Ubuntu phone on sale to world+dog ... but will it work on your network?
Hint: Sorry, Americans
Customers worldwide are now able to buy smartphones running the mobile version of Ubuntu Linux, even though many won't be able to get full value out of them.
In a Tuesday blog post, Ubuntu maker Canonical said that BQ, its Spanish hardware partner, has opened a new online store where customers around the world can order the Aquaris E4.5 and the Aquaris E5 HD, the two current Ubuntu models.
Previously, BQ had only sold the devices in Europe, and then only in time-limited "flash sales" designed to hype the product.
The new site is still somewhat Euro-centric, with prices listed in euros, but the checkout form supports deliveries to 129 countries, all told. The problem is that BQ's handsets aren't ideally suited to all of them.
"We know (and BQ has acknowledged) that network frequency, and mobile operator, compatibility in some countries, such as the US, will limit some of the handset and OS functionality that European users are presently enjoying," Canonical marketeer Jordana Sherman wrote.
Specifically, both phones support 2G GSM on the 850/900/1800/1900MHz bands and 3G HSPA+ on the 900/2100MHz bands.
That means 2G service should mostly work in the US, but 3G will be tricky. Some large US carriers use incompatible HSPA+ frequency bands and others don't use HSPA+ for their 3G connectivity at all. Service in other parts of the world will vary.
The phones' other specs are modest. Both run on quad-core, 1.3GHz ARM Cortex A7 processors from MediaTek. The E5 HD has more storage space than the E4.5 and a slightly larger screen with higher resolution, logically enough. But neither is going to bowl over anyone accustomed to iPhones or the latest shinies from Asian Android vendors.
We reckon the main audience for these devices will be people who want phones running an open source OS that's based on Linux, for whatever reason – be it security, privacy, or just the ability to hack their phone.
Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth has said that over the long term, the company's goal is not to compete with the Samsungs of today, but to offer "the future PC" – a device that's the size of a phone but can work equally well as a tablet, a desktop computer, or even a TV, depending on which peripherals you attach to it.
That dream still seems a long way off, though, as Ubuntu Phone development is moving rather slowly. In May, the development team said there were "no plans" to release new devices based on Ubuntu 15.10 "Wily Werewolf," the upcoming version that's expected to ship in October. ®