Update (February 19): The Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Phone is now on sale for €169.90 (European Union only). Limited number available. Check it out here.
Original post (February 6)
Ubuntu, the long-lost operating system that was debuted over two years ago, is finally coming to market. Canonical, the company behind the OS, teamed up with Meizu and BQ last February, which ultimately yielded no results in the Ubuntu world. Now, Canonical and BQ are finally releasing the rumored handset, but there are quite a few details to talk about first.
The first Ubuntu phone will be a repurposed Aquaris E4.5, the low-budget BQ handset, which usually runs Android. The Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition has a 4.5-inch qHD display with 540 x 960 resolution, a 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek A7 processor, 1GB of RAM and a Mali 400 GPU. The phone also has 8GB of internal storage, a 2150mAh battery, an 8MP rear-facing camera and a 5MP front-facing camera. Oh, and there’s no LTE available on this handset. The specifications aren’t anything special, though the handset will ship for a relatively low price at €169.90 (~$195 US).
The Ubuntu phone will be sold a tad unconventionally, as it will only be offered in the European market at launch. Canonical and BQ have partnered with a few European retailers to host a series of online flash sales, the first of which will begin sometime next week. Followers of the @ubuntu and @bqreaders Twitter accounts will be among the first to be notified of the flash sales. While BQ has no plans to bring the handset outside of Europe, Canonical reassures us that they are “actively working on a US device strategy.”
It's designed to deliver content and services directly to categorized home screens, giving users a rich, unfragmented experience.
The Aquaris E4.5 UE will face more competition than expected, given other low-cost options like the Motorola Moto G, E, and countless other budget-friendly handsets around the Android market. Perhaps all isn’t lost with the handset, though. Canonical says they plan to introduce Scopes, which is “a new UI paradigm, designed to deliver content and services directly to categorized home screens, giving users a rich, unfragmented experience.” Scopes will give you categorized home screens that will pull content from multiple sources. This means you’ll get content from YouTube, Vimeo and your own recorded media on the same page, as well as music, news and multiple other page types sent straight to each home screen. The phone supports mainstream HTML5 “beautifully,” and, as Canonical claims, will not be just another Android or iOS clone.
If you can remember back to August 2013, Canonical’s goal for the Ubuntu Edge smartphone was originally set at a steep $32 million, though they ended the crowdfunding campaign after only raising $12.8 million. Even though the company has struggled over the years, and even though the handset isn’t what everyone thought it would be, this is still a very important step for Ubuntu to make it to the mainstream.