First Ubuntu phone is ready for launch

  • AFP
  • Updated: Feb 07, 2015 11:47 IST

The handset and operating system combination that promised so much is finally coming to market, but anyone thinking that they'll be able to plug the Ubuntu phone into a monitor and start using it like a PC is going to be disappointed.

After a two-year wait, the Aquaris E4.5, the first smartphone with a LINUX-based Ubuntu operating system, has arrived, but when it goes on sale on Monday, it will only be in Europe and, to begin with at least, solely via online ‘flash sales.'

The benefits of an Ubuntu phone first came to the wider public's attention back in August 2013 when the UK company that created the Ubuntu operating system, Canonical, attempted to fund it via one of the most ambitious crowdfunding campaigns in history.

The company wanted $32 million in funding to build a handset that was incredibly sleek with a premium feel but was capable of connecting to peripherals and working like a desktop computer while still letting the user make and answer calls and check text messages.

It got close to the target, ($12.8million) but not close enough, and plans to build that particular handset were shelved.

The phone that has essentially risen from the ashes of that campaign -- the Aquaris E4.5 -- will have considerably more mundane specifications: a 4.5-inch screen, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage and will also be considerably cheaper -- just €170 -- but it will be running a version of Ubuntu which has a unique way of pulling together and presenting information to users.

The feature, called Scope, is quite a smart and intuitive idea. A scope is a screen that aggregates and displays all of the information on the handset and within apps on a specific subject -- there's no need to find and click onto an app and launch it first in order to get at what's there.

But while the operating system is indeed novel and the handset will be very competitive in terms of price, the Aquaris E4.5 is still a little bit of an anti-climax considering what 2013's crowdfunding campaign promised.

Canonical accepts this criticism and says that the plan now is to move forward slowly in incremental steps, starting with the European market and a selection of 1000 Scopes and apps.

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