BQ announces second Ubuntu phone and plans to build PC-smartphone combo

The Aquaris E5 HD Ubuntu Edition will cost $220 when it starts shipping in Europe later this month

The Aquaris E5 HD from Spanish smartphone vendor BQ will soon ship with Ubuntu.

The Aquaris E5 HD from Spanish smartphone vendor BQ will soon ship with Ubuntu.

Against the odds, Canonical and Spanish company BQ are continuing to push Ubuntu for smartphones over Android and iOS. BQ's second Ubuntu phone is a step up from its inaugural effort, and the two companies are also working on a smartphone that's also a PC.

Earlier this year, BQ started selling the Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition and will later this month start shipping the Aquaris E5 HD in Europe from its online store for €200 (US$220).

The struggles of Samsung's Tizen, Mozilla's Firefox OS and Microsoft's Windows Phone have shown how difficult it's to compete with the dominant smartphone platforms of Apple and Google, but that doesn't seem to scare Canonical and BQ.

Canonical's original plan to differentiate its offering from the competition was to sell devices that would work both as a smartphone and a PC. Working with BQ, the company is now planning to make that a reality. However, they have revealed no hardware details or timetable. They aren't alone in developing this new device type: Microsoft's Continuum for Phones will later this year allow users to connect their Windows 10 phones to a keyboard, mouse and a larger screen.

For now, there are only regular Ubuntu smartphones. To keep costs down, BQ has once again recycled an existing Android smartphone, hence the Aquaris E5 HD Ubuntu Edition product name.

The Aquaris E5 HD is better than the existing E4.5 (which costs €170) in most regards. It has a 5-inch HD screen instead of a 4.5-inch, 540 x 960 pixel screen, and the integrated storage has been increased to 16GB from 8GB. The E5 HD also has a 13-megapixel rear camera, which should be an improvement over the E4.5's 8-megapixel main camera.

Unfortunately, the E5 HD doesn't have LTE and is powered by a modest quad-core 1.3GHz Cortex-A7 processor from MediaTek. The Cortex-A7 should be used to power sub-$100 entry-level smartphones, according to ARM, which designed the processor. That will make difficult for the smartphone to compete with similarly priced Android-based products.

However, the main reason to buy the E5 HD is Canonical's OS.

The Ubuntu smartphone user interface is made up of what Canonical calls scopes, which are home screens that aggregate information related to a topic. They include News, Music, Nearby and Today screens. The latter two list information related to the user's location and personalized information, such as favorite contacts. Even though the scopes are the main building blocks, the OS also has traditional apps, and can run both native and web apps.

The launch of the Aquaris E5 HD Ubuntu Edition is a step in the right direction for Canonical's nascent OS. However, finding room in the shadow of Android and iOS has proved difficult for all that have tried. BQ said it considers the Aquaris E4.5 to be a success, but doesn't say how many it has sold.

Its share of the smartphone market is tiny, though: Market analyst Gartner doesn't count sales of Ubuntu phones separately, but lumps it in with other minority operating systems such as Samsung's Tizen and Mozilla's Firefox OS. Behind Android, iOS, Windows and BlackBerry, the "others" category had a 0.4 percent share of the smartphone market during the first quarter of the year, for combined sales of about 1.3 million phones, according to Gartner.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags smartphonescanonicalconsumer electronicsBQ

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mikael Ricknäs

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?