Ubuntu Touch OTA-18 Release
Ubuntu Touch is the privacy and freedom-respecting mobile operating system by UBports. Today we are happy to announce the release of Ubuntu Touch OTA-18, our eighteenth stable update to the system! OTA-18 will become available for the following supported Ubuntu Touch devices over the next week:

LG Nexus 5
OnePlus One
Fairphone 2
LG Nexus 4
BQ E5 HD Ubuntu Edition
BQ E4.5 Ubuntu Edition
Meizu MX4 Ubuntu Edition
Meizu Pro 5 Ubuntu Edition
BQ M10 (F)HD Ubuntu Edition
Nexus 7 2013 (Wi-Fi and LTE models)
Sony Xperia X
Sony Xperia X Compact
Sony Xperia X Performance
Sony Xperia XZ
Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet
Huawei Nexus 6P
OnePlus 3 and 3T
Xiaomi Redmi 4X
Google Pixel 3a
OnePlus 2
F(x)tec Pro1
Xiaomi Redmi 3s/3x/3sp (land)
Xiaomi Redmi Note 7
Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro
Xiaomi Mi A2
Volla Phone
Samsung Galaxy S3 Neo+ (GT-I9301I)
Samsung Galaxy Note 4

The Pine64 PinePhone and PineTab are updated independently of the rest of these devices. The stable channel for the PinePhone and PineTab will not receive an update labeled "OTA-18".

What's new?

This release's mascot is the tangram elephant, as our primary goal with this release was keeping a steady and solid pace. We also saved some memory on all devices. Thanks for the release mascot, Joan!

This release of Ubuntu Touch is still based on Ubuntu 16.04. See the "What's new" section below for an overview of the progress of Ubuntu Touch based on Ubuntu 20.04.

Principal project packs plenty progress

Some parts of Ubuntu Touch show a strange dichotomy between being boring when described, but interesting when their impact is identified. Media-hub is one of the best examples of this. Media-hub is a service which centrally plays back audio and video content as requested by applications. Yawn.

But the features that media-hub enables are seemingly endless: a centralized service playing back media means that the platform knows exactly when content is playing and can change its behavior to suit. When a phone call comes in, your media is paused. When the call ends, your media is resumed. When you put your phone's display to sleep with a podcast playing, a centralized player can hold the system awake to prevent the audio skipping or pausing altogether during sleep. And, someday, playing back videos centrally could make today's most popular features like Picture-in-Picture playback simple. Centralized, universal EQ settings, anyone?

It is within that exciting flurry of features and futures that Mardy realized one thing was missing... media-hub needed a facelift, and fast. The code was largely disjointed and confusing, making adding new features or fixing bugs daunting at best. This was preventing Mardy from creating an app he's always dreamed of, so he got to work. 20,526 lines of code later, the new media-hub emerged -- with better tests, a more contributor-friendly structure, and a few fixed bugs to boot.

This is one of those changes that could go completely unnoticed by someone passing over the OTA-18 release, as media-hub is completely invisible, a silent worker always in the background doing its job. But the changes that Mardy made were not easy, they improved the stability of Ubuntu Touch, and should absolutely not pass unnoticed. Thanks, Mardy!

Elite efficiency

Despite the seeming will of the internet to always have the latest and most powerful technology, we still have a lot of people using devices with just 1GB of RAM. The BQ E4.5 and E5 HD are old devices, sure, but they still work and make a lot of people happy. OTA-18 almost always feels faster than OTA-17 on the same device. Unless you know what to look for, though, it's hard to say why.

We've made Lomiri's wallpaper rendering far more efficient in this release. Without going into gorey details, we've managed to coax QML's image loader into only loading one copy of your wallpaper. We've also made it scale down the wallpaper to reduce the number of pixels in RAM at any time. The amount of RAM saved by these changes varies depending on your device and whether you've set a custom wallpaper or not. If you have a custom wallpaper, you save at least 30MB of RAM on any device by upgrading to OTA-18. A larger-resolution wallpaper will use far less RAM on OTA-18 than on OTA-17, but the savings are greater for devices with a low screen resolution, so on an older device like the E4.5 with the default wallpaper, expect to save about 60MB of RAM.

You'll also see better performance across the board. With a smaller background image, it's easier for Qt to put together the scene that is displayed on your phone. Faster scene rendering means higher frame-rates no matter what is happening on screen.

You don't need to do anything special to take advantage of OTA-18's improved performance. Just download and install the update!

Annihilated annoyances

There are a lot of fixes that cost little in code but will have a huge impact in practice. We have listed out those here:

The on-screen keyboard [OSK] now appears automatically when a new tab is opened in Morph Browser.
Pressing Control+Alt+T now opens the terminal app.
There is a degree (°) symbol on the on-screen keyboard.
Stickers have been added to the built-in messaging app. If your conversations often involve sending a set of images that capture your reaction, this feature is for you!
Alarms now snooze from the time they were snoozed rather than from the start of the alarm. They also snooze when you miss them, instead of dismissing.
Call audio was fixed on the Google Pixel 2

What's next?

Our previous posts have alluded to a slowing down of Ubuntu Touch development on Xenial as we prepare a release of Ubuntu Touch based on Ubuntu 20.04. It seems that the fabled slowdown was if anything underestimated.

It is true that the small team of people who know the internals of Ubuntu Touch has been preoccupied with things other than OTA-18. Ratchanan has been focused on making Lomiri, the infrastructure around it, and the keyboard run under systemd on Ubuntu 20.04; on creating images of UT based on 20.04; and on too many other tasks to count. Rodney has focused on other dependencies of Lomiri and the Ubuntu Touch experience, building the fingerprint recognition service, URL Dispatcher, content-hub, and the lib-cpp projects. He's also replaced the component of the Click packaging system which allows users without `sudo` privileges to install packages. Alfred has created the Ubuntu Touch Platform Development Kit, which makes it far easier to set up an environment for developing the Ubuntu Touch platform than ever before. All of this work means that people curious about platform development and app developers can start to get in on Ubuntu Touch based on Ubuntu 20.04 right now. It is definitely true that the more work we get done on 20.04, the faster we can go.

Even with so many people central to Ubuntu Touch being so busy, the OTA-18 release is still larger and more impactful than OTA-17. Despite OTA-18's development cycle being just 4 days longer, we've managed to change thousands more lines of code. We've done this while still keeping the stable, useful, and beautiful nature of Ubuntu Touch fully intact.

It's amazing what our community can do together. OTA-19 will be another release based on 16.04, but the progress to 20.04 will be amazing. Let's get started.

How to get OTA-18

Existing Ubuntu Touch users

Existing users of Ubuntu Touch on Stable channel (which is selected by default in the UBports Installer) will receive the OTA-18 upgrade by using the Updates screen of System Settings. Devices will randomly be allocated the update from today through July 21. This spread is to give us a breathing space to stop the rollout of any bad update (should that ever become necessary), and is not to accommodate any bandwidth restrictions.

If however you would like to receive the update immediately, turn on ADB access and issue the following command over `adb shell`:
sudo system-image-cli -v -p 0 --progress dots
Your device should then download the update and install it. This process may take a while, depending on your download speed.

New Ubuntu Touch users

You will find instructions for installing Ubuntu Touch on your device at devices.ubuntu-touch.io.

"I found an issue!"

Have you found a bug? We want to know! Quickly!

You can follow our Bug Reporting document to learn how to present the information we'll need to confirm and fix your issue. Every bit helps. The best way to improve Ubuntu Touch is to use it and then tell us about the experience.

You should always check to see whether your bug has already been reported on ubports/ubuntu-touch on Github. Browsing open bugs is worth doing, even if you have nothing to report. This ensures that you can watch for any of the open issues and help fix them by providing more information.


A manually-compiled changelog for this release is posted at https://forums.ubports.com/topic/6418/ubuntu-touch-ota-18-changelog
Ubuntu Touch Q&A 103
Some more Focal news, Platform Development Kit, Welcome screen