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Phones

In a novel sales tactic, you need an invitation to buy the new Ubuntu phone

The Meizu MX4 Ubuntu Edition goes on sale this week in a lottery-style sale.

The Meizu MX4 Ubuntu Edition, on sale in Europe, is the latest device to bring Ubuntu to a smart phone. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

If you fancy trying out the latest Ubuntu phone, you'll have to wait until your number comes up. In a rather novel sales tactic, the Meizu MX4 Ubuntu Edition will be available tomorrow in an unusual origami-based lottery.

On sale this Thursday 25 June for €299 (this converts to about £210, $335 or AU$430), the Meizu MX4 Ubuntu Edition is the third Ubuntu phone to be available to phone fans. Like the BQ Aquaris E4.5 and BQ Aquaris E5 , the new device puts Ubuntu software into a phone previously available with Android on board .

Ubuntu is an operating system best known as an alternative to Windows for those who like to tinker with their PCs. Canonical, the British company behind the software, has adapted it for smart phones in an attempt to provide an alternative to Android. As a mobile proposition, Ubuntu is still at the embryonic stages -- appearing in handsets made by lesser-known manufacturers BQ and Meizu and only available in Europe for now, Ubuntu faces an uphill struggle against the deeply entrenched Android used by big names like Samsung, HTC and Motorola.

That's where Ubuntu's attention-grabbing sales tactics come in.

The BQ E5 is available to buy normally, but the earlier E4.5 was offered in a series of "flash sales" that saw limited numbers of phones made available at specific times. Now, the MX4 Ubuntu Edition will be available by visiting the Meizu website and clicking on an origami-themed informative collage. You may then be offered a "randomly-generated" invitation to buy the phone -- or maybe not.

The goal of these gimmicky sales tactics is to build word-of-mouth interest in the novel approach, then funnel potential buyers into making a purchase decision at a time dictated by the company. The flash sales coax prospective buyers to make a decision or risk losing out, which allows the manufacturers to crack through their inventory in one go rather than sitting on stock while potential customers um and aah. Then, with actual sales backing up the project, those involved have more idea how to proceed.

The MX4 Ubuntu Edition's invitation-based system adds a frisson of exclusivity for those blessed with the opportunity to lay down their cash. That's the theory, anyway -- in practice, Canonical is cagey about the actual number of phones available or how the invitations are "randomly" generated. For all we know, everyone might get an invitation.

"The number is ultimately insignificant," a spokesperson for Canonical told us. "Most people who go [to the website] will be able to get an invite, and those that can't will be able to the second time around."

The Meizu MX4 Ubuntu Edition is a 5.3-inch phone with a 20-megapixel camera. For more on the new phone, check out our first take .