European device maker BQ launched the long-anticipated first smartphone powered by Ubuntu, which has been described as offering a “much-needed change from what is available today”.
Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition was made available via ‘flash sales’, at a price of €169.90. Operators 3 Sweden, Amena (Spain), Giffgaff (UK) and PT (Portugal) are offering SIM bundles at purchase.
In a conference call ahead of the launch, Cristian Parrino, VP of mobile for Ubuntu-creator Canonical, said that the device is likely to initially attract early adopters, including users “from the existing BQ and Ubuntu user base”.
But the intention is for Ubuntu-powered mobiles to become a mass market proposition, which is “something that we are going to be doing intelligently over time, but we will get there”.
“We’ve given a lot of thought about how to do this, and we’ve learned a lot from China,” Parrino said, where companies such as Xiaomi have been able to build a significant presence in a short period of time.
Canonical has made much of the Scopes user experience introduced with Ubuntu for mobile. These are said to represent “a reinvention of the mobile UI”, delivering content directly to the home screen, rather than via a grid of apps.
“There is hunger for something very different in the mobile space,” Parrino said, noting that the existing app-based model has been in place since the debut of Apple’s iPhone.
“For developers, Scopes are a much simpler and more valuable way to build mobile experiences than apps – significantly changing ecosystem dynamics”, he noted in a statement.
With regard to its wider rollout strategy – BQ will offer Aquaris in Europe – Parrino said that “we are actively working on a US device strategy, but that’s an announcement for another time and another place”.
And with regard to its previously-announced partnerships with Meizu, the executive said that the companies are “actively” working together, with demonstrations at Mobile World Congress next month – but “I can’t be specific on dates now”.
BQ’s Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition has a 4.5-inch screen, 8MP rear and 5MP front cameras. It is powered by a quadcore 1.3GHz MediaTek processor, with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage.