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Jolla is the last company with an 'alternative' mobile operating system (engadget.com)
310 points by cmurf 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 132 comments

Half a year ago in September, I left Sailfish OS and Jolla after I had exclusively used "alternative" mobile operating systems. I started with the Nokia N900, after that I had the Nokia N9, and then both the Jolla and Jolla C with Sailfish OS.

The UI concepts of Sailfish OS were great, the gestures were simple and intuitive. However, it lacked so many other features. The Android emulator was only compatible with apps for Android 4.4. Although being marketed as secure and privacy-aware, users have no control over apps, as there is no mandatory access control or any other permission system. Remember, this OS has been in development for over five years by now. Also, many parts of the UI stayed closed source, although Jolla promised from the beginning they want to release more open source components. If they wanted contributors, they would have more likely contributed to user-visible stuff like the mail app — not to some lower level middle-ware that is open source.

All of this and some more reasons caused me to finally pull the plug and switch to Android. I wrote about it in lengthy details here: https://raimue.blog/2018/01/09/goodbye-sailfish-os-and-jolla...

"parts of the UI stayed closed source"

If anything is closed, except drivers they'd likely be forced to accept binaries for, I wouldn't even consider the OS. Who do they think their target audience is? I imagine most people looking into an alternative mobile OS are well aware of the slippery cliff that is proprietary software. It's the whole point of looking around. I'm looking for full control so I don't get stuck with someone elses bad choices yet again.

> Who do they think their target audience is?

Large corporate clients like the Russian postal service. While Jolla has always drawn on bug reports and some contributed code by hackers who are passionate about owning a cool, supposedly open-source phone, the company has never seen that audience as big enough to generate profit. Jolla has been striving for years to win adoption from sectors that don’t really care if the code is completely open or not.

How about another angle: Android is Open Sourced and much powerful than SailfishOS. It's much easier for their target audiences to targeting Android than their OS.

> Android is Open Sourced

Only partially, the ASOP does not run on anything because of the vast amount of blobs and basic drivers missing and people are maintaining open-source reimplementation of the gapps to make even the most basic apps working.

True of course, but: 1) Any other open source OS would have exactly the same problems. And 2) They wouldn’t be any easier for them to solve, so why not concentrate efforts an solving it on AOSP which already has an ecosystem?

Yours is an argument why all struggling OSS mobile OSes are struggling, not particularly why AOSP has problems. Surely if even AOSP is struggling to solve these issues, what chance do the others have?

> Any other open source OS would have exactly the same problems

Not to the same degree, Linux still has some blobs to run on modern computers but nowhere near as much as Android. Android needs blobs for absolutely anything. And you don't need an equivalent of the Gapps on Linux, it would be like something as common as systemd would be proprietary.

> Yours is an argument why all struggling OSS mobile OSes are struggling, not particularly why AOSP has problems. Surely if even AOSP is struggling to solve these issues, what chance do the others have?

Google does not care any more about open-source on Android, the current open-source bits are just there because of legacy history, they close all the open-source parts step by step. The Gapps used to be open-source at the beginning. AOSP isn't struggling, it's just there's no open-source movement.

> Not to the same degree, Linux still has some blobs to run on modern computers but nowhere near as much as Android.

Uhh, come again? Android driver blobs are for the Linux kernel that Android uses, and OEMs don't bother mainlining their drivers so Linux is no better than Android, by definition.

> The Gapps used to be open-source at the beginning

This is flat-out wrong. GApps were never part of AOSP- or open-source.AOSP included alternative open source apps that offered similar functionality (like a mail client)

> AOSP isn't struggling, it's just there's no open-source movement.

Lots of projects are based off AOSP- it's not obvious because they have names like CyanogenMod, LineageOS or Copperhead. There is in fact, a vibrant open-source movement.

> Uhh, come again? Android driver blobs are for the Linux kernel that Android uses, and OEMs don't bother mainlining their drivers so Linux is no better than Android.

Android has one kernel per phone people patched for their own needs, it's much worse than that. You can't take your kernel on a Samsung Phone and run it on an HTC. I can run my Linux kernel on most computers without much issues, good luck running an Android kernel on a random phone.

> Lots of projects are based off AOSP- it's not obvious because they have names like CyanogenMod, LineageOS or Copperhead. There is in fact, a vibrant open-source movement.

CyanogenMod and LineageOS is the same entity, that only makes two big communities. You don't have that many communities because maintaining an Android ROM is much much harder than maintaining a Linux Distribution. That's why the compatibility list for CopperheadOS is ridiculously small.

> CyanogenMod and LineageOS is the same entity, that only makes two big communities

So you agree that there is an AOSP open-source movement? Nevermind it's harder to create a ROM than a Linux desktop distro because drivers are not mainelined by OEMs, but even this will be resolved by the HAL from Android P onwards.

https://f-droid.org/ has a catalouge of ~1500 apps which have absolutely no dependencies on the proprietary google play services.

Those few proprietary apps for which there are no free alternatives (spotify, duolingo) seemed to work fine without the play services.

Not to be dismissive of what f-droid does, but a large majority of the applications available might be generously described as a student's end-of-year project, and often are not very good.

This is not to diminish what is being done, as I do appreciate the option of a wide array of OSS items decoupled from the Google eco-system, but it's nowhere near independence from Google's eco-system. I would hardly say that it's a replacement so much as a novelty at the moment, even though there are a few absolutely golden apps to be found there. (Free advertisement for PassAndroid, the Android equivalent of Passbook from iOS, which does exactly what it advertises)

I strongly disagree. I never used an android phone with google services. Apart from the mentioned unique apps I never missed anything from the FOSS ecosystem. Often the free alternatives are vastly superior over their google counterparts. Also I told all my family and close friends who only grumpily got a smartphone recently to not bother with creating a google account but just install F-Droid. I only got good feedback.

The real benefit here being that there was never any case of malware found in F-Droid. So you really can just tell someone to play around and try out what they like.

Anyway, just listing some of the definitely not student level apps:

Firefox (Fennec and Klar/Focus), OsmAnd, K9 Mail, Nextcloud + Davdroid, Newpipe, Riot, Conversations, Telegram, a bunch of good quality Hacker news, reddit, Twitter, Mastodon, Github, etc. clients.

All these with clearly marked tracking/advertising where present at all.

well Firefox is slowest browser around plus have no pull down to refresh, K9 doesn't have exchange

in general FOSS apps have horrible design/UI

This idea that F-droid apps are garbage largely stems from the time when Firefox was the only open source browser available. Objectively speaking, Firefox for Android is terrible. Newer open source Android apps like Chromium and NewPipe are actually in many ways superior to their respective Google Play counterparts, Chrome and YouTube.

To be fair Firefox for Andorid has gotten a lot better lately as well.

AOSP works great on Nexus devices with zero modifications, the only real exception being apps that require location and apps where the developers chose to require having gApps installed. Get an AOSP Nexus and install the latest build of Chromium and you'll actually be using a more advanced browser than someone with gApps running stock Chrome. Nexus blobs are proprietary, but they're not missing.

I imagine the market sector that cares and actually understands the issues is not too small in itself but in the scope of potential users of smartphones quite tiny.

Do you develop for iOS?

I have never really liked any of the major players. I used to run WebOS on a Pre3 for a long time. Now I have a Jolla C, but it isn't my main phone because of its poor battery life, so I also use an Android phone.

The saddest thing here is those alternative OSs innovate a lot. WebOS in particular was years ahead of both iOS and Android in terms of UX (after all they had Matías Duarte on board... [1]). Sailfish is more interesting technically, in that it was probably the fastest OS to do "zero to non-trivial native mobile app" on thanks to its development tools (the Qt environment, with QML, a standard build VM...).

I backed the tablet as well, but I don't hold a grudge. What they are trying to do is incredibly hard, failures have to be expected.

If you want to meet the developers from Jolla, I think they have a BoF room at FOSDEM every year. I sat in to listen for a while in 2017, it was pretty interesting.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matías_Duarte

Would you say that latest WebOS has still features which are years ahead of for both current IOS/Android. I mean are there features which aren't implemented in some form in by those two mobile OSes?

I don't use WebOS anymore so I don't know its current state, but I doubt it because it's not the same team working on it anymore.

Back in the early '10s however it had things like usable widgets on the home screen, application cards, gestures instead of buttons... which all landed in the two major OSs years later.

There was a mechanism whereby you could transfer the current web page (or video) on your phone to your tablet, simply by placing the phone on top of the tablet. This was back in 2011. I think the Handoff feature in iOS is similar (although not proximity based).

The HP WebOS devices had wireless charging. It took many years for this to properly appear again in the market.


The webOS UI from 8 years ago is still way better than the latest from Android or iOS today. The apps and implementation may not have been that great from a performance perspective (even then), but the UI was/is absolutely better.

If you want a specific feature, I'd point to first-class multitasking and cards, real menus, good combination phone/tablet UI via Onyx (I'm looking at you Android), JustType, Synergy (all your services working together instead of being separate islands in your phone), gesture zone, etc.

I'm using Sailfish OS on an Xperia X since when it became available. My main reason to migrate from Android was "battery life" which was confirmed (battery now lasts ~5 days instead of the usual 2-3), but the OS has a lot of small and bigger bugs (e.g. carrier selection, 2G/3G/4G priority, stuck data comm for Android apps) and missing features (notoriously: tethering/wlan access point, bluetooth) that do not currently make it a valid alternative for a normal user if compared to the other operating systems. Version 2.1.4 beta is available (https://blog.jolla.com/sailfish-os-2-1-4-now-available-early...) which might fix many bugs and deliver some key features, but the date for the final release has not been published (and I'm too scared to brick my phone by installing the beta).

Ubports, the community fork of Ubuntu Touch is still going strong. https://ubports.com/

Strong may be exagerrated. Its progressing but its far from providing a good enough experience even when it comes to basic stuff like email and browsing.

The website isn't throwing a 404 error, yet.

A happy Xperia X + Sailfish OS user here (v I believe the points below apply well before 2.1.4. My only gripe is old browser engine; for now I end up opening some apps via Android Firefox (59), with decent performance.

>tethering USB tethering requires manual installation of a Sailfish package via CLI >wlanaccess point works out of the box >bluetooth works out of the box: A2DP, file & contact transfer, perhaps more I haven't tested yet. Works just fine old Nokia headphones, and with Roidmi via the Android app.

Those missing features do exist on the Jolla1 so it should work on the Xperia soon enough.

Only issue I had is some apps not working.. but none important.

Would not surprise me that if you replaced the Google blob with MiniG that battery life would improve on Android.

I keep seeing report after report that Play Services in particular can be a real drain.

That seems probable but also misleading.

Play Services is choke full of features, so it tends to be very high in the battery useage list.

Replacing it with MiniG that uses the same API with way less features can only decrease battery consumption.


What is this? I tried searching for it, but got nothing useful. Only things related to crypto mining, and other unrelated nonsense.

It sounds interesting.

I think they meant microG, which is a project that aims to replace Google Play Services with its own, API-compatible implementation.


I think op means micro-g

Soo on Android many non basic features are enabled through Play Services. It is basically a huge library from Google that auto updates itself.

Chromecast is a good example of a feature delivered entirely through play services.

Google login also works that way.

Many apps leverage Play Services in some way. It is common to check your play services version at startup and ask the user to update them if they are out of date compared to what your app targets.

Micro-g reproduces the Play Services API and tries to deliver an open source equivalent to some of its features.

I don't really buy the argument that Play Services nullifies AOSP in any way but it is interesting to see another alternative (amazon also has a similar project) that is open source.

Im using Sailfish on the Sony Xperia as my daily driver. Most android apps I care about work. But it isn't 100% convenient.

What's the status of the browser? Before it was stuck with ancient Gecko, because IPC embedlite project basically died. What are they doing now about it? I wish they'd take something like Servo and browser.html for these purposes.

During the last community meeting there was talk that the browser engine is getting updated, but no more details than that:


Interesting. I hope they'll figure something out with Gecko or Servo, instead of simply switching to Blink.

Latest Firefox Mobile LTS release still works on Jolla’s ancient Android version (through the Alien Dalvik compatibility layer). You can install it from F-Droid.

Firefox is not available on fdroid anymore. There's a fork called Fennec that brings it into line with fdroid policy. There's also Icecat.

To get Firefox without being forced into a Google account use Yalp installer.

Firefox Klar, which is an official Mozilla project, is available on F-Droid. There's some added content blocking stuff but otherwise it's just Firefox.

Klar/Focus is a completely different thing from normal Firefox, it's a Webview wrapper with very limited feature set (no tabs, no sync, no bookmarks, no extensions, etc).

Wow, that's impressive. I wouldn't have guessed an app as complex as Firefox would work on Jolla's compatibility layer.

The Android compatibility layer is actually Alien Dalvik developed by Myriad. It is mostly used on set-top boxes for TVs. Jolla just licensed it for their phones. As far as I know, even on the latest Sailfish X, Alien Dalvik only supports the API level of Android 4.4 (2013).

It's really weird that supposedly open source Android runtime is so hard to actually run on proper Linux.

Not really. We can't run some Linux software on BSD either. (eg. Gnome, because it depends on systemd, which depends on Linux-specific features).

The latest non-LTS release works too.

What does the OS natively support? Does it have SMS, email, and a browser? Maps?

* SMS - yes

* Email - yes

* Browser - yes -- the official one browser is based on [an outdated] Gecko engine. Unofficial browsers based on QtWebkit.

* Maps - yes -- the official solution these days is HERE Maps (this requires Android support which is available on Jolla-supported devices). There are several other Map solutions available through OpenRepos (a popular 3rd party repository for Maemo/Meego/SailfishOS software).

While the app ecosystem can in no way compete with the number of apps available in Android or iOS -- if you use your mobile for web-browsing, music, podcasts, weather, timers, etc. it's sufficient.

> Maps - yes -- the official solution these days is HERE Maps (this requires Android support which is available on Jolla-supported devices).

Do they still provide offline map updates? I have a Nokia N9 and several other Symbian based Nokia phones, but there appear to be no updates to the offline map data.

Calling HERE "officially supported" is a stretch. It's a downright painful to use app running in the android container.

The official browser is actually Webkit based. I believe Maemo was the last OS in that lineage to use a Gecko browser (microB).

The official browser for SailfishOS is Gecko-based. The SailfishOS browser source code is FOSS, so we can see for ourselves, from https://github.com/sailfishos/sailfish-browser :

> Sailfish Browser uses Sailfish Silica Qt components for the browser chrome and gecko engine with embedlite Qt5 binding.

Oh, huh. I suppose I was mistaken. Thanks for clarifying that!

Yes, Sailfish has SMS and e-mail support. For maps, you can install OSMAnd through the Android compatibility layer and get the same maps goodness as on any Android phone.

Instead of an alternative OS, we need a company that will make good hardware (comparable to Samsung) and not lock down their android system and provide open source drivers.

That will satisfy most tinkerers, since they can modify anything they want and even load their own images since the drivers are open source.

Android as an OS is good enough. Just that every single manufacturer has opted to lock it down.

Completely agree.

Recently I have been in contact with the topic of eMMC deaths [1] in Samsung S3 phones and I have to say I am very pissed of by the arrogance of large corporations like Samsung (I have no evidence, but I am confident that Samsung is not the only player doing shit out there):

They sell you a device with a firmware which will probably kill your memory chip within weeks. To fix it, they patch their firmware to let the memory chip freeze as soon as the firmware would kill it. So instead of the firmware killing the integrity of the memory, they risk the integrity of the filesystem and let the user experience freezes and reboots for the rest of the phones life (until the filesystem can't recover).

To sum it up:

- they sell you a fast breaking device

- they patch it to make the phones deaths less likely, but without fixing the real issue

and that all within software.

Sounds to me as if someone wants to make sure the market will not be saturated. I am no lawyer but to me this sounds illegal, but as it is kinda hard to find out that shit (the S3 was over 5 years old when the linked talk was given), it is very unlikely anybody will engage in a lawsuit.

Currently, I am under the impression that the only solution to that kind of a problem would be, to force all manufacturers to open source all their software which is required to use their devices (firmware, drivers, etc. license doesn't even matter). It would be one hell of a change for device manufacturers, but as we can see, otherwise we have no idea what kind of hidden 'features' the devices we buy (our devices?) have.

[1]: https://media.ccc.de/v/34c3-8784-emmc_hacking_or_how_i_fixed...

Even better, free software instead of open source.

You definitely also have to care about reducing the use of conflict minerals and your environmental impact, but if you do, the Fairphone [0] provides most of that as an added bonus.

[0] https://www.fairphone.com

What about Lineage and rooting your phone?


1. Installing Lineage degrades many hardware features. For example, the camera will never be as good as it is on the official OS. This is what I meant by "open source drivers". Currently all of this stuff is binary blobs, which aren't even available freely. So it is impossible for Lineage to fully utilize the hardware.

2. Rooting presents another extremely stupid problem. Apps like Netflix and snapchat and many payments/banking apps will refuse to work. I cannot find a way to explain this except dev incompetency and/or hostility towards users.

3. On Samsung phones there is a Knox bit, which gets tripped as soon as you flash any image. On many models, people haven't been able to figure out how to reset it. This means that once you flash Lineage on your phone, you permanently lose features, even if you go back to the official OS! This is what prevents me from flashing my phone, since I really don't wanna lose Samsung pay and Secure folder etc.

> Apps like Netflix and snapchat and many payments/banking apps will refuse to work. I cannot find a way to explain this except dev incompetency and/or hostility towards users.

- Netflix: "we see you have root, we can no longer trust our DRM on your phone".

- Snapchat: a service whose core principle was always, "you can send your nude photos to each other, the photos are ephemeral, and they won't be able to save them without you knowing". Rooting your phone breaks that last guarantee.

- Payment/banking: CYA. You have root, some evil "hacker" might "hack" your phone and steal your money, and we don't want to get sued for that.

It's very much user hostility, created by a conflict of interest between the company making the product, and the users of that product.

And why do these then work on desktop computer without checks like: Do you have the latest (windows) update installed? Do you have an Antivirus installed, which we approve of? etc. (I'm not referring to Snapchat but the banking things here) It seems to me that they never cared when on desktops and suddenly on mobiles there are all these problems.

On the desktop so far they haven't had a way to ensure that, beyond Apple and Microsoft sandboxing attempts, while on mobile the sandbox mechanisms are guaranteed unless one has an unofficial OS.

They can't really check most of that stuff on desktop, as they are restricted to run inside the browser. That said, I'm sure some tried with ActiveX crap and such.

Because if your banking website is designed properly it won't rely on the client to ensure security.

Because the banking application would stop working for most users.

Another problem with Lineage OS is that the firmware and kernel drivers on your phone cannot be updated once the OEM ends support. Here'a a page that lists all of the CVE's that are not patched on Lineage OS builds by device:


I have a Jolla 1 phone, and I do enjoy many of its features that Android lacks, but I plan on replacing it with a Librem when and if possible. In spite of Jolla repeatedly advertising Sailfish as an open source operating system, much of Sailfish remains closed source (even simple, basic things like the mail app) and there are no plans to change this. Plus, like many other sailors to judge from together.jolla.com, I’m uncomfortable with the tight relationship Jolla now has with the Russian state, though I do realize that might be the only chance the company has to be profitable.

FirefoxOS still lives and quietly has some success in the form of KaiOS (https://techcrunch.com/2018/02/26/kaios-a-feature-phone-plat...).

KaiOS forked FirefoxOS back in ~2016. I wonder how closely they've tracked security fixes from Mozilla's upstream Gecko over the last two years. Mozilla removed a lot of B2G code from Gecko, so merging fixes will require more work than just applying patches.

Purism are working on Librem 5, which should apparently run Plasma Mobile. But Sailfish has by far the best UI out there. It's a pity they still didn't open source it yet.

> It's a pity they still didn't open source it yet

Yea. And if/when they go away, that UI will die with them, which is also a shame.

I thought the Librem 5 will be running a mobile version of PureOS?

I backed their tablet and was disappointed when I learned they would never ship it - Jolla's handling of the whole fiasco was very suboptimal.

Pinning hopes on the purism now for a hackable mobile device.

Jolla had some profitable months last year and started issuing refunds to people who backed its tablet on Indiegogo. The company won't say how many are left, however. "It's not that many," Pienimäki claims. "Some of them are a bit noisy, but it's not really that many anymore." Jolla has promised to issue more refunds every time it has a profitable month. These, Pienimäki hopes, will happen at a "steady pace" by the end of the year. The company, however, is not profitable on a fiscal year basis, and continues to burn through investor cash.

It all sounds grim, and describing people you failed as “s bit noisy” isn’t great PR. It just sounds like people in way over their heads to me.

"a bit noisy" is still too nice to describe the few people which pollute each an every blog post with the same boring complaints. One shouldn't use Kickstarter when one doesn't understand the risk.

Keeping money for not delivered product, while spending cash on other parts of the business, sounds like fraud.

That isn't really how it went down, at least as far as I could tell following their updates from the outside.

It seemed more like they ran out of money entirely, and their options were either give up completely and no-one gets anything, or keep working on Sailfish OS to hopefully get new business going, then make a profit in the future that they can use to pay tablet backers back. And they have been paying backers back as promised when they're able to.

I dont look at the situation as charitably. They raised $2,571,262 (479% funded) and spent more than half of it on Sailfish, while running out of funds such that they never shipped the tablets.

The tablets themselves were manufactured by their Chinese partner and even sold on third party Chinese websites. Funders never got their tablets, but other customers were able to buy the same tablets for below what Jolla had sold them.

Jolla was accepting orders until the very end before they decided to come out and cancel the whole tablet effort.

They have since raised over 12M dollars but ostensibly that is not enough to repay the 2.5M they raised initially.

I have no insights into their engineering or technology since I never got to use their product, but as far as business practices go they have constantly scraped the bottom of the barrel.

If you have some spare cycles go check out the comments on the indiegogo page (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/jolla-tablet-world-s-firs...)

EDIT - https://reviewjolla.blogspot.com/2017/06/financial-news-joll... claims they have raised 70M USD.

They gave me half a refund, which is honestly more than I expected. I wish them well, but they're not getting any more of my money.

Companies providing operating systems is a clear conflict of interest. Evidence: the tragic state of the entire mobile ecosystem, where no hardware can be fully utilized by (or even make calls with) an open-source OS.

This article also fails to mention Tizen. Has it been abandoned? It was absolutely terrible (millions upon millions of lines of the worst C code I've ever perused) but I thought it still existed, making vaguely similar claims to open-sourcehood as SailfishOS.

The real mobile OS to watch and advocate for is postmarketOS, which attempts to get mainline Linux kernels working on phones.

Oh, Tizen, I guess you are not up to date with it.

After throwing away the C++ libraries and going to that C code you mention, they have decided to offer .NET Core + Xamarin as alternative to those C++ libraries.

Which I agree is much better than Bada C++ style libraries, but reveals they aren't sure where to go next.

Then at FOSDEM they introduced an IoT OS based on NuttX + JerryScript, and called it Tizen RT, even though it isn't anything Tizen related.


Missed opportunity to call it TizenScript.

> Companies providing operating systems is a clear conflict of interest.

I think based on your argument that Redhat and Ubuntu are reasonable reasonable counterexamples.

Purism is making a phone on top of usual Linux distros (i.e. they are tinkering with Debian Buster on dev boards) with only open source drivers.

Unfortunately, they've been underdelivering their products so far.

The reason for that is a rapid increase of orders as shown in their last report [0], as well as only 15" laptops are not shipped in full.

[0] https://puri.sm/posts/librem-laptop-orders-now-shipping-with...

"where no hardware can be fully utilized by (or even make calls with) an open-source OS."

Blame hardware manufacturers for this. If they released open specs (not even the drivers sources, just the specs would suffice) of their devices we could have full alternative OS installations in months after each device release, giving new life to old devices and much higher security to newer ones.

I fail to see how this is much of a problem.

In case you were asking how it might be a problem, look at some of its effects on the status quo:

Forced obsolescence, pervasive spyware/security problems, being locked into an "app" ecosystem, user-hostile antifeatures, lack of modifiability to deal with hardware degradation over time, etc.

All those are things a person can live with if all they want is a communication device that runs apps and browses the web.

Pervasive spyware is not a problem?

Those used to tell online everything about their life down to the details could even consider it a service.

WebOS was once a mobile OS, now a TV OS: http://webosose.org

Is Sailfish really the viable alternative we are looking for?

Back in the 90s we suffered from Wintel dominance where if you installed Linux on a PC, it was likely to be a less than pleasant experience due to missing drivers, etc. The modern day equivalent to Wintel is Armdroid. Despite Android using the Linux kernel, you can't just take an off-the-shelf Android phone and run a Linux distro of your choice. ASOP (Android Open Source Project) forks the Linux kernel once and then virtually all Android OEMs create a second fork of the Android kernel fork, apply their own changes and barely anything ever lands in mainline. Jolla's strategy to run Sailfish on top of Android kernel forks with Android blobs inherits the same problems of Android, encourages bad practices of Android kernel development, planned device obsolescence and the throw-away culture when the kernel fork reaches EOL.

There are further problems with Sailfish. It is built on top of the Mer, a Linux distribution built for Tivoisation. Mer refuses to use GPLv3 licensed packages. Mer packages are stalled on the last versions that used GPLv2 before they were relicensed to GPLv3. Most of these package remain unsupported and unmaintained for years and are probably vulnerable to many known exploits.

On top of these problems, Sailfish contains many closed components and the majority of Jolla is owned by Russian investors. Is this an OS that can really be trusted?

Fortunately the situation is starting to change and there are real alternatives which may be usable in the near future. There's PureOS which aims to build a Debian-based OS for the Librem 5 phone on top of mainline Linux, postmarketOS supports mainline Linux on a few devices in addition to Android kernel support, and now there's Maemo Leste which is built from the ground up to run on mainline Linux. These projects are still in their infancy but at least there is hope for the future. Sailfish, unfortunately, does not look like it will be part of that future.

It’s hardly an alternative. Having tried it twice, the gestures are completely alien to a new user and I gave up with our test device within an hour.

> Having tried it twice, the gestures are completely alien to a new user.

When you buy a Jolla device, you are taken through a tutorial. The gestures aren’t that difficult to get used to. To me personally, they seem a lot more straightforward and intuitive than my wife’s Android phone.

Incidentally, this winter I traveled in a couple of developing countries and bought local SIM cards from an office of the main telecom concerns of these countries. Both times when I said I wanted to use 3G data, the clerks grabbed my Jolla from me and tried to get to where they thought the settings menu was by repeatedly mashing where the Android back button would be. When I said it wasn’t an Android phone, it was like they simply couldn’t absorb that information, they just started mashing harder. That really underscored for me just how much of a mobile monoculture the world is. (The clerks probably could have found their way around an iPhone, too, but I didn’t see many of them in this region.)

There's a, not insurmountable, learning curve for both Sailfish and Ubuntu Touch.

Quirky isn't necessarily better if you're trying to woo users who just want a familiar experience without learning new paradigms.

The lack of a back button in Firefox OS annoyed me! Instead of pressing a section at the bottom right of the screen with one's thumb, one had to 'click' on a web toolbar button all the way near the top left of the screen.

It's not that "gestures aren’t that difficult to get used to", it is more do they offer anything more than the tried and true?

I got a LineageOS/OnePlus 3T a couple months while having a Jolla before and I still miss the possibility to go from a full-screen app to a closed app. It appears the only option is to go the the drawer/recent app things and then swipe right there whereas before I could simply swipe from the top and immediately close it.

Sailfish would work brilliantly on an all-screen phone like the iPhone X IMO. No need to emulate any on-screen buttons.

iPhone X introduced very similar gestures as seen on Sailfish OS (https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208204). They might be a bit alien at first, but once you get used to them, they are in my opinion far more powerful (one-handed use), faster and more intuitive than buttons. I have used Sailfish OS based phones since 2013 as my daily driver and Android/iOS UX feels very clumsy to me.

I think we've passed the point where there will be a 3rd smartphone operating system. You need $$$ in order to build develop and maintain, serious hardware partnerships in order to get your OS onto phones people actually want to buy, and serious serious negotiating power or leverage in order to get your OS + phone onto the carriers people use.

In all honesty I think it is irresponsible of these companies to take huge kickstarter payouts to develop hardware or operating systems that are doomed before they have begun.

I think that Google or Samsung cannot make a good android tablet shows how hard this is.

... and these idealists have finally found a backer!

They've become preferred suppliers of the Russian and Chinese governments.


If you were the Chinese or Russian government, would you rather trust Google or Apple with a camera and mic on all your employees?

While I don’t personally like the policies of either government, if they throw money at FOSS, that’s still (probably, see Android) a good thing.

> While I don’t personally like the policies of either government, if they throw money at FOSS.

Sailfish isn’t completely FOSS and the strategy of licensing it to clients like Rostelecom foresees that a lot of the OS will remain closed source.

It's still better than Android or iOS.

Besides, no government will actually check the whole OS themselves, so they have to trust some company at some point.

> It's still better than Android or iOS.

How so? Jolla’s licensing system allows its clients to bundle just as much closed source, phone home software on their phones as any Android system. They can lock the bootloader, etc.

Apple of course. They've already handed the operation of their Chinese iCloud data centers to a Chinese state run company so they already have a relationship.

Still using my Jolla as a main phone. I wish current android flagships would be as snappy, even though it can be buggy at times.

I have an Sailfish X, but I don't use it anymore. Unfortunately, even the build in apps lack features I want/need, and so in the end I would have to use all the Android apps again.

* The Mail app does not support GPG

* The Chat app does not support any modern XMPP extensions or even group chats (this is because Telepathy does not support it)

* The Calendar has no month view if I remember correctly

But I really wish Sailfish was usable for me, I would prefer to have a "real" Linux distro on my phone.

"But many, including Engadget, found the interface to be needlessly complicated and confusing." This and I noticed that the pulley system really slowed me down when trying to accomplish a task with the device. On an iOS or Android device one can achieve frequent tasks quickly without looking but not the same with the pulley system. You can't go too fast when pulling down.

Don't forget Raspbian on the Zero!


I still think Sailfish OS can become very big because China and Russia are investing in it. The market there is huge and both countries produce a lot of smartphones.

all I want to know can I run say the latest version of Firefox & WhatsApp on it ? I would love to support these guys

According to some people above, any Android apps that support Android 4.4 or below can be emulated on it. So, I'm pretty sure that does include these two, and Firefox in particular has been confirmed to work.

I can confirm that the latest WhatsApp works with the Jolla (Myriad) Android runtime. I'm using the older runtime that shipped with the original Jolla1 phone.

Isn't Tizen still alive?

On Samsung TV's and smartwatches.

Lets just make a flavor of postmarket for endusers

postmarketOS is making huge steps despite the small size of the project.

Sailfish OS has the most farcical history of renames, forks and merges I've ever seen.

MeeGo, Mer, Maemo, Moblin, Harmattan, LiMo, SLP, Bada, Leste, Tizen, Nemo...

It they spent more time on making a finished product rather than coming up with yet another stupid new name, logo and website they might have more traction.

The N9 took far too long indeed, but it was a great phone. It wasn't sold in any large market and quickly killed by Nokia and Microsoft management. It seemed like it had a chance at the time.

Sailfish OS was not directly responsible for any of those. Some of the employees were involved, but only by virtue of being employees of the companies that started the fork/project.

Sailfish wasn't responsible because it is yet another one of those. That's kind of the point - nobody is ultimately responsible for what it currently is, because it keeps bouncing around between various companies who take a look at it and say "oh, we're not responsible for that"

So you are arguing that they should have just ignored those and created their own thing?

No there is another. (chime music)

What about Fuchsia and ReactOS? What about Arduino and Energia RTOS?

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