Despite the relatively slow uptake of Canonical’s Ubuntu mobile, the phone-tailored version of its desktop Linux software, Meizu appears confidently committed to the nascent operating system. After debuting the sleek and beautiful MX4 this past August, the company’s back with a handset to showcase the newest version of Ubuntu for phones: the Meizu Pro 5 Ubuntu Edition.
If the smartphone’s design seems conspicuously familiar (and if the “Ubuntu Edition” moniker didn’t give it away), that’s because it isn’t new. Rather, it, much like the MX4 before it, is a rebranded variant of one of Meizu’s Android-powered phones — the Pro 5.
Unlike the decidedly mid-range MX4 before it, though, the Pro 5 features top-end hardware. It’s got a 5.7-inch 1080p AMOLED display, Samsung’s octa-core Exynos 7420 chip, 3GB or 4GB of RAM (depending on configuration), and 32GB/64GB of storage. Rounding out the Pro 5’s internal accouterments is a Sony 21-megapixel and 5-megapixel sensor for the front and rear, respectively, a 3,050mAh battery, and a fingerprint reader.
On the software side, the latest Ubuntu mobile’s been upgraded in a major respect: Scopes, the pared-down search application that supports social media, calendar, message, weather, and call feeds accessible from the Ubuntu home screen, now also supports the “liking” and “favoriting” of items.
Separately, new apps have joined the Ubuntu ecosystem: Spotify recently launched a client, as did games platform Play Canvas. The new additions don’t quite put Ubuntu mobile’s app offering on an equal footing with Android and iOS — its app store still lacks first-party clients from familiar services like Whatsapp and Google Maps — but the situation’s nonetheless improving.
Unfortunately, the Pro 5 doesn’t support what’s arguably Ubuntu mobile’s headlining feature: the ability to transform any old monitor into a fully-featured Ubuntu desktop with nothing more than a dock and display cable (think Windows 10’s Continuity). It’s already built into the latest generation of Ubuntu mobile tablets — BQ’s M10 supports it — but Canonical says that phone support will require newer, as-yet unannounced devices.
If nothing else, the launch of the Pro 5 Ubuntu Edition is a sign that Canonical’s Ubuntu mobile initiative is alive and kicking. This year will be the first time that Ubuntu-powered phones will be available for purchase in brick-and-mortar stores, and Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth and CEO Jane Silber say the company’s pleased with the progress it’s seen.
The Pro 5 will be available for pre-order during the Mobile World Congress next week, and will ship globally. Pricing has yet to be announced, but given the beefy hardware, you can bet it’ll be a good deal higher than, say, the $319 MX4, the $219 BQ E5 HD Ubuntu Edition, or the dirt cheap Aquaris E4.5 UE.