Canonical is launching the first Ubuntu smartphone after a year of promises, though it’s unclear why anybody but hardcore Ubuntu aficionados would want one.
The BQ Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu edition will go on sale next week, but will only be available via “flash sales” with limited availability. It’ll cost 169.90 Euros, which translates to roughly $190.
At that price, you can’t expect much in specs department. The Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu edition will have a 4.5-inch display with 540-by-960 resolution, a 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek chip, 8GB of storage (with MicroSD expansion), 1GB of RAM, and a 5-megapixel camera. The phone will have dual SIM slots, but won’t support 4G LTE networks.
As for software, Ubuntu says the interface removes the emphasis on apps—probably because it has very few apps—and instead offers themed panels called “Scopes.” Users can swipe between Scopes for news, music, videos, contacts, and nearby points of interest, in theory saving you from having to dive into traditional apps. (Now’s the time where Android users can point out the numerous custom home screens that serve similar purposes.)
That said, Canonical is promising apps from Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Evernote, and Amazon, among others. Some will be native Ubuntu apps, while others will be based on HTML5. If any of this sounds interesting, Canonical says it will announce the flash sales through the Ubuntu Twitter, Facebook and Google+ pages starting next week.
Why this matters: This Ubuntu phone is a far cry from the high-end Ubuntu Edge that failed to hit its crowdfunding goals in 2013. While the Edge had the intriguing ability to power an entire desktop version of Linux, the Aquaris E4.5 is entirely different, competing with other low-cost devices like the Moto G, cheap Lumia handsets and phones running Firefox OS. Winning people over won’t be easy, but the launch is still a big milestone for Canonical as it tries to crack into mobile for the first time.