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This Modular Smartphone Wants to Offer Ubuntu, SailfishOS

ara project

Google’s Project Ara Protoype

Google’s Project Ara may soon have some competition in the modular smartphone stakes, with a Finnish startup — co-founded by a former Nokia Android X employee — pitching in.

And in keeping with the Lego-like idea of swappable hardware components, the upstart handset is planning to support swappable operating systems, too.

Vsenn, the company behind the project, this week announced that it may offer Firefox OS, Sailfish OS and — ta dah — Ubuntu for Phones alongside its promise of a ‘pure Android’ experience.

“Bringing multiple OS support is something that the online community has been asking us to do, and so, we deliver,”  the company state in a press release on their (rather sparse) website.

‘I wouldn’t hit cancel on your mental Meizu order just yet’

The company says it will “work with the online developer community [to bring] other OS choices to its devices,” adding the benefits of its ‘Approved ROM Partner’ program will be extended to such projects. This includes advice and assistance, plus social media coverage on their Twitter and Facebook pages, important for generating interest and contributors.

All that’s asked for in return is a ‘stable and high performance’ ROM that shows off the hardware and its ethos in the best possible way.

‘Graveyard of Failed Ambition’

Community ports of Ubuntu for Phones have been a little lacking, despite early momentum. The XDA Developers’ (awesome) device forums, where Canonical bet big on its developer outreach for the platform, and the official ports wiki page are a veritable graveyard of failed ambition, littered with dead, broken and decrepit builds.

If popular handsets already in pockets have trouble gaining community momentum it’s difficult to gauge how a phone that’s yet to show so much as a photo of itself can. Because of this I wouldn’t hit cancel on that mental Bq or Meizu order in your head just yet.

‘I’m hugely excited by the potential of this…’

Don’t Be Sad, Be Active

Doff of my New Era Cap to the gods of cynicism aside, this news is still hugely positive and I’m hugely excited by the potential. Choice is a good thing. Companies, however fledgling, being interested in Ubuntu, also welcome.

And by Jove is it nice to see something innovative getting off the ground without crowdfunding and hype!

The Future Is Like Lego

Modular phones are being heralded by the tech press as the “next big thing” after Phablets, and like Google’s Ara project, Vsenn aims to be at the cutting edge.

But it won’t be quite as extensible as Ara and its umpteen Lego-like parts. The Vsenn will have three “swappable” components: camera, battery and a processor/RAM block, a changeable back-cover (how very 90s) and for its first model a full-HD 4.7-inch screen.

That is pretty much it as far as details for this startup’s ambitions go. The official website has little else to show – no photos, spec sheets, etc.

I did mail the company for more information but, as of publishing, have yet to hear back. As soon as/if I do, this article will be updated.

Feature image: Google