It's been a long time since we've covered Jolla on Engadget, and with good reason — the company has had a tumultuous time of late. The Jolla Phone — the first hardware running its alternative Sailfish OS platform — failed to take off and its tablet was cancelled after heavy layoffs in 2015. Somehow, though, the company survived. And today at MWC, it's announcing that Sailfish OS will soon be compatible with a bunch of new devices including the Sony Xperia XA2, the upcoming Gemini PDA, and a tablet by Russian brand Inoi. In addition, it will support feature phones later this year.
Jolla is calling the expansion Sailfish 3. To mark the low-key launch, it's teasing a new version of the OS that's 30 percent faster and compatible with the latest Android. It will also have "full cloud integration," including bookmarks, notes and photo syncing, a new multitasking interface and a fresh "Light" theme. In the past, it's been possible to buy and flash a version of the mobile OS called 'Sailfish X' onto the Xperia X. This do-it-yourself approach will continue with Sailfish 3 and the latest wave of compatible devices (at the time of writing, the OS costs 50 euros.)
These devices, of course, represent a slither of the overall Android market. That's why the company is expanding Sailfish OS to feature phones, which are still popular in emerging markets. It will offer some "core" native apps alongside a special app store and compatibility with a selection of Android apps. Unlike the normal Sailfish experience, which requires you to swipe from the edges of the display to navigate, the feature phone version will support non-touch phones with numerical keyboards and directional control pads. The company will face tough competition, though, from Android One and low-cost phone manufacturers like HMD Global.
"We are very proud to be moving to the third generation in our OS development," Sami Pienimäki, CEO of Jolla said, "and believe it will provide a great upgrade for all our B2G, B2B, and community customers." It's clear, though, that Jolla's niche status won't be changing anytime soon. Until it can reboot its own hardware efforts, or support devices with mainstream appeal, Sailfish OS will remain a curiosity and nothing more. We can't help but root for this strange, beleaguered operating system though — especially when so many 'alternative' platforms (R.I.P. Firefox OS, Windows Mobile and Ubuntu Touch) have fallen by the wayside.
Catch up on the latest news from MWC 2018 right here.