Posted by Chris Martin 11 February 2015
4 reasons why the Ubuntu phone is doomed to fail: Can't compete with the big boys
Ubuntu OS for phones was announced in January 2013, over two year ago and the device is only just coming to market. In fact, it was confirmed in 2011 that that the OS would support smartphones, tablets, TVs and smart screens. Nevertheless, the first Ubuntu phone has at long last arrived, but I don't think it's going to succeed.
Of course, there will be hardcore fans of Ubuntu which will be desperate to get their hands on the device. The first flash sale was only about half way through when the device became out of stock but we could be talking very small numbers here. I wouldn't be surprised if the number available was deliberately low in an attempt to create hype and demand. Something 'sold out' must be popular mustn't it?
Beyond the Ubuntu fans (and I welcome your comments), I don't think the Ubuntu phone(s) will make a dent on the already saturated and heavily contests smartphone market. Here are the four key reasons behind my opinion.
Why the Ubuntu phone will fail: Price
Let's start with price. The first Ubuntu phone is the BQ Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition and it costs €169 which is £124 converted.
Initially, the idea of an Ubuntu phone undercutting other devices on the market sounded like a great idea. However, it's taken so long to launch the device that this price tag no longer seems attractive. It's cheap, sure, and free shipping and a bundled case seem attractive but the phones available for under £150 are seriously good now (some of them) so the competition is stiff.
A phone can't simply be cheap anymore, it's got to tick a number of boxes to be worth buying and I'll explain how it can't match up to rivals below.
Why the Ubuntu phone will fail: Branding
Ubuntu is a well-known brand but I think the firm is going to struggle to get the average consumer to buy into an unknown smartphone brand in BQ – in the UK at least. I review smartphones for a living and I barely know anything about the company. It's in the top 10 in Spain according to Strategy Analytics but that doesn't count for much elsewhere.
Consumers in the UK have struggled to accept new brands such as Huawei and ZTE, preferring instead to stick with what they know in the likes of Apple, Samsung, Sony and HTC to name just four. Recentlt we've seen Huawei launching devices under a new 'Honor' brand to try and solve this problem.
Ubuntu using BQ as the manufacturing partner presents a huge barrier for consumers to get over.
Why the Ubuntu phone will fail: Hardware
Although there may be more Ubuntu phones in the future, I can only compare the Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition with rivals for now.
For starters, this is one boringly ugly block of a phone with chunky bezels and nothing of interest whatsoever. Design is important for a very personal device such as a smartphone and things get worse when you start to compare the hardware on offer with the best of the budget market.
The BQ Aquaris E4.5 has a reasonable spec for the price and while I applaud the inclusion of an 8 Mp rear camera and microSD card slot, one of the best budget smartphone around at the moment is the Moto G 4G and it comes out on top.
Motorola's budget smartphone is a similar price and although some specs are the same and the rear camera is a lower resolution, it comes with a higher resolution screen and that all important 4G LTE support.
Why the Ubuntu phone will fail: Software
For some, having Ubuntu will be a massive lure and the main reason to buy this phone (or future devices running the OS). For those people, I'm glad the launch has finally arrived; I hope you get your hands on one and I hope you enjoy it.
The wider smartphone market, however, is a different story - You probably don't need me to tell you how established iOS and Android are. Even a tech giant like Microsoft is finding it hard to compete with Windows Phone so is there room for a fourth mobile OS. There are a few vying for that spot including Tizen, Jolla and Firefox but the short answer is no.
There may be some interesting software features like navigation but Ubuntu has no established app store. Apps are seriously important and there's limited developer support to make things worse.
Why the Ubuntu phone will fail: Conclusion
For a few fans, the long wait for the Ubuntu phone is over but the firm has taken such a long time to reach the market that competition is far too fierce to make any real impact. The device looks uninteresting, isn't cheap enough to undercut budget Android and Windows Phone enough, can't compete on specs (namely 4G) and doesn't have enough on the software side to convince users to switch.