April 1, 2015

My Take on the Ubuntu Phone

Since a couple of days I’ve got an Ubuntu Phone, or, to express myself more correctly: an bq Aquaris E4.5 with Ubuntu Touch pre-installed. The hardware is surprisingly cheap (170 EUR) but also surprisingly fine (if you are okay with plastic). But let’s talk about the software:

I am not very happy with Ubuntu Touch at the moment as this OS is very unfinished. I really think nobody who does not own a degree in informatics should buy one at the moment. Do you remember the first Android phone from 2007/2008? That thing with the slider keyboard and the scroll ball? Compared to Ubuntu Phone this very first Android was a mature product.

What I especially do not like and understand is the following: people that buy such a phone are nerds who want an Open Source and free phone. A real alternative to Android/iPhone/Microsoft/Blackberry, which all are more or less bound to their makers. But somehow Ubuntu does the same: the first thing you MUST do is creating an Ubuntu account. Only with that account you get updates and new software. You don’t need an account for operating an Ubuntu Desktop or Server, … Why do you need one for your Ubuntu Phone?

Even worse: the software that comes pre-installed is very “Googley”. The Calendar / Tasks / Mail app all want to connect to your Google account. I really expected that I could configure other services that I (partially) host on my own machines. But maybe that is the lack on software… Oh, of cause, Facebook, Instagram and friends are already “installed”.

Talking about apps: I am not sure if those non-native Apps make any sense. When you install something like Twitter, Ubuntu more or less creates a shortcut that opens the mobile Twitter page in a Browser. I am not sure if that is what people want. And I also guess that this will work quite slowly when you are connected via 3G…

Finally, using the phone on a daily basis is quite ugly at the moment. One of the biggest hurdles I experienced at the beginning was the configuration of my WIFI. The user interface did not allow me to paste my 63 random characters into the password field. And: there’s no WPS… So I had to fiddle around with the shell and SD-Cards and nasty things such as editors… That’s why I said above that this isn’t something you can use as a daily phone yet… Especially not when you are a typical customer who does not own any informatics degree.

In the following post I’ll explain a little about basic configurations, such as the WIFI.

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