Jolla’s Sailfish OS 3 will offer simple smarts for cheaper phones

Jolla may have failed to make an empire to rival Android with its Sailfish OS, but it’s changing direction with Sailfish 3 to focus on 4G feature phones. 

Four years ago we previewed the original Sailfish OS. It was pretty but has only been used in a handful of low-key devices since.

At MWC 2018 Jolla announced the new version of the system, Sailfish 3.

The affordable angle

Jolla CEO Sami Pienimaki says its main aim is to function with “low-spec hardware configurations and still run selected Android apps,” as reported by NDTV. It’s not so much an Android rival as an Android Go rival. Google’s Android Go is a stripped-down version of Android optimized for devices with 1GB of RAM or less, like the Nokia 1

We’ll likely hear more about Sailfish 3’s features as its planned Q3 2018 release gets closer but so far it's been teased that it'll be 30 percent faster and able to work with the latest Android. It'll also offer “full cloud integration,” with bookmarks, notes and photo syncing, and a new multitasking interface and a fresh “Light” theme. 

Jolla announced upcoming Sailfish support for some devices you may not have heard of, including the Gemini PDA, INOI T8 and INOI T10. And one you probably have – the Sony Xperia XA2. The OS will also be coming feature phones later in the year.

Sailfish X is a version of the OS already available for the Sony Xperia X, at 49.90 euros (around £43 / $60 / AU $77). This version of Sailfish is made specifically for that phone, something made possible by Sony’s Open Devices program.  

Sailfish X was released in September 2017, and replaces Android as your phone’s OS without completely getting rid of Android app support. Sony Xperia XA2 owners getting tired of Android may want to bookmark the Jolla webpage.

Jolla was formed in 2011 by Nokia execs who worked on the MeeGo OS, once used in some of the higher-end Nokia phones. You can still see some of MeeGo’s design DNA in Sailfish.

Sailfish 3 will, however, face tough competition from Android One and the devices it has announced support for make up a very small portion of the smartphone market. It will likely take a great deal for Sailfish to break out of its niche alternative space and thrive as a mainstream OS option, it remains to be seen whether supporting feature phones is enough.

MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world's largest exhibition for  the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week  to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2018 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar's world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone.   

Andrew Williams

Andrew is a freelance journalist and has been writing and editing for some of the UK's top tech and lifestyle publications including TrustedReviews, Stuff, T3, TechRadar, Lifehacker and others.