The very first Ubuntu-powered smartphone will be released in Europe next week for just under €170 (around $195) in a flash sale across Europe.
First Ubuntu phone from BQ
Ubuntu announced BQ as one of the launch partners early last year, but the project delivery date slipped somewhat into 2015. But the snappily named BQ Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition (!) is nearly upon us, in what is expected to be an online-only sale, with the date, time and website to be revealed by BQ and Ubuntu Twitter and Facebook accounts very soon.
The phone itself isn’t really that new in terms of hardware however, as it reuses BQ’s existing Aquaris E4.5 handset and uses Ubuntu’s OS (but not the “Snappy Core” version which was announced earlier in 2015).
The specifications of the new device include a 4.5-inch display, a 1.3 GHz MediaTek quad-core processor, 1GB RAM, 8GB storage, dual-SIM slots and microSD support.
The specs are fairly decent, but one of the most important new ideas in the phone is the concept of Ubuntu’s Scopes – they are visually attractive panels which can display information to users, customisable by the handset makers and operators, which makes the whole platform more attractive (to them). In contrast, Apple doesn’t allow any mobile operators to customise the operating system in any way, so it will be a welcome feature for mobile companies.
This means that to get the best experience out of the phone will require apps specifically built for the OS rather than standard Ubuntu, but the platform also supports HTML5 apps as standard.
There are already some big brands on board for the launch, such as Twitter, eBay, Amazon and Yelp, as well as Spotify and Dropbox through third-party apps, according to the company.
We have waited quite a long time for an Ubuntu-based phone, but it would also be great to have a more premium version with high-end specs, that has had hardware designed specifically for it rather than just repurpose an existing design.
Details of the initial sale will be revealed next week, but there won’t be many available at first. After that it will be a couple more weeks before the next sale. There’s currently no information as to when there might be a wider release outside of Europe, however.
Related: Unboxing of the new Ubuntu smartphone