Jolla Ports Sailfish OS to Smartwatch Hardware

Jolla's Sailfish OS has already been used on two official Sailfish OS devices: the Jolla smartphone, Jolla tablet, plus the Intex Aqua Fish and the Turing Phone. Thanks to the platform's community support, a number of smartphones and tablets have also benefited from the software and in Jolla's view the operating system should form an "excellent base for many different kinds of embedded devices." In other words, the Finnish company sees Sailfish OS' abilities not being restricted to the current typical consumer electronics products that live in our pockets and bags. A few weeks ago the company decided to devote its engineer's time towards porting Sailfish OS to the smartwatch platform via an Android smartwatch. Their belief was that Sailfish OS' gesture-driven user interface should be well suited to the smartwatch platform compared with the competition. At the end of last week, the company revealed the results of their project, which they are calling a "case study." Jolla have also previewed the platform running on the watch hardware at Slush 2016.

Jolla used an existing smartwatch platform, called Asteroid OS, for technical and design inspiration. Asteroid OS is also based on the Mer and Nemi libraries that are embedded into the Sailfish OS and illustrates how open source software is vital for Jolla's platform. Because Sailfish OS uses the libHybris layer, this gives the development team easy access to Android hardware and, this in turn, meant that the team could set up APIs for the home screen, connectivity, profiling and that all important aspect of smartwatches, power management. It meant that the team could easily access the display in order to show the time, calendar, weather and settings screens. Sailfish OS' user interface layer made it relatively easy for the team to include a scalable set of common parts of the operating system, such as gestures, layouts, animations, icons and fonts. In short, Sailfish OS' existing software allows it to relatively easily run on existing hardware and this makes it easy to port the code to the new device. Jolla's prototype Sailfish OS smartwatch uses the typical Sailfish-style carousel arrangement from the home screen: the device screenshots at the bottom of this article show off how the device looks in use. For this particular device, in common with the industry Jolla have used their fitness application as the superapp, which is accessed by swiping to the right. Swiping left brings up the Events screen. As with other Sailfish OS devices, applications can always be pulled up by swiping from the bottom and the ambiences screen is accessed by swiping from the top.

Jolla's blog notes that none of the embedded applications are fully developed and adds that with more development time, the Sailfish OS smartwatch could easily include a fully-fledged pedometer and calorie-counter in the shape of a health suite. Notifications are handled via the vibration motor and Sailfish OS on the smartwatch is capable of passing calls to a connected handsfree kit. The team decided not to invest time into Bluetooth LE and instead the hardware connects to a Sailfish OS smartphone via the Wi-Fi connection. At this juncture, Jolla have no plans to release a Sailfish OS watch but have more than hinted that this new port of the software might interest hardware companies looking for a different platform to install onto a smartwatch. However, smartwatch product sales remain relatively low as those consumers with one often do not see a reason to upgrade. It remains to be seen if a hardware vendor decides to invest time and development expertise into the platform, and what Sailfish OS can bring to the smartwatch market that we haven't already seen with other devices, from the colorful Android Wear devices to the month long battery life of the Vector Luna devices. Nevertheless, for a customer wanting to experiment with an alternative platform to wear on their wrist and carry in their pocket, Sailfish OS remains interesting. Meanwhile, check out the YouTube video and the screenshots.

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About the Author

David Steele

Senior Staff Writer
I grew up with 8-bit computers and moved into PDAs in my professional life, using a number of devices from early Windows CE clamshells and later. Today, my main devices are a Nexus 5X, a Sony Xperia Z Tablet and a coffee cup.
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