Ubuntu touch on bq Aquarius

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Ubuntu touch revisited - on BQ Aquarius E5 (Feb - Apr 2016)


Even though there now is a product on the market since mid 2015 I still do not see it as a fully working operating system comparable in functionality, stability and availability of apps to current builds of IOS or Android. It is however a nice (nerdy) environment for playing around with. If you just need a phone to make calls, surf the internet, take pictures then it may already serves your purposes.

The main feature that is still missing imho is out of the box syncing of emails, calendars and contacts. That is if you do not want to use google. I have not even tried to sync with google but I think I am not the only one trying this platform to avoid presenting my personal data to any of the big data collectors.


State overview

Working features

Existing problems

Still deciding whether to use Ubuntu Touch on bq Aquarius 5 as primary phone.

Very annoying is that all apps stop working after a certain period of inactivity in the background (or locked screen). This causes a delay of 3-4 seconds everytime you switch to an app that has "frozen" to restart it.

  • Bluetooth basically works but only able to pair with earphone profile
  • Pairing with headset - being able to use microphone and some buttons was not possible
  • but not completely reliable
    • e.g. not able to connect to a car system - Ford 2009
    • most of the time not showing signal strength of nearby devices at all (None)
    • buttons on blue tooth Headset not working with phone (Play/pause, next title) - tested with Sennheiser MM 450-X and various others
  • ActiveSync client missing (needed for syncing contacts, emails and calendars with Exchange/zarafa) - this is a real showstopper
Spotify Client
Important! LibSpotify and CocoaLibSpotify are no longer under active development on any platform and are considered deprecated. 
If you are building applications for iOS or Android, please use the iOS SDK or Android SDK. 
We hope to be able to provide you with a new library for other platforms during 2016.

Until then, you can still download these libraries and provision new keys for your project. 
However, please be aware that we cannot offer active support or guarantee future functionality on LibSpotify or CocoaLibSpotify.
  • so at the moment development / bug fixing for CuteSpotify does not seem to be worth the effort.
Dekko mail client
  • can be used to access/send your mails via imaps/smtps but still in beta and very unstable - in fact almost unusable for me.
  • found that if you have certain mails with pgp-encryption in your inbox, Dekko crashes when reading the inbox.

Not tested yet

Installing Ubuntu Touch

This step is obviously not needed since the phone comes with Ubuntu pre-installed. Just needs an update from 14.10 to 15.04 (just give it some time after the update to come up again).

Status from 2016-02-13 with Ubuntu Touch 15.04:

phablet@ubuntu-phablet:~$ uname -a
Linux ubuntu-phablet 3.4.67 #1 SMP PREEMPT Fri Jan 8 11:59:19 UTC 2016 efc96d8 armv7l armv7l armv7l GNU/Linux
phablet@ubuntu-phablet:~$ cat /etc/ubuntu-build 

Status from 2016-04-06:

phablet@ubuntu-phablet:~$ uname -a
Linux ubuntu-phablet 3.4.67 #1 SMP PREEMPT Tue Mar 29 14:47:28 UTC 2016 a9bacdb armv7l armv7l armv7l GNU/Linux
phablet@ubuntu-phablet:~$ cat /etc/ubuntu-build 

Using Ubuntu touch

The big question: to write or not to write

Trying to figure out if remounting the root partition in rw mode is a good idea:

What I have succeeded in doing is temporarily remount root Partition in rw mode for minor change and afterwards change it back to ro mode.

This did not break the standard upgrade mechanisms - I still get regular upgrades.

Not tested yet: This enables you to use apt-get update/upgrade/install but seems to disable standard upgrade mechanisms completely. To get back to the standard build you supposedly need to install from scratch!?

connecting to phone via ssh

This is good news - no need for usb connections - just a simple network ssh/sftp/scp session will do (taken from http://askubuntu.com/questions/348714/how-can-i-access-my-ubuntu-phone-over-ssh/601972#601972)

  • install the Terminal app on the phone from the App Store.
  • Open a Terminal and type (this is easier with the phone in a landscape orientation, the last command will hang; this is expected):
sudo setprop persist.service.ssh true
mkdir -pm700 ~/.ssh
ip addr
nc -l 1234 > ~/.ssh/authorized_keys
  • Look for your phone's IP address in the Terminal as returned by the ip addr command or use the app "net-info".
  • On your computer, type (replacing with your phone's IP address from above):
nc 1234 < ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub
  • If successful, the last command on your phone's Terminal will now succeed.
  • On your computer, type (again replacing with your phone's IP address from above):
ssh phablet@

Copying files to device

scp localfile touch:path-on-device

Sample script to copy media across to external card:

scp -r $1 phablet@ubu:/media/phablet/FD71-883A/$2

Syncing data with phone

syncing pictures and videos

Short script to sync pictures and videos taken with camera to PC (and automatically sync on to owncloud).

Here ubu is the name of the phone (may be replaced by ip).

Note: this automatically deletes the pics/videos on the phone - if you do not like this leave out the "--remove-source-files" option.

if `ssh phablet@ubu [ -e Pictures/com.ubuntu.camera/* ]`
   rsync -avi --remove-source-files phablet@ubu:Pictures/com.ubuntu.camera/* /Users/tim/ownCloud/ubu_touch/pictures/
if `ssh phablet@ubu [ -e Videos/com.ubuntu.camera/* ]`
   rsync -avi --remove-source-files phablet@ubu:Videos/com.ubuntu.camera/* /Users/tim/ownCloud/ubu_touch/videos/
syncing contacts, calendars

to be tested

syncevolution --import /home/phablet/Documents/utcontacts.vcf backend=evolution-contacts database=Persönlich
syncing mail
  • use imaps/smpts for mail access?!

Command line tools

Checking installed version

phablet@ubuntu-phablet:~$ system-image-cli --info
current build number: 9
device name: vegetahd
channel: ubuntu-touch/stable/bq-aquaris.en
last update: 2016-01-21 16:15:55
version version: 9
version ubuntu: 20160123.1
version tag: OTA-9
version device: 20160108-efc96d8
version custom: 20160111-926-36--vivid

Update 2016-02-24: updated to v10:

phablet@ubuntu-phablet:~$ system-image-cli --info
current build number: 10
device name: vegetahd
channel: ubuntu-touch/stable/bq-aquaris.en
last update: 2016-02-24 12:52:17
version version: 10
version ubuntu: 20160217.1
version tag: OTA-9.1
version device: 20160108-efc96d8
version custom: 20160111-926-36--vivid

no significant changes noticed so far.

Update 2016-04-06: updated to v11:
phablet@ubuntu-phablet:~$ cat /etc/ubuntu-build 
phablet@ubuntu-phablet:~$ system-image-cli --info
current build number: 11
device name: vegetahd
channel: ubuntu-touch/stable/bq-aquaris.en
last update: 2016-04-06 22:19:20
version version: 11
version ubuntu: 20160401.1
version tag: OTA-10
version device: 20160329-a9bacdb
version custom: 20160324--36-54-vivid

Blutooth improved, vpn client added!

Using sudo

You may run priviledged commands using sudo, use your login pin/password as your sudo password.

recording Sound

record test.wav Play test.wav

Various useful commands on Ubuntu touch

dpkg -l     - lists all installed packages
click list  - lists installed click packages
pkcon install xxx   - installs click package
pkcon search name xxx - searches for package containing xxx

sending sms

choose ril_0 for SIM 1, ril_1 for SIM 2:

phablet@ubuntu-phablet:~$ /usr/share/ofono/scripts/send-sms /ril_1 +49xxxxxxx "test 123" 0
Send message using modem /ril_1 ...

customizing gui

get installed apps
ls /home/phablet/.local/share/applications /usr/share/applications/
phablet@ubuntu-phablet:~$ ls /home/phablet/.local/share/applications /usr/share/applications/
clickscope.desktop                                              com.canonical.scopes.wikinear_wikinear.desktop
com.canonical.scopes.twittertrending_twittertrending.desktop    videoaggregator.desktop

account-polld.desktop     dialer-app.desktop       online-accounts-ui.desktop     telephony-service-call.desktop  unity8.desktop
content-hub-send.desktop  messaging-app.desktop    syncmonitorhelper.desktop      unity8-dash.desktop             webbrowser-app.desktop
changing core-apps (appearing at top of apps list)
  • set
gsettings set com.canonical.Unity.ClickScope core-apps '["messaging-app", "webbrowser-app", "dekko.dekkoproject"]' 
  • reset to default
gsettings set com.canonical.Unity.ClickScope core-apps  '[]' 
  • empty list
gsettings set com.canonical.Unity.ClickScope core-apps  '[""]'
changing Launcher icosns (appearing left hand side menu)
  • set
gsettings set com.canonical.Unity.Launcher items "[\
'appid://ubuntu-system-settings' \
, 'appid://com.ubuntu.filemanager_filemanager' \
, 'appid://dekko.dekkoproject_dekko' \
, 'appid://webbrowser-app' \
, 'appid://com.canonical.scopes.contacts_contacts' \
, 'appid://com.ubuntu.developer.majster-pl.utorch_uTorch' \
, 'appid://com.ubuntu.music_music' \
, 'appid://dialer-app' \
, 'appid://messaging-app' \
, 'appid://com.ubuntu.camera_camera' \
  • empty list
gsettings set com.canonical.Unity.Launcher items  "[]" 
creating gui entry for script

Useful Apps


  • Terminal
  • Beru (PDF and ebook Reader)
  • uTorch


  • net-info
  • Network Scanner


not really usable yet - will keep revisiting

  • OSMtouch
  • OSMScout


  • Dekko


  • CuteSpotify - currently (2016-02-16) very unstable
  • Podbird - Podcast Portal - still trying to find a way how to download podcasts
  • Recorder - voice memo recorder

Hardware facts

  • 2 x micro sim slots