Mobile phone details: Sailfish and Mediatek (Re: Strategy and serendipity)

Paul Boddie paul at
Fri May 10 15:37:19 UTC 2019

On Friday 10. May 2019 09.58.09 Bernhard E. Reiter wrote:
> Am Mittwoch 08 Mai 2019 15:05:53 schrieb Paul Boddie:
> > >  *
> > >  * The advances with chipset for MediaTek and other main
> > >    SOC producers
> > >  * SailfishOS(X)
> > 
> > I actually posted a summary of visible and/or viable projects on the
> > Tinkerphones mailing list a while ago:
> > 
> >
> Thanks for the link.
> There is much information out there, it stresses my point from my other post
> that it would be cool to have an overview from the perspective of Free
> Software that is kept current.

I agree. Maybe the FSFE Wiki could host such information, particularly if the 
adminstrators reinstalled a half-decent way of formatting tables.

> > As far as Sailfish is concerned, I haven't seen any indication of it being
> > completely Free Software.
> No, it isn't. But this is not the main question, the question is does it
> help to promote more software freedom? And in my bottom line, it is. I also
> know several people with Sailfish OS devices.

I didn't even think there were very many available Sailfish devices these 
days, at least given the apparent frenzy at even the briefest mention of 
Sailfish-based vapourware products in one Sailfish-friendly online forum I can 
think of.

> Most of them work well and the main point is diversity. Apart from Google's
> GNU/Linux distribution called "Android", there is almost no other one people
> could by if they wanted to. Actually "Android" is a big success for Free
> Software as most consumer devices now come with a Free Software operating
> system by default. :)

I don't share your enthusiasm, really. If people give me Free Software and yet 
deny me the benefits that it should bring, they might as well not be giving me 
Free Software to begin with. And these systems are rather good at denying the 
users control over their systems, making it impractical to demand full access 
to the system or its hardware, or to ensure licence compliance.

I don't deny that there are practical benefits even with things like Android, 
but the thing that hurt Fairphone is the same thing that still applies to all 
of these devices: the longevity of the device will be severely curtailed by a 
lack of software sustainability. Later Android versions will come along, and 
no-one will be able to get them to work because of long-abandoned binary blobs 
from the SoC vendors and their partners.

What use is Free Software if it cannot support and uphold other desirable 
outcomes? Or if the use of Free Software just gives software freedom in a 
purely hypothetical sense (if you do not work at the manufacturer under a non-
disclosure agreement)?

> But we all know that there are drawbacks if one company dominates this
> and this is why it is important to have viable competition. Sailfish is a
> viable competition and comes with more Free Software by default than most
> Android phones (I'D guess. ;)) Note that Sailfish X can only work on
> devices that can be unlocked, and if Sailfish X works on them, then chances
> are high other operating systems will, too.

I don't follow Sailfish, but I didn't think that the company was particularly 
viable. There are other systems, of course, like Maemo-Leste which are not 
dependent on the viability of a company that apparently needed refinancing to 
keep going. But then these other systems need sustaining in their own ways.


> Not being an expert, I've spoked to people I'll regards as knowledable and
> heard credible reports that MediaTek has improved and is further improving.
> It makes sense on a number of levels. Companies like Qualcomm also had to
> learn that maintaining drivers as Free Software in the mainline Linux is
> better for them in the long run. They all want mindshare of developers.
> MediaTek seems to be getting this message as well, but I don't know details.
> It is credible to me, because there are apprearing LineageOS ports for
> newer MediaTek SOCs. The old MediaTek which was used in the Fairphone 1
> certainly will never get the drivers, but newer ones may. (Again it would
> be cool to have a nice overview with links to the original information.)

I won't trust SoC vendors with regard to their promises or plans, or those 
made on their behalf, until people can independently maintain the relevant 
software distribution running on the affected devices in its entirety. Just 
like I don't trust various top-tier Linux kernel developers who claim that we 
should not hold these companies to account for their licence violations on the 
basis that one day their future products will be supported in the mainline 


More information about the Discussion mailing list