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Ubuntu Edge prototype impresses in hands-on photos

We've tried out the Ubuntu Edge, the record-breaking £21.5m smart phone and bold experiment in crowdfunding a smart phone.

We've tried out the prototype of the Ubuntu Edge, the record-breaking £21.5m smart phone that's proved a bold experiment in crowdfunding a cutting-edge smart phone.

The Ubuntu Edge is designed to seamlessly switch between computer and phone, send texts from your PC, and show off the features of Ubuntu software.

The Edge is currently looking for you to pledge cash to help it become a reality, seeking an eye-watering £21.5m ($32 million) on crowdfunding site Indiegogo. It's already smashed the record for the most money raised by a crowdfunding project, at the time of writing standing on $11.4m.

I got my hands on the prototype, then took a look at the software today. The prototype is only a dummy case rather than a working model, but I'm certainly impressed with the build quality. The sharp angles, minimalist styling and sturdy frame give it a real premium feel -- and it's got a bit of heft to it too.

Phone meets PC

The Edge is the brainchild of Canonical, the British company behind the Ubuntu operating system for PCs. The software on the Edge is designed to work with your PC and tablet; so for example, the web browsing you've been doing and the music you've been listening to on your phone as you commute continue seamlessly when you sit down at your desk and swap your phone for your computer.

I saw this for myself on an Android phone running the Ubuntu mobile software. The phone plugs into a monitor and the software allows you to continue tasks like working on an Excel spreadsheet, all powered by the phone's processor. The demo I saw required the phone to be plugged in via an HDMI cable, but in theory it could be done wirelessly.

The software resizes everything for the larger screen, and you can either use a keyboard and mouse or stick using the phone's keyboard.

Best of all, you can do phone stuff, without unplugging the phone, right there on the big screen. A call comes in and you see the call on the monitor and answer over speakerphone. A text comes in, and you can reply in an IM-style window on the monitor without interruption, instead of breaking off to pull out your phone and get busy with your thumbs.

Take it to the Edge

So will we ever see a real Edge? The Edge secured more than £2m funding overnight when first announced, but despite a subsequent price cut to £445 the phone looks unlikely to hit its target before the campaign ends on Wednesday.

$32 million is a hugely ambitious target, and out in the open like this it sounds like an awful lot of money. But Canonical points out that phone manufacturers can spend $50m developing new phones -- we just never hear about it.

If nothing else, the Edge campaign has drawn attention to Ubuntu -- pictured above working on an Android phone -- and the dizzying amount of money pledged by potential paying customers won't do Canonical any harm in talks with manufacturers and networks. Canonical says it's hoping to see an Ubuntu phone in shops by the end of Q1 2014.

What do you think of the Edge? Would you like to be able to text and call on your computer? And is crowdfunding the future of technology? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook wall.