‘Why develop apps for Sailfish’

Jaakko Roppola, senior designer at Jolla, writes:

I get asked this a lot so I did a post about it.

Simple really.

A Sailfish application has a much higher UX potential than any other platform counterpart. The whole operating system is designed around an unobstructed and efficient use of applications. What you as a user want to do.

That’s all well and fine, and we all know why native applications are superior to less-than-native counterparts – which in the case of Sailfish comes down specifically to Android applications, which it supports quite well. The reality, however, is that these reasons are not even remotely enough to draw developers of native applications to Sailfish.

Early this year, I wrote a comprehensive review of Jolla and Sailfish. Since then, a lot of people have been asking me to revisit that review, and go into the current state of the platform. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while now, but I’ve been putting it off because to be honest – there is very little to tell.

The general conclusion of the review was that Sailfish was a good operating system considering its age, with a comprehensive user interface that was a joy to use, and that was both fast, smooth, and intuitive. Being a new platform, its biggest issue was of course the lack of third party applications – but even there, the platform got off on a good start with a few high-quality applications such a WhatsApp client, a great Twitter client, a barebones but decent Facebook client, and a few others. For a platform that was only a few weeks or months old at the time, that was a great running start.

Sadly, even though we’re almost a year down the line, the state of the platform is still pretty much exactly the same. The operating system itself has improved even further, and continues to do so at a decent pace. Every time I boot my Jolla, Sailfish delights me with its intuitive and smooth, one-handed interface. Between the review and now, we’ve seen like 10 proper operating system updates, and each of them have improved the operating system in noticeable ways. It’s nowhere near as complete or full-featured as Android, iOS and WP, but it will certainly cover users of those platforms just fine.

As far as third-party applications go, however, the situation is – and let’s not sugar-coat it – dire. The applications I highlighted in my review and again a few paragraphs above are still pretty much the only proper Sailfish applications today, with the note that the Facebook client hasn’t seen any development in months and is, as far as I can tell, abandoned. Other than that, virtually every time I get my hopes up when I see tweets about “new” Sailfish applications, it’s yet another Android application that also works on Sailfish.

Of course, we all knew this was going to be the hardest – and largest – piece of the Sailfish puzzle. However, I did expect more than what we have now. I’m sure the lack of support for paid applications plays a role here, discouraging more professional, non-hobby developers from joining in on the fun as a side-project. Whatever the cause, we’re still looking at a third-party applications landscape that isn’t much better than what I saw back in January.

It could be that there’s a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes to get developers interested, but so far, we haven’t seen much sign of that. I’m obviously not going to write off the platform or anything like that – the operating system is too good and fun for that – but progress on the application front is sorely, sorely needed.

Right now, my Jolla spends most of its time in my device drawer, only to be booted up when there’s an update or when I’m bored. Sailfish deserves more, but I’m not sure how they’re going to get it.


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