Jolla readies Sailfish OS for Android in a bid for Chinese firmware flashers

Jolla will soon release versions of its Sailfish OS that have been ported to popular Android devices.

Finnish smartphone maker Jolla says its Sailfish OS has exited beta and will soon be available to install on Android devices.

Jolla has been selling its devices in Europe for a few months now , but today the young company outlined how it will get its operating system to more remote markets without the help of carriers and OEMs.

Read this

Want to get KitKat early? Dodge the Android bloatware? Here are four ROMs to try

Most consumers just live with the version of Android that manufacturers ship with their device — and the updates they choose to deliver — but that doesn't need to be so. Here's a look at several alternative versions out there to pick from.

Read More

So far, there have been three main parts to Jolla's plan: the device, the Sailfish operating system, and the Sailfish alliance . Last November it started selling its Jolla smartphone , which carried its beta OS, and was available for purchase in Europe.

Not so much appears to have happened yet on the alliance front — other than in Finland with carrier DNA — since it signed up  Chinese retailer D.Phone as a partner in 2012 . Jolla hoped the alliance would attract OEMs, carriers and others to extend the OS to the giant Chinese market.

However, today Jolla said it will soon open online sales in Russia, India and Hong Kong. It's negotiating new channels in main European markets, the company said, presumably referring to retail or carrier partners.

Jolla also has a fourth and fifth component to its plan, announcing that from March version 1.0 of its OS will be available to install on Android devices. Jolla says the Sailfish community has already ported the OS to some Samsung Galaxy, Google Nexus, and Sony Xperia devices, while a port for popular Xiaomi handset is in the works.

The move is similar to Ubuntu making the developer preview of its OS available for Nexus devices, except Jolla's will be a full commerical release. Jolla's move has parallels to how Android users can install custom ROMs, such as CyanogenMod, on to their devices, although the ROMs are actually based on Android Open Source Project builds.Still, Jolla is hoping the popularity of re-flashing Android devices with custom ROMs will benefit it, particularly in China.

"Last year in China alone, about 100 million devices were re-flashed after the purchase with a new operating system. This approach allows Sailfish OS to scale into volume fast without limitations. This is a scaling opportunity in a similar way as we have seen in the mobile gaming industry recently," Antti Saarnio, chairman of Jolla's board said.

The fifth leg in its plan is a new Sailfish app launcher for Android devices, which will "simulate the Sailfish OS experience on Android devices", according to Jolla. That puts it on par with the dozens of app launchers available on Google Play, which offer different ways of presenting and organising apps on the home screen.

While Jolla device owners can't install Android apps from Google Play, there's no reason why Jolla couldn’t put its own app launcher there, though Jolla only says that it will be available in the near future from and "common Android market places".

"We see this as a huge volume opportunity for Sailfish OS as there are close to a billion Android users globally. Many of them are looking for new user experiences to freshen up their existing devices," said Saarnio.

In any case, the app launcher carrying the Sailfish UI will be made available ahead of Sailfish OS ports for different hardware, which will be released in phases during the first half of 2014.

Good news may be on the way for current owners of the Jolla device, especially if they've noticed stability issues with some of the apps.

Its fourth software update to released at the beginning of March will included "improved performance, extended landscape support, lots of visual improvements, lots of new camera functionalities, enhancements to the Jolla store, new general settings" and other fixes. 

Read more on Jolla