No, the Yotaphone Isn’t Switching From Android to Sailfish
There’s a story going around today that the upcoming models of the dual-screen Yotaphone will be dropping Android in favor of the Sailfish OS. A number of sites are picking up the wire report published by AFP yesterday, and on Saturday the story started getting picked up by tech blogs, including PocketNow, 9to5Google, Talk Android, Android Authority, and even the news feed at XDA Forums.
Unfortunately for the blogs that leapt before they looked, the story is not true. Yota Devices has denied the report. According to Yota Devices CEO Vlad Martyanov:
We do not have any ongoing development of Jolla version of YotaPhone. I can’t say how things will turn in the future. May be Sailfish will obtain a certain market share as mobile OS.
At this point of time, we are fully committed to Android and recently migrated our customer base to 5.0 and working on the next generation of Android OS.
The Yotaphone is a one-of-a-kind dual screen smartphone which combines an E-ink screen and an LCD screen. (While there are a few competing dual-screen Android smartphones under development, the Yotaphone is still unique in that it’s the only one available right now.)
It’s both expensive and rare, but it also has a high enough profile that this change would have been announced by both Yota Devices and Jolla, the developers of Sailfish OS. The latter hasn’t announced or confirmed the news and the former has issued a denial.
And frankly, I’m not surprised. This story smelled funny from the beginning; the original report said that Sailfish had beat out Tizen, Samsung’s proprietary OS, for the privilege of being on the next Yotaphone.
That in and of itself failed the smell test (Tizen is actually slightly more useful than Sailfish), and furthermore it simply made no sense for Yota Devices to set aside the years of work they invested in developing Android for their dual-screen smartphone.
If nothing else, dropping Android would reduce the usefulness of the Yotaphone by about 90%. That strikes me as an excellent way to reduce the sales volume from low to none.
Update: I think we’re going to have to take the denial with a grain of salt. A reader that there’s context to the story which is being missed because it’s not being widely reported outside of Russia.
For one thing, the Russian govt wants to start using a mobile OS which is not controlled by an American company (for security reasons, obviously). They’ve chosen Sailfish, there’s even a report that a Russian Minister held a Yotaphone running Sailfish. What’s more, a Yota Devices rep has confirmed on a Russian forum that the firmware exists. They also said that it’s not nearly ready to be shipped. (All this background suddenly explains why two different Russian news sites reported this story last week.)
In short, yes, there is a Sailfish firmware and it might one day be released for use by the Russian govt. But it almost certainly will not supplant Android on the consumer models. So the story going around is still 95% wrong.