After taking more than two years to get Ubuntu into its first smartphone, Canonical is picking up the pace. The second Ubuntu handset was announced earlier this month, and tomorrow, a third is going on sale in Europe. The Meizu MX4 Ubuntu Edition takes Meizu's existing MX4 (a Chinese-only Android device released last September) and replaces Google's operating system with Canonical's home screen-focused OS. Canonical says it's primarily focusing on attracting "enthusiasts" with the MX4, and the device's mildly eccentric buying system certainly reflects this.
Invites to buy the phone are hidden behind a digital "origami wall"
The €299 ($334) handset goes on sale in Europe only via Meizu's English-language website. In a press call, Canonical's vice president of mobile, Cristian Parrino, explained that would-be customers will have to click on "an interactive origami wall" to retrieve information about the phone, with each visit to the wall also revealing "a certain amount of daily invites" to buy the device. Parrino said that he couldn't reveal the exact number of invites available, but that "most people who go will be able to get [one]." Anyone who doesn't receive an invite on their first try will be able to have another go the following day, he added.
Unusual sales tactics aside, the MX4 is a definite step-up from previous Ubuntu devices. It offers a 5.36-inch screen with a 1152 x 1920 resolution, a 20.7-megapixel camera, and a quad-core 1.7GHz processor. However, there's only 16GB of storage available with no option to expand this with a microSD card.
As for sales of Ubuntu devices so far, Canonical isn't telling, with Parrino noting that the smartphones are "selling in the many thousands, but this is not how we measure success at this point." He says that the real highlight for the company has been the number of returns, which he said was in the "low single digits, which is incredible for the mobile space." Presumably, Canonical's tactics of making people work that little bit extra for their smartphone ensures that only those that really want to buy one, can.