When it comes to fringe players in the smartphone OS sector, we’ve seen Firefox OS, FireOS, and Cyanogen (which will soon be accompanied by OxygenOS). Another player is entering the fray next week courtesy of Spanish hardware manufacturer BQ. BQ has repurposed one of its existing Android handsets to give us the Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition, which will launch across Europe next week for €169.90 (roughly $190).
So what exactly would make an Ubuntu smartphone appealing to consumers in a world dominated by the like of Android and iOS? Canonical, the folks behind Ubuntu, point to its Scopes concept that changes the way that users interact with their stored content and streaming services. Scopes is defined as “a new UI paradigm, designed to deliver content and services directly to categorised home screens, giving users a rich, unfragmented experience.” In a nutshell, Scopes aggregates content and services into their own separate home screens (some of the default home screens include Music, Video, and News) to provide a more “unified experience.”
Canonical explains, “Each source can then expand into an app-like, fully branded experience. For developers, this is the fastest path to develop a rich mobile experience on Ubuntu — at fraction of the cost of traditional apps.”
Traditional apps will still be available, and the Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition will ship with usual staples including apps for Weather, Calendar, Calculator and Clock. Canonical has also teamed up with third-party developers to deliver apps for Amazon, Facebook, Evernote, Twitter, and Dropbox.
As for the hardware behind the Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition, it definitely won’t impress those used to Android handsets, and seems more accustomed to hardware you’d find in Android One smartphones destined for developing countries. The smartphone features a 4.5” qHD (540x960) display, 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek Cortex A7 processor with 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of onboard storage (expandable via a microSD slot). At least the cameras are above average with an 8MP rear shooter and a 5MP unit on the front.
The Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition doesn’t look all that impressive next to Android smartphones like the second generation Motorola Moto G and even the Moto E. Both phones give you a relatively bloat-free Android experience and access to the vast app catalog afford by the Android ecosystem. And we can’t forget the cavalcade of budget Lumia devices that have been going for as low as $20 in recent months.