BQ Aquaris E4.5 Bringing Ubuntu Linux to Smartphone Market

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2015-02-09
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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    BQ Aquaris E4.5 Bringing Ubuntu Linux to Smartphone Market
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    BQ Aquaris E4.5 Bringing Ubuntu Linux to Smartphone Market

    By Don Reisinger
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    Ubuntu Makes Its Debut on Smartphones
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    Ubuntu Makes Its Debut on Smartphones

    Ubuntu is a household name in the open-source community, but this is the first time it has made its way to mobile devices. Ubuntu on mobile comes with a sidebar that provides easy access to a wide array of apps, including the phone function, the camera and whatever applications users add to the device. The feature, called Scopes, will display important content more readily and limit the amount of time spent flipping through apps to find a particular feature, Canonical says.
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    Canonical Says an Alternative Is Needed
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    Canonical Says an Alternative Is Needed

    So, what’s the point of Ubuntu on mobile? In a statement released on Feb. 5, Canonical said that it believes there is a market need for an alternative to Android and iOS. Google and Apple are dominating the mobile space, the Ubuntu maker argues, and the market needs more competition. Ubuntu could be that alternative OS. However, that’s the same rhetoric we heard from other OS makers, including Samsung, Mozilla and others.
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    The Linux Folks Will Love It
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    The Linux Folks Will Love It

    One of the big selling points for the Aquaris E4.5 is that the handset is running an operating system that’s truly open source. Google has made inroads into the open-source space, but Ubuntu is true Linux, which will make it a favorite among those who already use the OS on PCs or servers instead of Windows or OS X. The Linux element means a lot to millions around the globe—especially those who wish the open-source Android was actually more open.
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    There Is a Small App Ecosystem
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    There Is a Small App Ecosystem

    Like any new operating system, Canonical is going to have to deal with building out an app ecosystem to make Ubuntu popular. So far, the company has been able to attract some of the more popular applications, like Facebook and Twitter, but users will still find many, many more apps on iOS and Android. Canonical says that will change in the future, but for now, don’t expect too many applications available for Ubuntu on mobile devices.
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    The Handset’s Design Is Run-of-the-Mill
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    The Handset’s Design Is Run-of-the-Mill

    The Aquaris E4.5 is not necessarily an attractive device. The handset comes with a rather large bezel around the screen and a standard black color. Its buttons jut out quite far on the right side of the spine, and there is no special design feature that makes it stand out in the crowded mobile device market. The Aquaris looks like a run-of-the-mill smartphone, lacking an inspired look and feel.
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    The Aquaris’ Screen Is Average
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    The Aquaris’ Screen Is Average

    The Aquaris E4.5 comes with a 4.5-inch screen. While that will likely be sufficient for most people, the display tops out at 1080p HD, so it’s not delivering the same resolution as buyers can find in the latest smartphones, like those from LG and Samsung. In terms of screen size and value, the Aquaris is decidedly middle-of-the-road.
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    The Storage Offering Leaves Much to Be Desired
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    The Storage Offering Leaves Much to Be Desired

    One might be surprised to find that the Aquaris comes with just 8GB of onboard storage. That means that precious little data can be stored on the handset. Unlike many other companies, BQ, the company that built the Aquaris, isn't offering models with various storage options, preferring to keep the smartphone as basic as possible.
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    Don’t Expect the Handset to Be a Powerhouse
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    Don’t Expect the Handset to Be a Powerhouse

    The BQ Aquaris E4.5's processor is by no means a powerhouse. In fact, one could argue that it’s a middling device compared with competitors. The smartphone comes with a 5-megapixel front-facing camera and an 8-megapixel rear-facing lens. The handset has a MediaTek quad-core Cortex A7 processor that runs at a clock speed of just 1.3GHz and comes with 1GB of RAM—half of what many Android competitors have.
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    It’ll Only Be Available in Europe
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    It’ll Only Be Available in Europe

    U.S.-based buyers hoping to try out the first Ubuntu Linux smartphone will have to go to Europe to get one. The Aquaris E4.5 will not be available stateside. Instead, BQ and Canonical have agreed to launch it only across Europe, with no plans to release it in the U.S. However, because the smartphone comes unlocked and with a dual SIM, technically it could be used outside of Europe, as long as it’s running on the right networks.
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    The Price Is Right for the Value
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    The Price Is Right for the Value

    Another interesting thing about the BQ Aquaris E4.5 is the way the companies are selling the device. Rather than releasing it into the market all at once, BQ and Canonical have decided to hold a series of flash sales and make a limited amount available at any given time. Best of all, the handset costs just 169.90 euros (about $192), making it affordable for those seeking an unlocked and open-source handset.
 

The already crowded mobile operating system market has a new entrant—Ubuntu. The open-source Linux operating system, which has been running on PCs and servers for years, is now available in a smartphone known as the BQ Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition. The Aquaris E4.5 is not necessarily an impressive device. The smartphone looks like most other devices on the mobile market shelves and comes with standard components one would expect from midrange handsets. But that might not matter. It’s the operating system that makes the smartphone unique in the marketplace. The Aquaris will only be available in Europe, and it's not expected to be a huge seller even on that continent, but it will be viewed as a test that prompts other smartphone makers to think about using Ubuntu Linux as their mobile operating system. They will want to see how customers respond to the first model to see if there is a future for Canonical’s operating system on mobile devices. This slide show takes a look at the Aquaris E4.5 to see how it might fare in the market and to see what is in the device that could potentially attract buyers in an increasingly crowded mobile space.

 
 
 
 
 
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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