Jolla Sailfish X

Posted by Sami Tikka on December 10, 2017

I can confess: I’m a Jolla fan. I believe there needs to exist an open source mobile phone operating system where your data isn’t used for commercial and intelligence gathering needs. I bought the original Jolla mobile phone back in the days since I saw Jolla and Sailfish OS as spiritual successor to Nokia’s Linux-based operating systems Maemo/Meego and phones. Currently I’m following Jolla saga with great interest, hoping that with modern hardware and smooth installation experience the platform could gather enough traction to become a viable alternative to Android.

Now that Jolla is focusing on software, hardware must come from third party manufacturers. Jolla started sales of Sailfish X, port of Sailfish OS to Sony’s Xperia X mobile phone in October, 2017. You can buy it from Jolla’s own web store (costs currency around 50 euros), and flash it onto Xperia X. You also need to know a bit about using command line, so the product is still aimed at tech savvy people.

Installation process

I bought the Xperia X device from local vendor. Then I headed to Jolla Shop to get the OS image. Installation instructions are a bit complicated: First you have to update the Android on Xperia to latest version, unlock the Xperia bootloader by getting a key from Sony developer website, install Android platform tools for flashing the device, download both the Sailfish OS and Sony vendor binary images and extract them into same folder on your computer.

Flashing itself was relatively quick process and it went smoothly. Most of the time was spent on upgrading Android on Xperia to recent enough version to support Sailfish flashing.

Flashing process Xperia X connected to my Mac

Sailfish X is not very different from Sailfish OS 2.0. The familiar swipe gestures are still a joy to use. Xperia hardware is fast and does not slow down even with several large applications running concurrently. I had a web browser, Spotify and HERE WeGo maps running simultaneously and I was able to switch between them without any problems.

Black Xperia X is quite nice looking phone with smooth, pleasant feel. It fits comfortably into my hand to be used with one hand swipe gestures. It’s display is bright and colours look vivid. There are still some unsupported features of Xperia hardware, like FM radio. WLAN and Bluetooth audio seemed to work fine.

First boot

Sailfish OS browser is actually quite good at rendering web pages. It uses embedded Gecko engine from Mozilla. Text is sharp and the experience of reading web pages is considerably more pleasant when comparing to original Jolla phone. Youtube video plays without problems.

Browser playing video from Youtube

Currently Sailfish relies heavily on Android applications to satisfy common smart phone user needs. Android applications can be installed from Aptoide Store, including most commonly used free software, like social media clients, messengers and utility software.

To sum it up, Sailfish X on Xperia X is a good alternative to any Android smart phone if you are comfortable with flashing a mobile device.

If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product

The old saying “if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product” is a good advice to follow when choosing software and services. If you don’t have access to software source code or you’re using a web service advertising it’s software as free, it can be safely assumed that all your data can and will be used for whatever purposes. Sailfish OS is an open source operating system, and it can be built from source if you want. For me paying a few euros to support Jolla in their crusade is not bad price to pay at all IMO, considering the alternatives.

I believe in the future it is vitally important to have 1) a European, and 2) an open source mobile operating system to counter the threat of relying on US made operating systems. The threat comes from the potential for abusing the access to user data, location, connections and everything that is generated and recorded when using smart phones.

Credits and art

Header image is modified from original image uploaded by Tero Laakso to Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Here’s a snowy Jolla themed wallpaper I made from same image:

Snowy Jolla wallpaper