First Ubuntu phone will be sold in a limited-run flash sale

The BQ Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition is an alternative to iPhone and Android and will be available in Europe.

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Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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The new version of BQ's Aquaris E4.5 shows off Ubuntu software. Canonical/BQ

The first Ubuntu phone is finally going on sale, and it isn't just the software that's doing things a bit differently: the BQ Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition will be available in a grab-it-while-you-can limited-numbers flash sale.

The new version of BQ's Aquaris E4.5 smartphone is the first chance for the public to buy a phone running the Ubuntu operating system. It will be sold in a series of flash sales, each lasting for a limited time period. The details of the first sale will be announced on Tuesday 10 February on Ubuntu's Twitter, Google+ and Facebook pages and BQ's Twitter account bqreaders.

Best known as an alternative operating system for PCs that aren't Windows or Apple Mac computers, Ubuntu is open source and beloved of developers and tinkerers. It is developed by British company Canonical, which plans to expand the operating system's reach to other devices such as phones, tablets, smart devices and even drones.

We first got a hint of those plans at trade show Mobile World Congress in February 2013, when we saw a version of Ubuntu for phones and tablets demonstrated on Google Nexus devices . At MWC 2014 the first proper Ubuntu phones appeared, made by Spanish manufacturer BQ and Chinese company Meizu. And now, a year later and just a couple of weeks shy of MWC 2015, one of those phones will finally go on sale. There's no sign of the Meizu MX3 yet.

At this point, the E4.5 Ubuntu Edition will only be on sale in Europe. It's sold unlocked, but customers will be offered SIM bundles when buying the phone thanks to Ubuntu's deals with Portugal Telecom, GiffGaff in the UK, Three in Sweden and Amena in Spain.

There are no plans for a US launch of the phone.

Flash sales are an interesting way of building buzz around a product by shifting a large number in a short time. In a recent flash sale, up-and-coming Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi claims to have sold out all 40,000 units of its new Redmi 1S Android phone in just 4.2 seconds.

Ubuntu is an "upstart OS" -- one of a number of potential alternatives to Android or iPhone that have been building towards a consumer release in the past couple of years. At MWC 2013 we felt Ubuntu was more polished than rivals Firefox OS and Tizen, but in the intervening time Tizen in particular has surged forward. Backed by the might of Samsung, the troubled and long-gestating Tizen has finally limped its way into a phone, the Samsung Z1. But more importantly, Samsung wants Tizen to form an ecosystem across all kinds of devices, powering Samsung TVs, cameras and other devices.

The BQ Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition will be at industry trade show MWC 2015, where manufacturers, app builders and other mobile companies gather to show off their latest phones, tablets, smart devices and other wares. We'll be there in force to bring you our first impressions with glossy hands-on photos and videos of all the coolest kit you need to know about.