There are plenty of entities looking to upset the balance of power between the major smartphone platform players; whether that’s Firefox OS or Tizen, 2013 will see many of them take their first shots in the ring. Ubuntu’s also a member of that club, and we just learned that the first Ubuntu download for Galaxy Nexus hardware will be made available next month. At the CES tonight, we had a run-in with just such a handset, letting us take an early look.

As you can see in this demo, Ubuntu is all about rethinking the smartphone UI. That means fewer on-screen buttons, and an increased reliance on gestures to access off-screen menus. The system attempts to seamlessly combine both native and web-based apps, and offers a tweak on the notification bars we’re already familiar with, adding in some greater access to phone settings.

It’s a lot to take in, and while similar in many ways to the platforms we use today, Ubuntu definitely feels like a distinct entity. Check it out for yourself below:

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