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LinuxInsider.com

Rugged Turing Phone to Run on Sailfish OS, Not Android

By Jack M. Germain
Feb 4, 2016 11:46 AM PT
turing-phone

Turing Robotic Industries this week announced that it has uninstalled Google's Android mobile platform in favor of Jolla's Sailfish OS in its yet-to-appear secure smartphone.

The Turing Phone, molded from a single unit of the Liquidmorphium liquid-metal alloy, is designed to be more durable to absorb shocks and prevent screen breakage.

Preorder pricing ranges from US$610 for the 16-GB version to $870 for the 128-GB model.

Optimized for Swiftness

TRI started taking preorders for the smartphone last year. It delayed the planned shipping date of Dec. 18 to resolve remaining developmental steps for the device, including its security platform and operating system. The new projected shipping date is in April.

Customers found out about the OS switch this week through an email.

The Sailfish OS is optimized to run fast on the Turing Phones and the Snapdragon 801 processor, according to the notice.

"It has a super-secured platform environment, which Android lacks, and it does not use Java for UI (Android). So Turing targets design-savvy users and those who care about their privacy," said Steve Chao, CEO of TRI.

Google Play Store apps and Android apps in general will run on the Sailfish OS via the Alien Dalvik engine. User experience with Android will not be impacted, he told LinuxInsider.

Sailfish vs. Android

The Sailfish OS is a continuation of the Linux MeeGo OS, which was developed by an alliance of Nokia and Intel. The MeeGo mobile software platform was created through the merging of Moblin and the Maemo OS, which was developed by Nokia, according to Turing officials.

"TRI decided to use Sailfish OS because it has a long-term plan to build a trustworthy communications network. Sailfish is based on a pure mobile Linux platform with unmatched speed and with great performance," Chao said.

The decision was not made from a comparison with Android. Rather, the goal is to enable TRI to build an ecosystem around its own devices. The Turing Phone is just one example, he said.

"Sailfish is the perfect platform in which Turing may start building its ecosystem surrounding the IoT and the Future Networks (ISO/IEC 29181)," Chao said.

Tarnished Efforts

It's hard to understand why Turing would swap out the mature Android distro it originally promised. Sailfish is too new to know how it will perform, according to Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

"Turing claims it's the fastest mobile OS in the market. That may matter since the Turing Phone is running a 2-year-old CPU. While Sailfish is capable of supporting Android apps, early reviews have also noted significant glitches," he told LinuxInsider.

TRI may have discouraged potential buyers with the change in OS. The company got a lot of good press for its idea of shipping a highly durable and secure phone aimed at consumers.

"But the project's delays have tarnished the effort somewhat, and it is not clear how this latest twist will play among Turing supporters," said King.

Better Plan In the Works

The change in OS will have little impact on buyers' interest in the Turing Phone, Chao maintained. The phone will be unique and secure.

"Most Turing users went for Turing's unique design. The design was the most important part of their decision in purchasing it. Most of them were tired of the iPhone and the same looks that Android phones had to offer," he said.

The OS change strengthens the interest of Turing fans who sought a secured environment for mobile computing. Sailfish is the perfect answer to that, he said.

Security Factors

TRI developed a decentralized authentication technology that provides a dramatic improvement over the logic of identity-based encryption, according to the company.

Both the master public key and the unique private key are anonymously bundled into the phone. Each Turing Phone can directly verify the identity of other Turing devices without the need for a third-party key center, it said.

This complete authentication creates a protected communications network insulated from cyberthreats and privacy intrusions, the company said. This circle of trust lets users exchange sensitive data such as Social Security numbers or bank wiring instructions with the assurance the information will reach only the device intended.


Jack M. Germain has been writing about computer technology since the early days of the Apple II and the PC. He still has his original IBM PC-Jr and a few other legacy DOS and Windows boxes. He left shareware programs behind for the open source world of the Linux desktop. He runs several versions of Windows and Linux OSes and often cannot decide whether to grab his tablet, netbook or Android smartphone instead of using his desktop or laptop gear. You can connect with him on Google+.


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What do you think about Hillary Clinton's use of private email servers during her term as Secretary of State?
She broke the law and should go to jail.
She violated guidelines -- the issue is overblown.
She placed important state department information at risk.
Her servers might have been more secure than the government's.
I really don't care one way or the other.