compaired to Android and iOS, and thats got many wondering, how would Ubuntu for Phones get applications, my answer is the Ubuntu Desktop.
There aren’t many Ubuntu Phones out there, but there are a lot of ubuntu desktops out there, the ubuntu phone app store has 1082 apps many are web apps with a bottom edge gesture, for example theres 914 games in the ubuntu desktop store, this doesn’t acount for many other types of apps and the applications that aren’t available in the store which you would have to download via a PPA or .deb.
So from that we know that there are more apps and more developers for the desktop, but how is this/can this help with the ubuntu apps problem?
Snappy packages are here and the Unity 8 desktop with mir will be here soon, this brings a new UI, with new features, this will bring the phone and desktop much closer, with this, any app that runs on Ubuntu with unity 8 and mir, as long as the app runs on arm, will run on the phone.
Will all apps work?
Probably not, Unity 8 + mir adds restrictions and more restrictions to the phone then desktop, with the phone theres a strict life cycle, this helps with battery life, but it means you can’t download files, listen to audio, or send notifications without using media services, you have to use a download service to download something when the app isn’t frount and center, to send notifications you need to use ubuntu’s push service etc.
These restrictions aren’t on the desktop version, though I believe there are talks about adding these restrictions to apps which are minimised, what this means is that if you run an application like Xchat (Which is available for ubuntu phone right now) on the desktop, if its focused you can see it and use it, if you put it in the background its still running, you’re still online and you can get notifications from it,
if you run it on the phone, if its focused it’ll work ok, the Interface isn’t made for the phone so it can be finicy, but it works, if you swipe away or the screen goes off, you’re offline, you disconnect from the servers and you get no notifications.
What does this mean?
It means work needs to be put in, there needs to be a ui that works on the phone, and there also needs to be background services for some apps, Libre Office doesn’t need any background services, nore gedit, but they don’t have the most flatering mobile UI and we can’t expect one, but there are many apps that do have a good mobile looking UI.
What I’m saying isn’t that all desktop apps will work great on the phone, its that many desktop apps will work on phone, and with a bit of effort if the UI’s there it could be an Ubuntu Phone app, see telegram, Skype, core bird, Gnome Music, any many more.
If someones making a new application for Linux on Unity 8 they might make it for the desktop, but if they consider convergence it wouldn’t take much more effort and it could make the application better on both devices depending on what type of app it is.
The app may never have been made for phone but because the desktop is there and because canonical is trying to make it as easy as posible to make convergent apps theres a good chance that we’ll see more phone apps because of the desktop.
Theres also a posibility phone applications will come over to both Ubuntu phone and linux desktops because of this
An example of this mindset is the Facebook app, facebook decided to make a convergent facebook application for windows phone, but they only made it because of the Universal windows apps, they would never have made a facebook app for windows phones but because they could get there hands on desktop and phone users they gave it ago.
We aren’t likely to see Whatsapp, Fb, Pokemon or snapchat officially supported on our Linux desktops and Ubuntu phones, but we are more likely to see open source options that work on desktop or coming to desktop to gain convergence features, we’re more likely to see bitcoin and social clients on the desktop gain a convergence look and feel, or add access to the background services to make them run well on the phone.
We can already see some work like that from the unofficial skype app and QuasselIRC on the Ubuntu phone store, both originally web or desktop apps that have gained convergence looks and feels, and yes the skype app is just a web wrapper but thats pretty much just what the official skype app for linux is, and if MS backed and supported it adding in unity 8 and phone convergence features, it is pretty much a convergence app.
How about the document viewer that is based on LibreOfficeKit, not a converged LibreOffice app but an app that takes some things that LibreOffice has to offer and makes a mobile app out of it.
Work still has to be done but our most likely source for Ubuntu phone apps aren’t ports of android apps, they’re new Ubuntu apps or Linux apps which add convergence.