Quick Review of Sailfish OS 3

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Due to the recent escalation of the trade war between US and China, I decided to check for alternatives to the two big players (Apple and Google) in the mobile OS market. So I decided to give Sailfish OS a try. Let's see how the OS fits daily needs.

I decided to go for the Sony Xperia XA2 Plus with the Sailfish OS which supports Android 8.1 Apps (as an open beta). but first, let's see how I use my Phone:

  • I check my mails approx. 50 times per day
  • In the morning, I need to know the weather (since I go to work by bike)
  • My main social app is WhatsApp (I don't use Twitter, Instagram or Facebook very often, so I can live without or just with the web version)
  • I use the browser to access several admin dashboards (for instance the one for this site) and as well to get information on stocks (Seeking Alpha) or other different news sites
  • Furthermore I have a little daughter. I think half of my device storage is full of images and videos capturing nice moments regarding my little family. Let's say I take 5 Images per day and from time to time one or two videos
  • Of course, I watch videos and listen to music using my phone, nothing special here, right?

I think those are the minimum requirements a Phone should have in 2019. So let's see what Sailfish OS has to offer.

Installation

The installation was (for me) quite easy. But I am as well used to Linux and I am a Developer myself. The whole process took approx. 20 minutes in total. You need to buy Sailfish OS, download the files, unlock your device, flash the new system. I don't want to go too much into details, since the step by step tutorial is very well written. So, good job here!

Apps

Well, as expected the amount of native Apps for Sailfish OS is very limited. Because it's still a pretty unknown OS it doesn't attract many developers. But still, there are some. It seems we have an Email client, a calculator, contacts, a browser, a calendar etc... Very basic things.

But what about WhatsApp for instance? It doesn't exist. So I tried to enable the (beta) Android Support and install it from the Aptoide market. Which worked! It's a bit choppy, but it works. Or let's say, it's installed? You can clearly see that the app is not running as smooth as on an Android device. And by just using it for 20 minutes, you can tell that there are heavy issues with Android apps. They freeze very often or reject to accept any input (no scrolling, no text input). I found myself closing and restarting apps very frequently.

Web Browser

I was super happy to see a native web browser. So of course I gave it a try. Unfortunately the first site I checked, was broken left and right. This browser clearly ignores any standards in HTML and CSS. on top, it messes up JavaScript and CSS animation pretty bad. So, this is not usable like this, i'm sorry. Why developing a new Browser from scratch anyway? Why didn't the company just pay developers to port Firefox to their OS? This would be much more efficient.

Anyway, I needed a browser which works. So, again, let's fall back on Android apps. I installed Firefox / Firefox Focus. And again, they work, yes. But they are slow and sometimes they just pass out, like the WhatsApp app.

Media

Using the camera was easy. The native has not so many Features as my previous phone, but since I never use those features, I could live without. So I took some photos, videos and checked if everything worked. It was very well done. So, as the second step, I decided to install a microSD card to extend the internal storage. The Xperia XA2 Plus shippes with 32GB. After installation I had only 16GB left. 16GB in 2019 is nothing! So I bought a 400GB microSD card (the maximum amount the phone can handle) and installed it. You need to format and mount the new card. Afterwards you can configure your camera app to put all images and videos on this card. PRETTY COOL!

Yeah... Not really. As soon as you switch. Your Android apps will not be able to see those photos and videos anymore. So, forget about attaching pictured somewhere in Android apps (WhatsApp, Firefox, ...). Pretty sad story. I'm sure you can fix it somehow, my giving permissions and tweak around. For me, it was just too much of a hassle, sorry.

Mails

I have to say, I was pretty fed up at this point but still motivated to stick to the phone and find workarounds. So I thought, "Let's configure the mail client". At Ersocon, we use Zoho Mail. So entered my credentials, all configuration data for IMAP4 and SMTP and.... Connection Timeout. I checked again, password correct, email address correct, all configurations correct. And.... Connection Timeout. I switched off any 2FA for my email account, tried again, and... Connection Timeout. You don't know why, and you don't know how to fix it. The mail app is just useless at this point. So, the only solution was to install the Android Mail Client App. It "works". Or, let's say "it starts" and you can read your mails.

The final KnockOut

To be honest, I forgot to mention one key point at the beginning. I use my phone for banking as well, to generate TANs or to confirm payments. Of course those app do not exist in the Jolla Store. But you still can use the Android versions... no? NO! Most of them not even start. They crash directly after startup. And this is something which makes this OS unusable as my primary Phone. It's really sad, because I really loved the idea to no use Android or iOS which send 50 request per hour to their main companies (Apple and Google/Alphabet).

Conclusion

  • Web browser: Android works with freezes and low performance, Native is not usable
  • WhatsApp: Andoid version works with freezes and need to restart from time to time
  • Media: Works!
  • Mails: Total fail, not usable here

I will keep the phone anyway, since it's relatively cheap and in the hope of improvements made by the developers of Sailfish OS. The OS itself is really great, but it misses apps, good apps. I think this will be the key to the success of this OS.