Mobile OS once considered dead comes back to life in Indian smartphone

Intex Technologies' Aqua Fish has Sailfish 2.0, a mobile OS that is holding on for dear life as it is back to challenge Android and iOS

Alternative mobile operating systems are struggling to survive while Android and iOS dominate, but an operating system called Sailfish -- which was on the brink of disappearing -- is back after a short absence.

Intex Technologies' Aqua Fish smartphone with Sailfish 2.0 started shipping in India on Monday. It's the first Sailfish handset to be sold by a device maker outside of Jolla, the developer of the OS, whose Jolla C handset is available to only to testers.

Aqua Fish is priced at ₹5,499 (US$81), and has specifications comparable to an entry-level Android phone. It has a 5-inch, 720p display, 16GB of storage and a 1.3GHz  quad-core processor. It has a 8-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front camera.

The OS is based on the Linux kernel and can run Android applications, which could make Aqua Fish attractive as a low-cost smartphone.

Smartphones with alternative OSes have a knack for doing well in India. Samsung's smartphones with Tizen OS did well, and the company intends to bring new smartphones with Tizen 3.0 to the market. Samsung has tipped Tizen 3.0 to be in smartphones by September this year.

On a global scale, it's tough going for alternative OSes. The Firefox OS has been discontinued, and Ubuntu is struggling. The biggest competitor to Android and iOS is Windows Mobile, which had a meager 0.7 percent market share in smartphones during the first quarter of 2016, while Android held a 84.1 percent share and iOS had a 14.8 percent share.

The future of Salifish was in doubt late last year after Finnish company Jolla ran out of cash and laid off a majority of its staff. In May it secured $12 million in funding, which helped the company get back on its feet. But Jolla's reputation has suffered -- it is still refunding Indiegogo backers that financed Jolla's Sailfish-based tablet, which was never released. Some users are still grumbling about receiving partial refunds or none at all.

There is a small, but committed developer base for Sailfish, whose future remains unclear. The Aqua Fish could help it get a bearing in smartphones, and analysts have said Sailfish can be adapted for markets like wearables and the internet of things. Jolla has not shared details about plans for Sailfish.

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