How To Install Ubuntu Touch On Nexus Devices

Estimated read time 8 min read


“Touch Developer Preview for Ubuntu” is released for free non-commercial use. It is provided without warranty, even the implied warranty of merchantability, satisfaction or fitness for a particular use. See the licence included with each program for details.

Some licences may grant additional rights; this notice shall not limit your rights under each program’s licence. Licences for each program are available in the usr/share/doc directory. Source code for Ubuntu can be downloaded from Ubuntu, the Ubuntu logo and Canonical are registered trademarks of Canonical Ltd. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

“Touch Preview for Ubuntu” is released for limited use due to the inclusion of binary hardware support files. The original components and licenses can be found at:

What to expect after flashing

For detailed information check the release notes

  1. Shell and core applications
  2. Connection to the GSM network (on Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4)
  3. Phone calls and SMS (on Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4)
  4. Networking via Wifi
  5. Functional camera (front and back)
  6. Device accessible through the Android Developer Bridge tool (adb)

Supported devices and codenames

The table below lists the supported devices and their corresponding factory images, should you want to switch back to Android. The images can be found here.

Warning /! Note: Saucy images for Grouper (Nexus 7) currently do not work properly.

Device      Codename      Factory firmware from Google
Galaxy Nexus      maguro      takju or yakju
Nexus 4      mako      occam
Nexus 7      grouper      nakasi or nakasig
Nexus 10      manta      mantaray


Flashing the device

Step 1 – Desktop Setup

The following steps are required on your desktop system that you’ll need in order to flash and communicate with the device.

Setup the Touch Developer Preview Tools PPA

The PPA has the tools and dependencies to support Precise, Quantal, Raring and Saucy. Add the Ubuntu Touch PPA by adding the following custom source list entry to your /etc/apt/sources.list file.

On your computer, press Ctrl+Alt+T to start a terminal.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:phablet-team/tools

or if add-apt-repository is not available, append the following to your sources.list:

deb [dist-codename] main
deb-src [dist-codename] main

*Note: replace [dist-codename] with precise, quantal, raring or saucy.

Then do the following:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install phablet-tools android-tools-adb android-tools-fastboot

Step 2 – Device unlock

If the device is already unlocked, skip to Step 3. These steps will wipe all personal data from the device.

  1. With the device powered off, power on the device by holding the Power button + volume up + volume down.
  2. The device will boot into the bootloader.
  3. Plug the device into the computer via the USB cable.
  4. On your computer, press Ctrl+Alt+T to start a terminal. Type sudo fastboot oem unlock, followed by Enter
  5. On the device screen, accept the terms of unlocking.
  6. Boot the device by pressing the power button (pointed by an arrow with Start on the screen).

Device factory reset

If you get stuck in a bootloop rebooting the tablet after unlocking the bootloader… Here’s what you do:

  1. During the bootloop.. hold the power button + volume up + volume down button simultaneously to get yourself back into fastboot mode as you were previously.
  2. In fastboot mode.. use the volume keys to scroll to Recovery and the power button to select it.
  3. In Recovery (Android robot on his back with a red triangle)… tap the volume up button and the power button simultaneously which will bring you into stock recovery. Again.. Don’t hold the buttons, just tap them simultaneously. Also make sure you’re holding the correct volume button. Up will be the volume key on the right.
  4. Once you’re in Recovery.. perform a factory reset/data wipe and then reboot your tablet… you should now be back to the Welcome Screen.

Step 3 – Initial Device Setup

Follow these initial steps on your device:

  1. If not booted, boot the device into Android
  2. Enable USB debugging on the device
    • on Ice Cream Sandwich (version 4.0) go to Settings and turn on USB Debugging (Settings > System > Developer options > USB debugging).
    • on Jelly Bean (versions 4.1 and 4.2) you need to enter Settings, About [Phone|Tablet] and tap the Build number 7 times to see the Developer Options.
    • on 4.2.2, (settings > about > tap on build number 7 times to activate the developer options menu item).
    • On either Android version you must then enable USB debugging via Settings > Developer options > USB debugging. You will also need to accept a host key on the device.
      • On the workstation-> adb kill-server; adb start-server
  3. Plug the device into the computer via the USB cable.
    • Depending on the installed Android version, a popup will show up on the device with the host key that needs to be accepted for the device to communicate with the workstation
    • Note, ‘adb devices’ should not show the device as ‘offline’. If it does, unplug the device, run adb under sudo on the workstation (sudo adb kill-server; sudo adb start-server), then plug the device back in
  4. Save the version of the current image on the device, if on Android, to use as a reference to revert back to. The version can be found by going to Settings > About Phone > Build Number.

Newer Nexus 10s have not booted fully after developer mode was enabled. If this occurs boot into the bootloader and do “fastboot -w”, then proceed to the next step.

Step 4 – Deploying Image to Device

To install the Ubuntu Touch Developer Preview on your device, you will need to execute the command below. Please note, this will wipe the contents of the device so ensure you have made a back-up. To install and get updates, run the following command:

phablet-flash -b

If you have a nexus 7 3G, use this instead:

phablet-flash -d grouper -b

Warning: This step can take a very long time.

The -b performs a full bootstrap on the device. If the device is already unlocked it will carry on. If you have already bootstrapped once and want to install a daily just do:


This will deploy the latest build onto your device. Your device should reboot into the Ubuntu Unity shell.


  • the files are saved in Downloads/phablet-flash.
  • If the deploy fails(ex boots to black screen), try wiping the /data partition on your device and redeploy
  • phablet-flash will not work unless you have booted your device (it must not be displaying the boot loader screen and “adb devices” should list your device).

Restoring Android

The Ubuntu Touch Preview image is not for everyone and may not suit your current needs (yet). If you wish to roll back to an Android factory image, follow these steps:

  1. Recall the version that was installed before flashing.
  2. Download the factory image corresponding to your device’s model and version (initial table has links).
  3. Ensure the device is connected and powered on.
  4. Extract the downloaded file and cd into the extracted directory.
  5. run adb reboot-bootloader
  6. run ./ (use sudo if lack of permissions on the workstation don’t allow you to talk to the device).

If you want to lock the bootloader after restoring the factory image, follow these steps:

  1. Power on the device by holding the Power button + volume up + volume down.
  2. The device will boot into the bootloader.
  3. Plug the device into the computer via the USB cable.
  4. On your computer, press Ctrl+Alt+T to start a terminal. Type sudo fastboot oem lock, followed by Enter

Your device should boot into Android after the process is finished.

Manual Installation

  • Boot your device into recovery mode
  • Get the matching hardware specific zip for your device from the Ubuntu cdimage server here, i.e. for a Nexus7 this is
  • Copy the zip file to the /sdcard/ directory naming it “” on the device using adb
adb push /path/to/your/downloaded/ /sdcard/
  • Reboot into recovery mode
adb reboot recovery
  • Make sure you are in recovery mode again for the second step
  • Get the file
  • Copy the zip file to the /sdcard/ directory naming it “” on the device using adb
adb push /path/to/your/downloaded/ /sdcard/
adb reboot recovery
  • After the final reboot the device should boot into the Ubuntu Touch UI

Need help?

If you got lost somewhere, you found a bug or need some help, we’re happy to help you. The Touch Developer Preview is put together by a community of many, who are eager to work together with you on this.

If you’ve got any troubles or questions with these installation instructions, there’s a community willing to help: just ask on Ask Ubuntu!

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