First Ubuntu Mobile will be a mainstream device claims Canonical
The first smartphone running Ubuntu Mobile will be able to buy next week, positioned as an alternative to the ‘status quo’ of Android and iOS for both consumers and developers.
The BQ Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition will be sold in a series of ‘Flash Sales’ advertised on Canonical’s social media accounts before going on general release after. The device is dubbed as the perfect balance between specification and price and will cost €169 unlocked.
As the name suggests, the handset boasts a 4.5-inch display, an eight megapixel rear camera and a five megapixel front facing lens and is powered by a 1.3GHz MediaTek Quad Core Cortex A7 processor, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage.
Converged computing vision
The launch has been hailed as an “amazing milestone” for Ubuntu Mobile and Canonical claims the platform will offer a more “Richer, faster, unfragmented experience” than alternatives. The operating system is an important component of Canonical’s vision of converged computing where users can access the same applications no matter whatever device they are using.
The company believes developers will be attracted by the possibility of creating the same software for multiple devices and says it wants to make creating applications as easy as possible to avoid the ‘chicken and egg’ scenario with the app ecosystem.
Scope for change
‘Scopes’ are touted as the platform’s main differentiator, with services such as music, search and social networks presented on the home screen rather than hidden in multiple applications in an icon grid.
Canonical is releasing an easy to use UI toolkit that should make it cheaper and easier to build and maintain Scopes than traditional applications, and allow developers to make their creations an integral part of the mobile platform.
“Ubuntu presents users with an entirely different way to engage with their devices – Scopes guide you to content you want – in the same way you think about it – to deliver a smooth, engaging experience,” says Cristian Parrino, vice president for mobile at Canonical.
“On Ubuntu, [developers] are seeing the opportunity to become much more integral and the investment is much lower.”
BQ and Chinese manufacturer Meizu were signed up as partners last year after Canonical failed to achieve its crowdfunding target to build the ‘Ubuntu Edge’ – a high specification smartphone that would have served as a showcase.
Parrino said both his firm and BQ had taken inspiration from the way that Chinese phone makers had successfully challenged industry heavyweights like Samsung and Apple and wanted to create something different.
“We’ve taken this approach and westernised it a bit,” he explained, adding that the Aquirus 4.5 would only be available in Europe, adding there were plans for the US and elsewhere.
“We’re actively working with Meizu for a device for Europe and China,” he said, suggesting more could be revealed at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona next month.
Who is the target audience?
Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth has previously said Ubuntu Mobile devices would most likely not appeal to iPhone owners, but the firm is adamant it wants the platform to become “mass market”, but admits it will take time.
It adds that the Aquirus 4.5 is a “mainstream” device, but Canonical has admitted in the past that it doesn’t expect a major manufacturer to make Ubuntu smartphones.
“We believe – we know as we’ve done our homework – [consumers are] looking for something different. We know they’re users out there looking for something richer and deeper,” claimed Parrino.
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