The world's first Ubuntu Phone, the BQ Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition, goes on sale on Monday 9 February and we've been told by Cristian Parrino, VP of Mobile at Canonical, that we can expect some big name apps appearing on the new mobile operating system.
When asked what native apps are coming to Ubuntu Phone Parriono said "Several. Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Time Out, Yelp, as well as community developed apps working on Spotify and Dropbox APIs. Lots. Just about every digital platform, in some cases the top brand, others from valid alternatives".
However there was one major app that won't be appearing on Ubuntu Phone just yet – WhatsApp. The incredibly popular social app won't be part of the almost 1,000 apps from big names around the world that are coming to Ubuntu Phone.
New ecosystem, new challenges
The Ubuntu Phone is a completely new mobile operating system, and as Cristian Parrino pointed out "we're not coming out with another iOS or Android –Ubuntu Phone offers whole new way to interact".
Unlike in Android and iOS where apps are tightly restricted and controlled by the platform owners (especially in Apple's case), and placed in a grid for users to poke at, Canonical is trying something rather different with Ubuntu Phone.
Rather than displaying separate apps in grids, Ubuntu Phone is looking to aggregate content and services via "Scopes", which will integrate various apps and services into an easy to use interface, so users don't have to scroll through screens of icons.
Scopes offer up different home screens that aggregate sources, so you could have a music Scope that combines the MP3s you've stored locally with your playlist of favourite tracks on YouTube. Clicking the YouTube source would open it up full screen to be used much like a native app.
According to Parrino "Scopes are a game changer for us. They can be made at a fraction of the time it takes to make an app".
A whole new ecosystem means that native apps need to be built from the ground up for Ubuntu Phone but Canonical is looking at making it easy to port apps from its desktop Linux distribution Ubuntu to Ubuntu Phone, promising a future where desktop and phone apps will use the same code.
The quality and quantity of apps on an emerging mobile operating system is essential – just look at Microsoft's struggle with Windows Phone – so it's good to see that Ubuntu Phone will get some big name apps. If you're a fan of WhatsApp, however, you'll want to stick with iOS or Android for now.