Ubuntu Phone security updates end in June, app store closing

Canonical moves quickly to end support for Ubuntu phones and tablets, and it will shutter the app store at the end of 2017

ubuntu phones

When Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical (the company behind the Ubuntu Linux distribution), announced his company would not only be abandoning their custom desktop environment (Unity), but also halting development on their phone/tablet operating system, many questions were left unanswered.

One of those questions: What happens to the existing phones and tablets running Ubuntu Touch that have already been sold? 

I have a 10-in. Ubuntu Touch tablet that I reviewed less than a year ago. It's not perfect, but it definitely showed a lot of promise. How long will the OS be supported? What is the transition plan for people who own these devices (and the models of cell phones already sold)? 

That's the very set of questions I asked of Canonical. It took a while, but they got back to me with their plans. Here is their full response, unedited.

"Firstly, Ubuntu phones and tablets will continue to function. Currently OTA updates are limited to critical fixes and security patches only. This will continue until June 2017 after which we will no longer deliver any further updates. Users will be able to continue to download apps, and developers can continue to push updates and bug features to existing apps until the end of 2017. However, it will no longer be possible to purchase apps from the Ubuntu Phone app store from June 2017. Developers of paid apps already in the store will have the choice between making their apps available for free or withdrawing them from the store." 

To summarize, the timeline is as follows:

  • June 2017 (two months after the announcement): All updates will cease entirely, including security patches. New applications can no longer be submitted to the Ubuntu Phone app store. All paid applications will either be pulled from their app store or be forced to go non-paid.
  • End of 2017 (I assume this means Dec. 31, 2017): Users of Ubuntu phones and tablets will no longer be able to download applications. The Ubuntu app store will cease to exist.

I'm a little mixed on this.

On one hand, there really aren't a huge number of Ubuntu Phone users out there. Even the Canonical employees and Ubuntu developers I know who own such devices don't often use them. So, the broad impact should be fairly small. 

On the other hand, this is one of the most aggressive end-of-life schedules I've ever seen. In roughly two months from the surprise announcement of the platform being cancelled, updates cease and the app store is hobbled. Then, a few short months later, the entire app ecosystem is removed entirely. 

There are, most certainly, some people out there who use their Ubuntu Phone on a regular basis. This gives those users only a few short months to figure out their exit strategy from Canonical's platform.

Maybe there aren't many such people out there who will be impacted by this. I feel bad for them just the same.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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