Jolla phone / SailfishOS review


#1

After actively using my Jolla phone for around three years I thought it is time for a review.
I will split the review in two parts, first SailfishOS, the OS on the Jolla phone, and than the phone itself.


SailfishOS

Short version: I love it!
I’m a little bit a fanboy so maybe other people are seeing things different.

OK, here comes a few more details:
I’m not gonna describe the Sailfish user interface here. If you are not familiar with it, just look it up at youtube. I will focus on how usable it is in daily life.

The gesture based UI is very handy. Switching between the apps goes very fast. This works well together with the real multitasking. The OS itself and the apps become very usable with a single hand. You never need to break your hand to reach the top of the screen. Compared to Android where the app menu is on the top left, the worst reachable position on the whole screen.

A little drawback of the design with the customizable color scheme is the contrast of the content on the screen. Especially on sunny days. But this also depends on the hardware.

As with every niche product the number of available native apps is limited. There are virtually no native apps of bigger brands (Facebook, WhatsApp, Angry Birds…) available in the store. Jolla therefore provides an Android compatibility layer. The Jolla Store includes native and Android apps. Additionally “Anyhi Market”, “Aptoide Store” and “Yandex Store” are downloadable. Google PlayStore is not available but can be installed using a little hack. Overall the Android compatibility works very satisfying. It has matured over time and meanwhile there’s rarely something not working from Android apps.

Here a short (incomplete) list of things that are working from Android apps:

  • access to the contacts (useful for WhatsApp)
  • notifications (also important for messaging apps)
  • access to the camera & gallery
  • access to the SD card

What’s not working with Android apps:

  • apps requiring a minimal Android version, this depends on the phone hardware

Services that are natively supported are:

  • Facebook (contacts, calendar, notification)
  • Fruux (online service to sync contacts, calendar etc.)
  • Google (contacts, calendar)
  • Memotoo (online service to sync contacts, calendar etc.)
  • Microsoft Exchange (calendar, contacts, mail)
  • Twitter (notification, news feed)
  • VK (russian social network)
  • XMPP (messaging)
  • Yahoo! (contacts, calendar)
  • Dropbox (backup)
  • OneDrive (backup)
  • CalDAV and CardDAV
  • IMAP POP3

All the above services integrate nice into the system and default apps. I use CalDAV and CardDAV to sync my contacts and calendars to my own NextCloud server. Exchange for my business stuff, this is surprisingly working very well (compared to my colleagues using apple devices and complaining about poor Exchange performance all the time).

Oh, and it’s Linux! In your pocket. Around 80% of it is open source.


Jolla Phone

I own the first available phone from Jolla. It’s just called Jolla phone.


The hardware is fine. It’s not very high class but it does it’s job. After three years of usage without any bumper or protective sheet it has some stretches but nothing serious.

The CPU and RAM are little bit little for modern usage. SailfishOS itself and the native apps are running very fluent and are getting better with every update (in contrast to every other mobile OS where updates are making elder hardware unusable). 1GB memory just doesn’t seem to be enough for real multitasking, browsing and inefficient Android apps.

I’m waiting impatiently for a successor. Jolla has released a very limited batch of the Jolla C device, it’s a re-branded version of the Intex Aqua Fish only available for the community and developers.
The Intex Aqua Fish is currently the only third party hardware running SailfishOS. Unfortunately it’s not available outside India. There are rumors a Fairphone 2 version running SailfishOS will come out. There’s already a community port of SailfishOS for the FP2 but the proprietary components like Android compatibility and Exchange are missing. If this becomes true I will definitely get one.


Summary

SailfishOS bids a great UX because of it’s fluent gesture based UI. Real multitasking and the handsome design makes the whole OS unique. Because of the Android compatibility there’s almost no limitation compared to an Android phone (maybe all the spying Google stuff I personally don’t want to use).
Currently there’s no SailfishOS running device on the European market available. But one thing is for sure, I will stay with SailfishOS.


Recommendation

Although I really love SailfishOS I don’t know if I can recommend it to a regular Android or iOS user. It’s comparable to Linux desktop and Windows. But compared to Ubuntu Touch SailfishOS is way more matured.


#2

scharelc nice post

I use a Jolla phone too, I have had it for around 3 years too and apart from a few scratches it’s quite good.
After 3 years usage the battery is still resonably good although it is starting to decay a little bit.
I also got an extra blue cover and a wallet poutch.

The camera also isn’t super great compared to the latest Samsung ones.

There was a plan to sell hardware keyboards for it, which was discontinued, although I did buy the parts, I have not got round to building it.

The OS does have some closed source in the GUI, that said it feels like linux, you can even view dbus queues.

Wasn’t the whole idea of JAVA that it didn’t matter what OS you are using so long as you have the JVM it should work, I like the thought of other OS’s chalenging Android and innovating.


#3

I just wanted to say - thanks for writing up a review. I love seeing community reviews on the forum. Let’s have more of them, folks!


#4

Great review.

Is it possible to run Sailfish OS on any flagship phones? Is this something you’ve tried?

Is there any android apps that don’t work that annoy you?


#5

There are community ports for some Nexus and OnePlus divices and the FairPhone. But none of them have the Android support. The community is working on an alternative way to run Android apps but I don’t know what the progress is.

I personally have installed the PlayStore because one local carsharing provider uses google maps in ot’s app.

The only app I know that’s not working is the app of the local icehockey team because it needs a higher Android version.


#6

Now Sailfish is introducing a paid ROM for the Xperia phone, for around $60. https://blog.jolla.com/sailfishx/

One thing though is software updates for one year, after which a continuation program will follow.


#7

I’m looking forward getting an Xperia X. My Jolla 1 is really getting old as mentioned in the review.


#8

Ha anyone got this working on Jolla (SailfishOS)?
https://microg.org/

This is supposed to be a free (as in freedom) clone of Google Play Servcies


#9

Haven’t heard of microG yet but it sounds very interesting.
Some people seem to be running it on their Jollas: https://together.jolla.com/question/117350/microg-on-alien-dalvik/


#10

Has anyone tried installing SailfishOS on an Xperia phone yet?
My Jolla is defiantly end-of-life now


#11

I have an Xperia X running SailfishX as my main phone since mid November. The better hardware really makes a difference.
The only drawback is the poor camera support, it has some issues with autofocus. But it is still better than Jolla1.


#12

I think I will go buy one


#13

There are more devices to come later this year (dual sim version of the X, XA2). https://blog.jolla.com/wrapping-up-mwc18/


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