We all know how the advent of iOS and Android completely revolutionized the smartphone market a couple of years back, and many smartphone companies with it. While this was a big break for companies like Samsung, it was the completely opposite for some others… Namely, Nokia.
So, what is Sailfish?
Nokia rapidly lost its share in the smartphone market and felt the need to come up with an operating system alternative to Symbian. This gave birth to the MeeGo project (remember the Nokia N9?). However, after the 7th of February 2011, Nokia chose to go with Windows Phone for their smartphones and stopped development on the MeeGo project. Thank you, Microsoft!
You might have noticed that in most detective movies, the investigator can only begin to really dig into the investigation only after he’s off the case. Similar is the case here. After Nokia closed the MeeGo project, the ex-Nokia employees formed a company named ‘Jolla’ in October 2011, with the intent of continuing the work they had once started.
If you haven’t figured out where this is going yet, allow me spell it out for you. The smartphone market has been dominated by iOS, Android and Windows Phone for quite some time now, but competition looms in the form of Ubuntu and Firefox OS for mobiles, which threatens to change this inertia that has gripped the smartphone market. Well, Jolla has just added itself to the list of upcoming competitors, with their new OS named Sailfish, to be available on Jolla phones.
How is it any different?
Well, the Sailfish OS brings a couple of new and interesting things to the table. Firstly, it’s a purely Linux based mobile operating system. And secondly, it’s open source, like Android. Therefore, this OS has high chances of being extremely popular amongst the developer community!
The interesting thing about Sailfish OS, which sets it apart from the competition, is that it’s purely gesture based. This might come as a surprise to quite a lot of us, especially since iOS and Android have sort of ingrained in our minds what a mobile operating system should look and feel like, and therefore the Sailfish OS will have a steep learning curve. For example, you have to swipe from the left edge of the screen to get back to the main screen. You have to swipe vertically to check your notifications, and so on. Somewhat similar to Blackberry 10 I suppose.
Android was once hailed as being an operating system that implements true multitasking. How the Sailfish OS implements multitasking puts all existing competition to shame really, and is one of its strongest points. Each time you open an application, a small card of that app is added to the main screen, which shows other running apps as well. You can have a maximum of nine cards in this screen. You can access this screen showing the running apps from anywhere, and can interact with an app without having to actually open it. So for example, by bringing up this multitasking screen, you can pause or forward a song without having to actually open the music app, or scroll through your contact list without having to go into the application. All of your running apps are shown in the form of interact-able cards.
One of the biggest challenges that any company wishing to enter the smartphone market has to face is coming up with apps. Android and iOS both boast of app stores filled with thousands of apps, and Windows Phone is quickly catching up too. Whenever a consumer looks to buying a smartphone with the intent of actually using it like a proper smartphone, availability of apps is what he really wants. Which is why entering the smartphone market is such a big gamble, since catching up to Android’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store is quite a daunting, not to mention extremely time consuming, task. The way Jolla has tackled this particular issue is truly ingenious. They have molded their operating system to be compatible with Android apps. Therefore, Sailfish OS does not face the issue of coming up with a multitude of apps before consumers can start considering it as an option; people can simply install Android apps on their Jolla device. Another interesting piece of news is that Jolla has chosen Yandex Store to be the default app store for their OS, instead of the Google Play Store.
Finally. The icing on the cake (for Android users anyway) is that the Sailfish OS will be available for Android users to sideload on their phones. This feature isn’t available yet as Jolla is still working on it, but the company’s CEO Tomi Pienimäki has stated this in an interview.
“That is the plan. We are on device business and OS business. It is fairly easy to install the OS on Android devices”
Therefore, if you’re a Fandroid, and Jolla’s Sailfish OS has sparked your interest but you’re not quite ready to get rid of your Android device just yet, you can have a taste of what Jolla has to offer without having to!
The first Jolla phone has already been released. Speaking in terms of hardware, the phone sports the so-called two-half design, which refers to the fact that the phone has a front and back half. The interesting thing is, each Jolla back cover is fitted with an NFC chip, and when lodged into place, the chip communicates with the phone, allowing the phone to apply a major user interface overhaul every time a new back cover is snapped into place!
The Sailfish OS is still in beta, and has quite a lot of bugs to be still worked out, which Jolla is hard at. The OS promises something very different, as well as customizable features and the ability to run Android apps, amongst other things. However, the competition is as tough as it could be, with giants such as Google, Microsoft and Apple well into it; relentless in their hold of the market share, reluctant to relinquish it and greedy for more. Does the MeeGo successor have what it takes to brush past the upcoming competition and climb up the ladder in order to stand toe to toe with the giants of the smartphone industry? Only time will tell. It will certainly be a very interesting year!
Meanwhile, hold onto your horses, and we will bring you more news of the Sailfish OS as they come along. So stay tuned