OK, so I'm pessimistic and it might very well turn out that I'm wrong, but...
"Anything to make it more hacker friendly." - in which way isn't Android hacker-friendly? Sure, individual manufacturer "value" addons might not be open, but core Android is, and there's several custom ROMs. As for being fully
open, I kinda doubt that's going to happen, because of patents as well as security issues (radio/baseband code).
"anything to divorce the marriage between phone models and carrier" - I somehow doubt Canonical is going to change that... they're at least partly in it for the money.
"more choices, more software/apps, more options" - more software? Android is already open to write for, for anybody who cares, without any fees to Google. If you think you're going to be able to take any old linux program and run on an Ubuntu smartphone, I think you're going to be surprised... most of the so-called "portable" software is really only "portable to (most) normal linux distros", not something as different as a smartphone, and there's so much crap out there which has a hard time running on anything but x86 (even x64). And even if the code is portable, have fun running something designed for X11 and desktop resolutions on a smartphone screen
Oh, and as if current smartphone OSes weren't bloated enough, I really don't like thinking about how bad a "normal" linux distro would be on such a device. And if it isn't somewhat more "normal" (and clunky) than an Android based device, what's the use then, apart from duplicating Android functionality?
"ability for smaller companies to build their own cellphones, and not just the huge brands like apple, ms, samsung, htc." - we'll see about that, but I somehow doubt it. You need some muscle to be able to withstand litigation from the big'uns. And even ignoring patent trolling, putting a phone together is no easy task.
"how about a ubuntu phone made by kingston, that i take to at&t and activate." - OK, you want phone and carrier to be separated, that's something that calls for regulation.