Wednesday, 29 June 2016 09:38

No WhatsApp, but fixes set to come for Ubuntu Phone


Users of the Ubuntu Phone will have to get used to the fact that popular Android apps like WhatsApp are unlikely to be made available for the platform, at least not in the short term.

Facebook owns WhatsApp and the communications app now has more than a billion users.

A query to Canonical, the company behind the first phone that runs a proper GNU/Linux distribution, about WhatsApp, resulted in the response that while they were talking to Facebook about a port, there was no concrete idea yet if this would be possible.

The good thing about the Ubuntu Phone is that the company behind it is responsive to feedback. It is interested in receiving bug reports and does not dish out spin in response.

The company was asked a number of other questions about the Ubuntu Phone. An edited Q and A is below:

The date on the Today scope does not change on its own and has to refreshed manually. Is this a known bug? Any plans to fix?

This is a general characteristic of Scopes whereby they do not update automatically. This is mainly to preserve battery life. We are investigating ways of improving this experience eg. allowing some scopes to auto-refresh for example.

Any plans to try and convince Facebook to port WhatsApp to the Ubuntu Phone operating system?

We are in conversation with them about this, but we do not have a concrete idea if this is possible yet.

Call forwarding cannot be turned off. This is a known bug. Any plans to fix?

Absolutely, this is being worked on, but we can't give a timeframe as yet.

There is often a noticeable lag when changing from one screen to another or from one scope to another and the twirling Ubuntu logo shows. I've seen this on some Android devices, but that was due to slow processors. That cannot be the case with the Meizu Pro 5 because the hardware specs are excellent. Any comments?

We are constantly looking to improve the overall performance and "snappiness" of the operating system via our regular Over The Air software releases.

There are times, quite often, when a changed setting only takes effect after a reboot. I have seen this even when switching on cellular data. Any comment?

We are definitely aware of this issue and working on fixing it. Handling of cellular data is one of the areas you will see improvements in a forthcoming release.

The app at the top of the Ubuntu Store has not changed since the day I bought the phone. Why is this? (The app changed after I asked this question).

Whilst we are constantly trying to build up the Ubuntu app store, our focus for now has been on the convergence launch and making fixes to the stability and speed of the OS in our OTA-11 update.

The search function on the Ubuntu Store is not the best. Put simply, it cannot find relevant apps. Any plans to fix this?

This is the first complaint of this kind we have heard. We are happy to hear suggestions for how it can be improved if you have any.

The Bluetooth implementation seems to be a little flaky. I tried to connect to my laptop which runs Debian testing and also to a Motorola earpiece but neither gets paired. The earpiece is one I have been using for years with another mobile. Any comments on this?

A few older devices using the headset profile for hands-free are known to have issues as they depend on an older version of the core Bluetooth stack. We can only apologise for this and say we are aware of this issue and appreciate this is frustrating for users that have older devices. If you let us know what earpiece device you are using, we can identify if it is one of those with which we have connectivity issues.

The permissions needed for the Twitter app seem a little excessive:

read tweets from your timeline
see who you follow and follow new people
update your profile
post tweets for you
access your direct messages

But what the Twitter app on Android asks for is outrageous:

sms – uses one or more of sms/mms charges may apply
wi-fi connection information

But then one has higher expectations of (Canonical owner) Mark (Shuttleworth). Any comments?

We believe that in order to do what the scopes need to do, the permissions requested are those needed. We believe we have kept it to the minimum set. We can check with the engineering team to see if it is possible to reduce this further but believe that there is a certain granularity in the APIs from Twitter.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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