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What is the justification for SF OS and Jolla's existence?

asked 2016-08-23 18:41:34 +0300

Stefanix gravatar image

updated 2016-08-24 14:16:53 +0300

jiit gravatar image

This questions is a bit provocative and you might expect a rant here, but this is a serious question. After waiting 3 years for a SF OS device reaching a level of usability close to the still umatched N9, it is time to assess what we can expect let's say within the next year and what alternatives are available.

My device history is: various Nokia Symbian devices - N900 - N9 - Lumia 920 - Jolla 1. These are all a bit exotic devices with limited app support and dead-ends or apparent dead. What did I expect from Jolla / SF OS? A modern N9-like UI, a trustworthy user-focused OS maintainer, sufficient HW (4-4.5" AMOLED, good camera, good battery life) and the ability to run commonly used apps.

I received my BQ Aquaris X5 with Cyanogen OS just one week ago. I am really missing the UI of my Jolla phone and the X5 is a bit too big. But besides this, I am amazed what HW I can get for about 190 EUR and what diversity of apps running seemlesly on this device are suddenly available! I always avoided Android because of this Google thing. But Android is available and usable without Google apps, see CyanogenMod or Cyanogen OS! There are privacy extensions like Privacy Guard or XPrivacy, letting you control App permissions (still missing on SF OS). There is no "life multitasking", but is there really a need for this? Besides the imperfect UI, I have a very usable and compatible device now! Why should I continue to use my Jolla phone with limited functions and wait for improvements? And what would I be waiting for? There is not even an up-to-date roadmap! Does Jolla's silence mean that there is the next finacial disaster in sight?

What are YOU waiting for? Is there anything a SF OS device can or will offer what a privacy enhanced Google-free Android can not provide? And as Jolla does not produce any devices anymore, licensees might modify the OS and suspicious extensions might render those SF OS devices to be Google-like instead of unlike. This is a serious question and I hope to get some response.

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In what respect is Jolla's Android support less Google-free than the Cyanogen one? About the hardware, yes, I know very well what you can get. I can list half a dozen devices below €250 which would not make you miss a Galaxy S7.

Giacomo Di Giacomo ( 2016-08-23 20:39:26 +0300 )edit

Yes, Jolla's SF OS supports Android. More or less. But is this a justification to have SF OS? Android is certainly the better Android.

Stefanix ( 2016-08-23 21:31:11 +0300 )edit

If you are fine with Android, you're better off with a Chinese device. If you think Android isn't enough for you, as it is my case, you have the SFOS option: sacrificing hardware choice to get a better OS. About your question, the justification for SFOS, from my point of view, is to have real multitasking on a mobile device.

Giacomo Di Giacomo ( 2016-08-23 21:48:28 +0300 )edit

How do you use multitasking?

Stefanix ( 2016-08-23 22:13:41 +0300 )edit

How should I? Running more than one application at the same time.

Giacomo Di Giacomo ( 2016-08-23 22:57:05 +0300 )edit

7 Answers

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answered 2016-08-23 21:33:08 +0300

ossi1967 gravatar image

I remember the very same question being asked in the good old maemo days. The answer is still the same: The question doesn't make much sense. It's like asking "What's the reason for Burger King's existence (when there's McDonald's)?" It's taste. Personal preference. Choice. Difference.

See, I became addicted to mobile GNU/Linux devices when I got my first Nokia 770. I was amazed how the very same technology that powered my desktop PC would run on this small consumer device. For the very first time, I felt that it was possible. And I knew that I wanted a phone that

  • was as similar to my desktop and laptop as possible, using the same middleware, letting me use the tools and technology I had become familiar with without having to learn something new
  • used not only free, but copyleft software as much as possible (neither Nokia nor Jolla were able to produce 100% free OSes, but Jolla is very close with slightly more than 80% of the packages being free software)
  • supports the upstream development of the whole ecosystem because the makers of the phone push changes back upstream
  • accepts me as root right away when I SSH into it

Given what I want, there's not that much choice on the market right now. Google's Android is no longer really free; the free versions still aren't copyleft; even more important, they're not as similar to a desktop GNU/Linux system so that I could chat with them right away.

The only alternative that really exists today is Ubuntu. Technically it's pretty much SailfishOS with a different UI and without many of the proprietary bits like Android support and Exchange (well: without email, to be precise) etc. I own an Ubuntu phone, but I don't use it. There's not even a SIM card in it any longer. The UI is clumsy, it's slooow, it doesn't multitask, but above all: It lacks so many features. If people complain how SailfishOS cannot do this and that - try its cousin Ubuntu for a week and you'll see how far Jolla actually got. Still, I desperately hope for Ubuntu to evolve fast and to succeed. One free OS that's good enough for me is good. Two of them will be even better. Should Jolla finally get buried in its fourth and final death valley, I want yet another OS that will run my strange little bash scripts on a full featured phone. :)

Did you notice something? Check your original post and read what you said you expected from the Jolla phone. Now read what I want. Any similarities? No. Different tastes, I'd say. That's why there's SailfishOS (and Ubuntu) and free Android versions. And that's why there's McDonald's and Burger King. And that's why it doesn't really make much sense to discuss these things over and over again. Let the old t.m.o. threads rest in peace.

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Of course everyone is free to buy a Jolla maybe just because a certain TOH looks nice. But you have clear fact based reasons to use SF OS, that's beyond McD vs. BK. Thanks for this answer!

There are people using SF OS devices as tech toys, for development, etc. and those who expect simply a smartphone and maybe have some requirements regarding privacy and open standards. Especially for the second group: does it make sense to stick with Jolla? Maybe it does. And maybe it's just McD vs, BK for them. Trying to find out.

Stefanix ( 2016-08-23 22:09:05 +0300 )edit

You are right, just one point against Ubuntu Phone: MIR

And Upstart, Snappy, Unity...unnecessary stuff which is developed to bring a bigger gap between Ubuntu and GNU/Linux. They don't have to follow Red Hat, but GNU/Linux.

btw. Even my grandpa (at thr age of 89!) said it a few times, the fries at Burger King are some sort of fries. McDonald's does just sell something like fries, most times cold, not salted and soft.

hoschi ( 2016-08-23 22:17:15 +0300 )edit


Especially for the second group: does it make sense to stick with Jolla?

No. I wouldn't recommend a Sailfish OS driven phone to people who expect nothing but a device to play Pokemon with or to be connected via Whatsapp. There are some distinct USPs that SailfishOS offers. If you don't care for them, it's just the wrong OS for you. Very much like iOS is the wrong OS for me. Still, I wouldn't ask if there's a justification for iOS.

ossi1967 ( 2016-08-25 12:06:20 +0300 )edit

It is deffinately not only McD vs BK if Jolla is involved... Compared to Apple (Burger King) and Google (Mc Donalds), Jolla feels like a nice Burger Food Truck i specially book for my private party. I like that they focus theyr limited workforce and love to perfectly cater my needs for real food.

mosen ( 2016-08-28 07:53:46 +0300 )edit

Well, I would say I like that Jolla restaurant and how the food is served. I also don't mind a limited menu in general. But the menu definitely needs to be extendet and some rework is needed on many items. :)

Stefanix ( 2016-08-28 10:42:28 +0300 )edit

answered 2016-08-23 21:39:13 +0300

vattuvarg gravatar image

...and the ability to run commonly used apps

The blame should not be placed entirely on Jolla. Sudden changes to the APIs and draconian user policies are but two examples of what obstacles the big companies can provide. Just see what happened to Mitäkuuluu (a native app for Whatsapp).

As for companies promoting non-google-android stuff... Cyanogen Inc. reportedly fires OS development arm, switches to apps. Being up against giants isn't easy.

There is no "life multitasking", but is there really a need for this?

Yes. Both Google and Apple are trying hard to add this feature to their systems. Sailfish OS has it now, which means that you can do what you want without having one app blocking another. For me that means getting things done. Not just done faster but also better. Smaller apps can be used toghether to get to the same result as one big app in android and iOS. That leads to freedom too. The start screen becomes a dashboard, easy to monitor and control.

Why should I continue to use my Jolla phone with limited functions and wait for improvements?

To support the idea of open protocols and APIs, perhaps? Right now you are telling those big american companies that limiting alternatives is a good thing.

I read a post by Facebook itself today that celebrated the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web. Mr Berners-Lee is still actively promoting open protocols after all these years. Compare that to how Facebook is behaving (they broke message support for Jolla, banned the use of Mitäkuuluu, etc.). On top of that there was a suggestion that I would start to "follow" Mark Zuckerberg. I'd rather read about what sir Tim is up to, thank you very much.

And what would I be waiting for?

You shouldn't wait. That's the idea. Find a goal and go for it. One example of something to actively work for is native navigation based on open systems. I'm trying out at the moment and would happily be a guinea-pig for a native (and hopefully unlike) version of it. I already support the OpenStreetMap Foundation that delivers the maps for that app. Without the Missing Maps initiative it would be harder for organisations like MSF (doctors without borders) to do what they do best.

If you still want to wait for something then why not for someone that will create a free version of android now that Cyanogen won't.

I believe the road to the future is narrow, hard and long but I can still see Jolla taking us there.

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To support the idea of open protocols and APIs, perhaps? Right now you are telling those big american companies that limiting alternatives is a good thing.

Thank you.

ossi1967 ( 2016-08-23 21:59:27 +0300 )edit

What exactly can be done with Jolla's multitasking what you couldn't do with Android? Can you give a concrete example?

Stefanix ( 2016-08-23 22:11:46 +0300 )edit

"The blame should not be placed entirely on Jolla." Not blaming anyone. Just analysing the current situation from a user's view. I have those problems on one device and not on the other. Why should I stick with the device limiting my options? Stubbornness? To boycott the other big players with their walled gardens and closed APIs?

Stefanix ( 2016-08-23 22:24:33 +0300 )edit

"The start screen becomes a dashboard"

That hits nail on the head, perfectly said.

nthn ( 2016-08-23 22:49:39 +0300 )edit

"To boycott the other big players with their walled gardens and closed APIs?"


It may just be a drop in the ocean, but if you want things to change, you must lead by example. Someone has to.

nthn ( 2016-08-23 22:51:24 +0300 )edit

answered 2017-01-21 21:59:02 +0300

DarkTuring gravatar image

@Stefanix i think the answer nedds to be security and control of permissions, content, sharing of personal identifiable information.

If SFOS can maintain an edge on transparancy, openess in software development, security features backed into the OS, distancing themselves from large corporate users and use cases (at which point you are basically required to fork your source code over to the government especially for military applications) then their existence can be guranteed.

Google and Apple will have days where a cloud storage center gets hacked, blows up etc and all your data is not only lost but sold on the data market. To allay such fears amd cater to the privacy conscious individual is key.

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I voted this up. It is actually what I hope for, but I think we are too far away from it.

Stefanix ( 2017-01-21 23:28:30 +0300 )edit

answered 2016-08-23 21:18:42 +0300

Dreej gravatar image

i really can understand the most of your poits. I'm coming from Nokia too. In all the time since my first "smartphone" a Symbian powered 7650 I always prefered using a "unique" cellphone. I used only once an Android Phone (HTC one m7) for 6 months before I bought a Nokia 808... this brings me to the point I can't understand... the screen size. so many people here always want a size 4" -4.5" for me 5" are almost perfect. only the dimensions of the phone itself (Jolla C) could be lesser. finally I can say I also will buy the next Jolla phone because I like Jolla and Sailfish OS and all what it stands for :)

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I still do like Jolla's project, but this seems to be more on an emotional level, i.e. to have that "unique cellphone". Or for sentimental reasons to continue to use something from the remains of Nokia? Are we all nerds? This can't be the base for a business case for Jolla. Trying to look at it unemotionally, I can't find a reason to continue to use a device with limited functionality and an uncertain future. Is there any reasonable reason to stay with Jolla?

Stefanix ( 2016-08-23 21:44:40 +0300 )edit

+1 for the size bit. 5" is OK but I would get a 5.5" device if available.

Giacomo Di Giacomo ( 2016-08-23 21:49:47 +0300 )edit

@Stefanix I don't see the limitations. I can see lots of them in Android though. And yes, I use an Android device everyday and there are 3 Android devices in daily use in my household, all of them between mid-high range and flagship, so I know perfectly what I'm talking about.

Giacomo Di Giacomo ( 2016-08-23 21:52:56 +0300 )edit

@Giacomo Di Giacomo That's what I am looking for and why I asked: What are the limitations of Android? Can you give a practical example?

Stefanix ( 2016-08-23 22:17:35 +0300 )edit

Android doesn't and can't use gestures. Yes, it's possible to use third party applications to get some kind of gesture functionality, but Android relies so much on the use of tiny buttons scattered everywhere which all work slightly differently depending on the running application, those gestures quickly become useless.

nthn ( 2016-08-23 22:46:36 +0300 )edit

answered 2016-08-23 20:35:43 +0300

tortoisedoc gravatar image

I bought Other Half, then I got Jolla C, if this disgraced company would have had balls I'd had a tablet by now. ;) Ill definitely buy the next device from Jolla!

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EDIT : or the investors behind jolla would have had balls, that is :)

tortoisedoc ( 2016-08-23 21:12:30 +0300 )edit

Yes, the tablet history was extremely unfortunate. We can only imagine where we would be standing right now had the investors not suddenly dropped out right at the moment the hardware company had to be paid.

nthn ( 2016-08-23 22:55:38 +0300 )edit

history is just a consequence of investor s decisions. they did not find someone with big enough pockets, unfortunately, who got scared when s**t got real.

tortoisedoc ( 2016-08-25 16:12:29 +0300 )edit

answered 2016-08-23 19:36:39 +0300

partha9940 gravatar image

In my view each owner of Jolla device have purchased it to keep Jolla stay afloat. It's everyones 2nd device atleast. Nost Jolla user is from the old Nokia background who still now like to see the legacy of Nokia to be a real challenger of Android. We are here to help Jolla and since the OS is still in it's nascent stage so we can't expect too much from it.But one thing we would really expect from Jolla that they will listen to our voice and act accordingly to the best of their capability being within their limits. Jolla must license their OS to different manufacturers so that more handsets could be brought to market because that's the main source of revenue. But to do so the OS and the hansets should offer the bare minimum features that android sets provide like WiFi direct, USB OTG, good battery backup, fast charging etc. On software front to threre are some basic requirements like importing contacts from multiple Vcards,syncing of contacts, a better message app etc. But SFOS still lacks these features. Lack of High MP camera and vibrant AMOLED screen can be excused if cost of handsets are kept on budget segment. People would also buy those sets keeping in mind that they will have access to all the popular Android apps and at the same time have a refreshed experience. So my sincere request to Jolla would be that they listen to us...

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In my view each owner of Jolla device have purchased it to keep Jolla stay afloat. It's everyones 2nd device atleast.

Both my main and backup devices are from Jolla.

vattuvarg ( 2016-08-23 19:51:37 +0300 )edit

same here, Jolla 1 is my backup device, another Jolla 1 is my test device, the Tablet is for watching Videos, pics and TV (Amazon, Sky...) and the Jolla C is my main device ;)

Dreej ( 2016-08-23 21:21:45 +0300 )edit

jolla is my first device. i also have a cheap android bexause i need vpn for work (pptp), and also use a wearable, that needs bluetooth low energy. for everyfthing else: jolla.

so no, i did not buy and use it for supportbonly

kaktux ( 2016-08-23 21:26:35 +0300 )edit

Same here, Jolla C is my first device. Android is confined to my tablet PC.

Giacomo Di Giacomo ( 2016-08-23 21:54:35 +0300 )edit

My primary phone is Jolla 1. I did not buy it to keep Jolla afloat. I bought it second-hand out of curiosity from a disillusioned user. It gradually replaced my N900 as my main device. The N900 remained as a backup.

I do not have an Android device. I did years ago before I found out about the N900. I recently dug out the old Android and gave it to my 9yo daughter to play with and destroy.

pichlo ( 2016-08-28 22:25:19 +0300 )edit

answered 2016-08-28 01:57:33 +0300

Emotionally I've always favoured something 'different' in my personal tech. There are quite a few hardware choices in Android that ultimately offer the same (there are very few Mi-5 users in the United Kingdom) and for a time my daily driver was the twin screen YotaPhone 2. Jolla/Sailfish has offered that since the Jolla 1 and now with the Jolla C I feel like I'm back home with the dreamers/changers/weirdos that make tech as a whole exciting.

Practically the increased Android support helps, and it means there's less feeling of being ;left behind; as so much of the industry focuses on third-party apps, but at the same time the tightly integrated Sailfish native PIM and Core apps means I can spend less time in the Android world... as for iOS my god it's so similar it's amazingly simple yet boring.

As for supporting the company, there's a little bit of that, but compared to VC investment I'm not sure that the hardware sales is the answer to the continued support - it's all about licencing, and that needs visibility across the net.

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Asked: 2016-08-23 18:41:34 +0300

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Last updated: Jan 21 '17