ubuntu phones

Developers (and plenty of brave geeks) will soon be able to get a taste of Ubuntu’s smartphone version — assuming they have a Galaxy Nexus or Nexus 4.

Ubuntu developer Canonical announced today that it will release a Developer Preview image, along with the necessary tools to install it, for the two Nexus devices on Feb. 21. The company will also be flashing devices on-site at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona from Feb. 25-28.

Canonical says the image will be of the latest developmental milestone for the touch-based Ubuntu (which really needs a catchier name). Developers will be able to build apps using the developer preview, as well as port them to Ubuntu on other devices.

“Our platform supports a wide range of screen sizes and resolutions,” said Canonical’s Pat McGowan, who’s heading up the release of the touch-based Ubuntu image, in a statement today. “Developers who have experience bringing up phone environments will find it relatively easy to port Ubuntu to current handsets.”

Based on the little I’ve seen so far, Ubuntu’s smartphone play brings an intriguing combination of elegance and developer-friendliness — despite likely being doomed to fail. The platform relies on an extensive gesture-based interface that sits somewhere between iOS and Windows Phone, and it also treats HTML5 apps the same as native apps (which makes it much easier to develop for).

Check back next week for our full impressions of Ubuntu on the Nexus 4.