Tech companies make baffling decisions all the time, it’s not a rare occurrence. In most cases, while we’re scratching our heads, we can normally sort-of see a reason or some kind of logic behind those moves. Whether it’s OnePlus’ unusual marketing strategies, Google launching the Pixel C without multi-window multitasking or HTC’s decision to launch an iPhone clone. In the case of Turing Robotics, I’m stumped…
Back when the ultra-secure and durable Turing Phone was announced in the summer, I have to admit I was very curious. Enough so that I signed up to have my name on the manufacturer’s emailing list, hoping to get the opportunity to check one out in person, even if it meant handing over my money to do so. The device looked promising, and its physical design was so unique to what’s on the market, there’s no way it would get lost in the sea of bland rectangles.
Here’s the full text from the email we were sent:
Dear Turing Fans,
You will be pleased to know that we have ironed out the final development tasks before we deliver the Turing Phone to your hands. We fully expect the Turing Phone to be delivered in the month of April 2016.
Many of you have asked numerous times through our Facebook fan page as well as emailed us about our OS development. We can now confirm that TRI has chosen to drop Android and use Jolla’s Sailfish OS. Sailfish OS is now running perfectly on the Turing Phone and we have started the final OS software testing phase.
Sailfish OS runs exceptionally fast on the Turing. You will not have to worry about performance issues with Turing’s Snapdragon 801 because Sailfish OS has been optimized to run fast on your Turing Phone. The Turing Phone will still be able to run Android Apps on the Sailfish OS without issue. An Android application store will be available for you to download your favorite apps.
The Sailfish OS is an evolved continuation of the Linux MeeGo OS previously developed by an alliance of Nokia and Intel. MeeGo mobile software platform was created through the merging of Moblin and the Maemo OS originally developed by Nokia.
This essentially means you have one of the world’s fastest mobile device running the fastest mobile OS with the capability of running your favorite apps in a secure environment.
TRI will also be hosting its first Turing Developers Conference (TDC) during Q2 2016.
We can’t wait to get the phones out to your hands. Thank you so much for your continued patience and support for the Turing Project.
I have several concerns about this move. First of all, customers have clearly pre-ordered the device expecting that when they get it, they’ll be handed a phone running Android with all the benefits that come along with that; Play Store, Play Services, wide app support. etc. With Sailfish OS, it may be possible to install Android apps using an unofficial app store of some kind, but it’s not exactly the same as using an Android device. It’s similar to the experience of side-loading, or downloading APKs on to a BlackBerry 10 device. It works, but not wonderfully.
Presuming some pre-orderers decide to stick with their order, there’s one other major concern for me: Jolla. I love it when a company comes in to try something new. I even like the way Sailfish OS tries to make everything in the UI so that it’s only one or two swipes away, regardless of what you want to do. Whether you’re looking for an app, contacts, settings or the home screen, you can get to it with one or two swipes from anywhere.
Jolla, the company behind the software, recently cancelled the launch of its Sailfish OS-powered tablet. Being a crowd-funded project, those who ordered the Jolla Tablet aren’t even guaranteed to get their money back, because Jolla can’t afford to return the money. In essence, Turing Robotics, who hasn’t yet proven it can deliver a piece of hardware has teamed up with a company who clearly can’t deliver effectively. Even if the Turing Phone does meet its April target, there’s no knowing whether Jolla and Sailfish OS will last more than a few months afterwards.
Turing’s reasons for the switch are something of an enigma (pun intended). We don’t know whether it’s simply the difficulty it had in properly optimizing performance, or if it struggled to secure Android effectively. Whatever the reason, I’m sure it would have been worth the extra time and investment to overcome those hurdles, rather than jump on to a sinking ship with a device we’re already skeptical about.
TL;DR – This move stinks of instability. Any vague intentions I may have had of pre-ordering the Turing Phone have all but gone.