Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux distribution, today announced the launch of the second Ubuntu phone in partnership with Spanish manufacturer BQ. While it can’t rival any recent (or even older) Android flagship phones in terms of basic specs, the new BQ Aquaris E5 HD is a step up from BQ’s first Ubuntu phone.
With a mediocre 4.5-inch 540×960 display, 1GB of RAM and 1.3 MediaTek A7 processor, the first Ubuntu phone wasn’t exactly a head-turner. The new device still uses the same MediaTek quad-core processor and only 1GB of RAM, but the rest of the specs have improved a bit.
The 720×1280 pixel display with 380 cd/m2 maximum brightness should provide a noticeable bump in quality, though, even if it’s still not even a full HD display. The 13 megapixel rear camera (in addition to the 5 megapixel front camera) is also an improvement from the 8 megapixel one in the earlier device. The phone also features a dual flash and can handle 1080p recordings. The E5 supports up to two SIMs.
For now, the device will only be available in Europe and will retail for €199.90.
Like the first phone, the E5 is already available in an Android version, too. There, tests put it in the same league as the recent Moto G 4G, which isn’t too bad. Its specs are pretty much in line with similarly priced Android phones like the Huawei Ascend G740.
“Bringing a new operating system to market requires partners who are willing to challenge the status quo of the mobile industry,” Canonical VP of Mobile Cristian Parrino said today. “BQ is a fearless innovator whose risk with Ubuntu has already paid off – the launch of this second device in Europe marks an amazing milestone for both companies.”
Given how competitive the mobile market is, it does indeed take a fearless partner to launch a new mobile phone operating system. Maybe the closest parallel to Canonical’s efforts is Mozilla’s Firefox OS. Android is simply too strong a force, even in the low-end market, for niche players like Canonical and Mozilla to make a noticeable dent with their entries.
At this rate, Canonical’s phones may yet find a small niche among open-source enthusiasts, but it’s doubtful that the company will be able to take mobile Ubuntu mainstream anytime soon (unless next year is the year of Linux on the phone).