The first Ubuntu smartphone goes on sale next week. But it’s more of a publicity drive than a serious launch.
The Aquarius E4.5 from Spanish manufacturer BQ normally runs on Android, but a new model will run on a version of Ubuntu developed by Canonical.
Rather than go on full sale, a limited number will go on sale at various points next week, each being announced on Twitter (@ubuntu or @bqreaders.) There’s no word on exactly how many are on sale, but the idea seems to be to get publicity both for the launch and then from word of mouth from the more tech-obsessed folk who are likely to be among the initial buyers. Shipping will be restricted to Europe at this point.
The handset will cost €169.90 (approximately $192.64) and ship without a SIM or network lock, though some networks in Europe will offer special service deals for the handset. Given the specs (1.3GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 4.5″ screen, 5-megapixel front camera, 8-megapixel rear camera), it’s definitely the operating system that’s the selling point rather than trying to produce a spectacular bargain.
It’s now more than two years since Canonical announced mobile Ubuntu. After a failed crowdfunding attempt, it announced it would not be producing an Ubuntu handset itself but instead was looking for a manufacturing partner. Indeed, it previously announced a phone was definitely coming out in 2014.
While open source vs closed systems is still certainly an issue for some buyers, one of the key selling points of mobile Ubuntu has become less cutting-edge thanks to the delay. Back in early 2013 Canonical was keen to stress the idea of developers being able to produce single applications that would easily and neatly scale between PCs, tablets and phones running the various flavors of Ubuntu. That’s now an idea Microsoft is heavily pushing for Windows 10.