BARCELONA—Jolla has announced the third version of Sailfish OS, touted here at Mobile World Congress as “the world’s only alternative mobile operating system.” It’s not due to land until Q3, but we got some facetime with the current build of Sailfish on a Sony Xperia XA2, to give us an idea of what’s in store.
The Xperia XA2, announced at CES, boasts much better specs that the Xperia X, which we saw running Sailfish last year. The XA2 experience was more enjoyable and the gesture-based interface—which does away with Android’s three buttons entirely—felt a lot more natural on this phone.
As well as representing Jolla’s commitment to getting Sailfish on more devices, this also demonstrates how quickly the team can move with the support of Sony.
“The good thing is, as we are working with the Sony Open Devices program, we got access to the hardware very quickly,” Sami Pienimäki, CEO of Jolla, told PCMag. “This device was only announced only a few weeks back, at CES, it’s brand new hardware. It’s not widely available yet, but we’ve already got Sailfish running on it, because we’ve been working very closely with the guys at Sony’s program and they’ve been very helpful.”
Jolla estimates that Sailfish OS will be ready to be flashed on the Xperia XA2 by the summer. If that seems like a long wait, remember that we saw Sailfish running on an Xperia X in February 2017, but it wasn’t available to flash until October.
This latest version of Sailfish promises better support for business and government users as well as improved security features for all.
For anyone who isn’t a B2B or B2G client, the main appeal of Sailfish lies in the fact that while you can sideload .apks, it’s definitely not Android. Unlike Google, Jolla doesn’t make money by selling ad space, instead preferring to charge users a licensing fee, which guarantees you a years’ worth of updates, and work with regional partners.
Following a partnership with Russia-based Open Mobile Platform Ltd, whose customers are mainly in the B2G sector, Jolla is now preparing to launch a point of sale device for Pochta Rossii (Russia’s national postal operator) workers. Separately, the company is gearing up to launch its first commercial products in China by the end of the year.
Pienimäki joked that the Russian and Chinese markets combined will bring in more than enough profit for the company, but he’s not planning on stopping there.
“We of course want to keep on investing in and expanding to other regions. We are getting a lot of interest from countries in the Middle East and Latin American countries are too increasingly interested in an independent option.”
As well as smartphones, Jolla’s also developed a version of Sailfish designed to run on 4G feature phones. Perhaps taking cues from the Android Go ethos, the thinking here is to give users a taste of the smartphone experience via apps. The WhatsApp .apk, for example, had been loaded onto the unnamed reference phone pictured above. This means that feature phone users can stay in touch with friends and family on more advanced devices and not feel left out.
Exactly when you’ll see the Sailfish equivalent of the Nokia 8110 4G on the shelves, at least in Western countries, is unclear.
In terms of getting Sailfish on a Sony device yourself, Sailfish licenses are available in EU territories plus Norway and Switzerland, now. US and Canadian availability is still not officially supported and the jury’s out on when this might change. With Jolla’s gaze fixed mainly on the East for now, it seems like they’ve got other fish to fry.