Segfault > IT > Hardware > Smartphone Intex Aqua Fish running Sailfish OS > Sailfish OS - First impressions (on the Intex Aqua Fish)
First published on: 19.Oct.2016

Last change: 19.Dec.2016

Intro

So far I always had Android-smartphones but recently I became more and more unhappy about a few things related to Android & Google:

  • on one hand the level of information gathering reached by Google and the level of integration into Android of those information gathering services have reached a mark which makes me feel uncomfortable.
  • on the other hand the settings available in Android have grown quite complex and Google's API are now very powerful => even after disabling almost everything, network traffic is still generated by the google services, and without knowing why this just makes angry.

So I started looking for alternative operating systems for smartphones:
ignored iOS and Windows because they're limited to their own HW, ignored BlackberryOS as the company has stopped producing smartphones, ignored Tizen (Samsung) as I could not find any device running it, ignored Ubuntu Phone as I didn't like it and all what was left was Sailfish OS.

Well, I had a challenge already at the very beginning when I decided to try out Sailfish OS: all phones offered by Jolla (the company that created "Sailfish OS") were sold out and I could just not find a shop in Switzerland nor in Europe that would ship it to Switzerland.

Then I found this post on Jolla's page that explained that a shop was selling through eBay India the "Intex Aqua Fish" smartphone and that shipping to Europe was possible.
As I didn't find any alternatives and as the price was extremely low (~7200 rupees, which are about CHF 100, for both the smartphone and shipping) I decided to try and see what would happen.
The operation ended up being a bit complicated:

  1. opened an eBay account.
  2. placed the order.
  3. To pay I was routed to a service called "PaisaPay", which has a logo which looked suspiciously similar to the one of "PayPal".
  4. PaisaPay did not accept at all my American Express (at the beginning I couldn't even write the full cardholder's name => found out after 30 minutes of trying that the labels of the cardholder's name and the card number input fields were reversed, but even after putting the values into the opposite fields the card was again rejected).
  5. PaisaPay did accept my other credit card, but then after doing the online verification with my bank the transaction was again rejected.
  6. At this point I was fed up and quit.
  7. After a few hours my bank contacted me asking if the suspicious transaction to eBay India was ok => the transaction was freed so I was finally able to pay.
  8. Then I got an email from eBay US asking me to forward them proof that I was the real cardholder by sending them pictures of my credit card and a card statement.
  9. Scanned the card and the statement, did some photoshop to mask some fields and sent back to eBay US the information/confirmations.
  10. After 2 or 3 days I got an email from "PaisaPay" telling me that the transaction was authorized - finally!!!

First impressions

I was a bit worried that the customs would not allow the import (maybe because the indian device does not comply to some european/swiss norms) but after ~15 days I got a package from India, yuhu!

Package contents

The contents of the package were in perfect condition: the "Intex"-seals of the box were still in place and the smartphone, battery and earplugs did not have any damage.
Since a long time not seen: the box contained as well a tiny but detailed handbook/walkthrough to help you with the first steps with Sailfish OS.

Compared to my current Android phone "Huawei P9" the height and width of the Intex Aqua Fish match almost exactly, but it is some millimeters thicker and definitely lighter.

Navigation

After switching on the Aqua Fish and starting to fiddle around with it I had a hard time navigating because I was instinctively searching all the time the "back" and "home"-buttons, which Sailfish OS does not have.
BUT: after 30 minutes or so I started feeling comfortable and was able to navigate quickly.
AND: incredible but true, when after ~3 hours of using SailfishOS I switched back to my Android device I had a total blackout and needed a few minutes to get reacquainted with Android!

Therefore, good job Jolla! Probably some things still need to be improved, but overall the new navigation seems to work quite well!

Double-tap

Switching on the screen to then "unlock" the device can be done by pressing the power-button like with any other Android device, or by double-tapping on the phone's screen.
I already had the double-tap functionality on a Sony device (I think it was the Sony Z3) but in that case I didn't like it much because from time to time the screen went on as well when I had the phone in my bag, but in the case of the Intex Aqua Fish it seems to be working muuuch better (luckily - because I didn't find any setting to turn this off) and I'm using it.

The double-tap recognition on the Intex Aqua Fish seems to be quite sophisticated:
the device reacts if the double-tap is performed with a finger/knuckle/nose/etc, but it doesn't seem to react at all if it is performed with a bigger surface like the palm of the hand or the head (of course I had to try) nor when using any other non-human (non-conductive?) surface like pens/lighters/etc... .
In addition, if you double-tap using two fingers on two different areas of the screen (e.g. with one finger at the top and with the other finger at the bottom), nothing happens => this avoids as well a lot of accidental screen activations.
I don't know if all this works the same way as well on other SailfishOS-based phones.

Could be improved:
it would be nice to have a setting to be able to modify the timeout of single-taps that make them be recognized as a double-tap (I think that currently the max gap between taps is set to ~1 second).

Tap

While navigating the taps have to be a bit less delicate than the ones that I'm using with the Huawei P9 and when you slide with your finger the whole Aqua Fish has the tendency to "follow" because it is quite light and the plastic of the back-cover does not offer a lot of resistance.

This is not great but well, let's not forget that the device costs just 80$ and that for this price it offers features that other phones which are 10 times more expensive don't have (2 SIM-card slots, 1 separate microSD slot) => in the future I might attach some thin rubber-sticker to the back-cover to avoid this.

Once the device has been unlocked and you're on the desktop, tapping once will bring up the applications that in the application list are placed at the very top.

Preinstalled apps

The Intex Aqua Fish has almost only basic apps preinstalled, but it does have a very annoying application called "Gaana" (some kind of indian media store) which is ALWAYS present & active on one of the main "desktops" - in addition in the background there is a utility which will send an SMS to Intex when a SIM-card is inserted, which is kind of weird => please check one of the next sections for the instructions about how to uninstall this "Gaana" and the background utility.

WiFi & SSH-server

WiFi worked perfectly - if you need to whitelist on your access point the phone's MAC-address, you can find its ID in the settings under "About product".

One of the first things I did was to activate the "Developer mode" and to enable the "Remote connection" settings.
Remark: I'm not fully sure, but its possible that you'll be able to enable "Developer mode" only when your WiFi is connected - this because when "Developer mode" is activated, the phone might try to install some utilities that are typically used by developers (but not only).

I had a fantastic surprise after enabling these two settings:
a SSH-server was already running!
Compared to Android, where one must dig into the millions of apps in Google's store to find a SSH-server that doesn't display a million ads and isn't malware, SailfishOS' approach is a minimal but at the same time huge leap in the right direction.

To-do...

So far I am focusing fully on the base battery life / power consumption with minimal settings enabled, therefore so far I didn't even insert a SIM-card => will post information about call quality etc.. sometimes later.

Update 19.Dec.2016:
I have now a prepaid SIM-card from the same network operator which I am using with my Huawei P9.

Call quality:
definitely better on "Intex Aqua Fish" than on my currently primary cellphone Huawei P9 (even my mother told me "I can hear you better than usual!" before I could say that I was using another device). As well the minimum volume is now for me "ok", while on the P9 it was too loud (and their support gave me a prime example of how unuseful people can be...).

SMS: not much to say - they work, but the user interface can be improved.

Notifications: open - still have to evaluate - current status in my brain is "weird but interesting".

Emails:open - still have to evaluate (will probably look into installing the K-9 email client).