I have been picking up my Ubuntu smartphone, the BQ Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition, often in recent times. Perhaps it is because this is January. January tends to be a very boring month in most fields. Thanks, to CES, we in mobile got a little bit of excitement. But even that is all gone now.
Turning on the BQ Aquaris last week and connecting via WiFi to see what’s new, the phone notified me of an waiting software update. It was a 470 MB download and it posed no issues. After installing it, I am still looking for what is new on the device. Perhaps it was just for bug fixes and performance improvements.
Like Firefox, Like Sailfish, Like Ubuntu
Personally, I am a fan of variety. The idea of having options intrigues me. I was excited about Ubuntu as much as I was about Firefox OS and Sailfish OS. But besides my initial excitment, there is another common thread to all three of them – their smartphones that I got my hands on all left me feeling unimpressed.
For Firefox OS, I had the ZTE Open (it is still in a drawer somewhere). It was such a bad experience that I couldn’t review the device.
Sailfish OS was next. I got my hands on the Jolla and it broke my heart.
The BQ Aquaris isn’t terrible. I think it is the best of the trio. But it isn’t anything close to the experience that one is used to on say BB10, Windows 10 Mobile OS or even Android OS and iOS. Ubuntu almost feels like a feature phone platform on the Aquaris.
Anatomy of an Ubuntu Smartphone
Of course, there aren’t a lot of apps. The same is true for most platforms outside of Android OS and iOS. But perhaps because the developers behind these platforms have a vision to service the bottom end of the market, the smartphones out there mostly feel underwhelming. One could argue that the BQ Aquaris is a budget offering. But the Meizu Pro 5 Ubuntu Edition is perhaps the most powerful Ubuntu smartphone out there, and yet feels quite under-powered.
Whatever it is, Ubuntu smartphones are not exactly the rave. I have seen only one in all this time – mine. I am yet to run into anyone else who owns one. Chances are that if I do, such a person would be an Ubuntu enthusiast. Firefox OS died in 2016. Sailfish managed to survive by the skin of Russia’s teeth. Tizen lives, thanks to Samsung but is yet to show up on the radar though the brand is making a push for key African countries. Ubuntu mobile has remained as insignificant. It does not even make a blip on the global smartphone market share table.
This is January 2017, and Ubuntu smartphones remain an enthusiasts’ affair. And unless Canonical comes up with something new and dazzling, that is not likely to change come December.