There are only a handful of smartphones on the market that ship with Ubuntu software, and up until now they’ve been available for purchase only in a handful of markets.
Now Spanish phone maker BQ is changing that: You can buy an Ubuntu phone from the company and have it shipped just about anywhere in the world.
BQ offers two different Ubuntu Edition phones. Neither is exactly a premium device, but aside from the Meizu MX4 Ubuntu Edition, these are the only two Ubuntu phones on the market at the moment, and they’re the first to be available globally.
The €179 Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition phone has a 4.5 inch, 960 x 540 pixel display, a 1.3 GHz MediaTek quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 processor, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, and a 2150 mAh battery. It has an 8MP rear camera and 5MP front camera.
BQ’s €200 Aquaris E5 HD Ubuntu Edition phone has slightly better specs, including a 5 inch, 1280 x 720 pixel display, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a 2500 mAh battery. This model has a 13MP rear camera and 5MP front camera.
Both phones accept dual SIM cards and support 3G GSM networks with support for 850, 900, 1800, and 1900 bands and UMTS 900 and 2100 bands.
That means the phones will work with AT&T or T-Mobile in the US… but you’ll be limited to 2G data speeds.
At this point, the best reason to buy one of these phones is probably to satisfy your curiosity about the Ubuntu smartphone experience. The operating system is still pretty new and rough around the edges. But it provides an unusual user experience which puts content from apps directly on your home screen through a series of “scopes” and supports a new class of Ubuntu apps that pave the way for something called “convergence,” which will eventually let you run apps in a mobile view when using an Ubuntu device as a phone, or in desktop mode when you connect an external display.
Don’t want to spend $200ish to try a phone that ships with Ubuntu? You might be able to install a build of the operating system on your existing device. There are official builds available for the Google Nexus 4 smartphone and Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets. There are also unofficial builds for a number of other devices.