The devices page recent updates & future development

Initially developed as an installer site by board member Johanna, Devices had a clear goal from the start: to track the progress of all current UT devices. Since Devices launched, it has become popular with newcomers and especially with Linux users waiting for their smartphone to appear on the list.

Thanks to the many porters and members who check its accuracy, it has become UBports' primary visual guide to what is available, a beautifully designed summary of what UBports has to offer.

Lately, the huge expansion of phone models brought about by a unified approach to dealing with Android 9 hardware fueled demands from our community for more comprehensive information, organized in a useful way. This challenged us to undertake a new round of development to take it beyond a regular device resume site. As a result, Devices is having a much greater influence on user decisions. Of course the choices which users make have a major impact on the priorities and direction of UBports.

* For porters it is a place to get known

* For users it is a place to follow progress and track issues

* For contributors it is the place to give back

* For newcomers it is the place to find advice on which device to buy, before flashing their first phone with UT

Somewhere in that mix we can meet and establish new sub communities around niche requirements and specific devices

Progressing through the different stages of porting

Porting is a journey not only for porters but also for the device owners who are following them. Connecting them together at every level is vital for our community.

Imagine porters working on a device, whether doing it solo or in a group, they are balancing a range of different activities. Up to the point where their device is added to the installer, their daily routine is to troubleshoot and to help prevent early adopters of the device bricking it in the process of building and testing.

Porters need to have a community of users around them to help solve issues, test features, or just to help each other so porters have time to concentrate on their work.

Summary of new features that have been added to Devices

* Dark mode for late-night visitors (We dare you to go day mode!)
* Automated information updates (WIP)
* Search filters (WIP)
* Requests for users to help with testing
* Price indications (price and availability vary hugely with region so this is very limited)
* Ability to fetch Subforum threads
* An improved site navigation menu
* RSS feed for new Devices
* Docs & related links
* 'Top choice' list

1. 'externalLinks' expands to 'docsLinks' & 'communityHelp'

The update in February 2021 included "externalLinks," All of the porters did their job very well and used the prompts to make their pages look Boom!

Since then, all manner of links have been added; for documents, Telegram groups, blog posts, and sub-forum links which are related to different users journeys. The desire to make these stand out from a UX perspective led to a new set of Syntax locations.

As a result, externalLinks was split into more relevant sub-sections:

- communityHelp

    * Telegram group (for niche testing help)
    * Sub-form (to fetch UBport’s sub-form thread) - The latest device topics help interaction with the community and give an insight into the usefulness of a device.

- docLinks

In addition we included some very very basic properties to allow for future sorting

    * devicePrice
    * portType

2. Device states

This attempts to answer the question, “Will this Device ever get better?” - If it is marked as active it means there is a recently recorded ‘commit’ (software update request).

The sad truth is that we can still only make an inspired guess about the future of a device. It may be abandoned for some unknown reason. As Dalton and Ari pointed out, people abandon projects for many different reasons, whether lifestyle changes, bricking their phone or simply losing interest.

Currently, encouraging porters to make a serious commitment is our only mechanism. Future arrangements to better incentivize porters are being discussed. Porting is not easy so please be nice to porters =)

3. Device usability levels

We have not attempted to suggest which device might fit which users/tester/developer. As we discover from feedback, every user is unique in their priorities and some are looking for specific features rather than a whole functioning device.

For sure, our mission to arrive at ‘daily driver’ status will remain. But if we can help to support exceptional use cases between ‘not functioning’ devices and ‘daily drivers’ why not do so? Some will only be of use to those who are tech-savvy and able to fix it if it breaks.

Rating devices helps to quickly identify which features are supported, with tier #1 just being a holding area for devices we know little about.

The levels and their devices

    #5: Fully functional device (there may be some issues still) (5)
    #4: Media and communication supported (18)
    #3: Cellular and data connection supported (40)
    #2: Devices which boot (early stages!) (53)
    #1: Devices for which we don’t have a full report (54)
    #0: All devices (78-84)

4. Automated statements (based on levels) 

When you look at the Devices pages, you can’t easily see a clear status by looking at the feature list. Automated statements help you understand the overall state, but there are some exceptions where they are not working properly. If you find an error, please report it.

5. Search

An Advanced Search option filters devices by usability stage, Halium version, installer availability, and code-name. This is especially necessary now that we have so many devices.

What is in the pipeline?

We want to get better the whole time. Here are some of the topics on our minds. They vary in priority and are in addition to the features already described, here.

* Understanding how the 20.04 update will impact our future recommended devices

* We are thinking of using the familiar system of release channels to categorize devices. i.e., Stable/RC/Dev as general indications of maturity, alongside base version i.e. 16.04/20.04

* We would also like to build a bot that will automatically check the device data and report what changes are needed as a comment in the pull request.

If you can help with those tasks, please email Capsia.

Special thanks

Ari, Lukas are thanked for advocating on behalf of porters, along with Tobiyo, Danfro and Lionel for highlighting and helping with content and decision-making. Our thanks also go out to the countless users from ‘Welcome and Install’ group who shared their use cases. All of their inputs helped us to understand the interaction between choosing a device and then giving back to the community.

Thanks to Capsia and Kaizen for pushing the project forward.

Lastly, keep in mind that as UBports develops to offer more to users, our work overall will increase. So if you are asking yourself … “How can you help?”

Interview with Capsia