The first Ubuntu phone arrives next week, but there's a catch

It's been a long time coming, but finally Canonical is ready to release its first Ubuntu phone. After teaming up with Meizu and BQ almost a year ago, we're getting a (sort of) new handset from the latter; it's actually a repurposed version of its Aquaris E4.5, a mid-range smartphone that normally ships with Android. The new "Ubuntu Edition" keeps all of the same hardware, which is nothing to write home about. It has a 4.5-inch, 540x960 resolution display, a 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek Cortex A7 processor, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. For shutterbugs, there's also a 8-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 5-megapixel snapper on the front. At €169.90 ($195), the specs are pretty unremarkable.

Where Canonical and BQ are hoping to break the mould is with their software and sales strategy. Taking a page from the playbook of Chinese firms such as Xiaomi, the first Ubuntu handset will be sold, at least to begin with, through a series of online flash sales. The first of these is next week and a handful of European carriers will be offering special SIM bundles to early adopters. But here's the bad news: BQ currently has no plans to sell the phone outside of Europe. Canonical has stressed that it's still "actively working on a US device strategy" and that its flash sales are a deliberate move to target early adopters.

You might be thinking that this all sounds a tad underwhelming. After all, the Ubuntu Phone platform was first shown off more than two years ago, and since then we've seen Canonical attempt to crowdfund its premium Ubuntu Edge smartphone. That campaign ultimately came up short though, and last year Meizu and BQ's Ubuntu phones missed their target 2014 launch window. Nevertheless, Canonical is adamant that its mobile OS can have an impact. The software experience is certainly unique, and the company's work around Scopes -- categorised home screens that aggregate content from multiple sources -- sets it apart from iOS and Android. "We are going for the mass market," Cristian Parrino, VP of Mobile at Canonical says. "But that's a gradual process and a thoughtful process. That's something we're going to be doing intelligently over time -- but we'll get there."