First Ubuntu phone goes on sale

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First Ubuntu phone goes on sale

The first Ubuntu phone will go on sale to the public this week, Canonical has announced.

The long-awaited handset, which has suffered a series of delays since the new smartphone platform was first announced in 2013, will be sold via a series of online-only “flash sales”. 

[Related: Best smartphones of 2015]

The sales will take place at weekly intervals over the next month, starting this week. The first has already been announced via the company’s Twitter account and will take place tonight between 8pm and 5am AEDT.

Ubuntu phone - front and angle

Anyone hoping the new BQ Aquaris e4.5 Ubuntu Edition will be a rival for Samsung and Apple’s flagships, is likely to be disappointed. The phone will be manufactured by Spanish smartphone manufacturer BQ, and its specifications are distinctly middle of the road.

Key specifications

Screen 4.5in, 540 x 960, 240ppi, Dragontrail glass
SoC MediaTek quad-core 1.3GHz, ARM Cortex A7
Storage 8GB, with microSD slot (up to 32GB)
Wireless 3G, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4, dual-SIM
Camera 8-megapixel rear, 5-megapixel front, dual flash
Battery 2,000mAh
Dimensions 67 x 9 x 137mm (WDH)
Weight 123g
Colours Black

This is very much a mid-range specification, a fact that’s reflected by the price of the phone, which will be €169.90 (AU$250). The phone will be unlocked, although it will be available with a choice of SIM bundles for some countries.

Ubuntu phone - three screens 

We haven’t had the chance for a hands-on with the device - the first people to get their hands on one will be a number of "some of the most enthusiastic Ubuntu and BQ users" at a small event in London today.

Anyone else interested in finding out how the phone looks, feels and performs should search the web for reviews of BQ’s Aquarius E4.5 Android phone - it’s essentially the same handset.

Next: software and Scope

All scoped out

In terms of software, Canonical revealed little at the launch that we don’t know already about the software. But Cristian Parrino, vice president of Mobile at the company was at pains to point out that, with Ubuntu for phones, the company is not gunning for the tradition iOS and Android hegemony.

“We’re not coming out with yet another iOS or Android clone … we’re introducing a brand new way to interact with your smartphone,” said Parrino.

Ubuntu phone - group shot

Rather than focusing on apps, an area in which Canonical admitted it cannot compete, the core thrust of Ubuntu for phones is set to be Scopes. Scopes are essentially a series of "categorised homescreens" that aggregate many different types of content - from SoundCloud and YouTube, for example.

"Scopes are also a way for users to make their phone experience revolve around the content and services they use the most," said Parrino.

Parrino insisted that Canonical wasn't "abandonding apps", stating that there are already 1,000 apps available on the platform. Developers can choose to code apps natively or in HTML 5.

Clearly, however, Canonical wants to shift the emphasis. Whether that's what consumers really want from a smartphone remains to be seen.

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