Canonical staff to get working Ubuntu phones by late May

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Canonical on Wednesday announced its next moves on the way to market with a Linux-powered phone.

By the end of this month Canonical plans to equip its employees with early versions of its widely hyped “Ubuntu phone” for testing and refinement.

“We should drive as hard as we can to making it so that we can use our phones with Ubuntu Touch as our real daily phones as soon as possible,” said Rick Spencer, Canonical's vice president of Ubuntu engineering, in a Wednesday blog post. “Really eat our own dog food, so to speak.”

'User data is retained'

Toward that end, teams involved in the project have committed to ensuring that phone images will be usable as daily staff phones by the end of May.

By “usable,” Spencer added, he means a phone capable of making and receiving both phone calls and SMS messages and able to browse the Web using both WiFi and 3G data, with the ability to switch between the two.

Also part of that definition is that the phone's proximity sensor dims the screen when the user lifts the phone to talk on it, along with the ability to import, add, and edit contacts. Finally, “when you update your phone your user data is retained, even if updating with phablet-flash,” he said.

Shortly after launching Ubuntu Linux for tablets in February, Canonical released a developer's preview image of Ubuntu Touch and kicked off a “port-a-thon” to encourage development on tablets and phones.

Mozilla, meanwhile, recently offered developers the first batch of developer phones featuring its own competing Firefox OS. They sold out within hours.

Among other upstart competitors, Jolla's CEO recently announced that he is stepping down to focus on development of the company's Sailfish smartphone OS.

'Progress accelerates'

Canonical's early “dog food” devices will be far from complete, Spencer pointed out. Likely to be missing, for instance, are the ability to find and install new apps and a working camera on reference hardware such as the Nexus 7.

Still, “in my experience, progress accelerates when people are using, in addition to building, software,” he concluded.

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