Sunday 20 September 2015

Gestures on Jolla's Sailfish OS 1.0 vs 2.0

Comparing gestures in the main user interface

When Jolla advanced on Sailfish OS user interface development from version 1.0 (November 2013-September 2015) to Sailfish OS 2.0, there were some radical changes. On this article we put the new against the old. Less or more fingertips needed? More intuitive? Let's find out!

Gestures on Sailfish OS 1.0 vs 2.0

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The key values on a mobile operating system designed for a smartphone is to be intuitive, easy to reach and use with one finger, and of course fast and responsive. While expanding the same user interface to larger devices like tablets, some compromises must be made to meet a similar user experience on both. How did Jolla manage on this? We leave this for you to decide, sharing an insight into the actions needed on both old and new.


Ease of tap depends on two values only:
  • How far is it from your finger, when holding the device
  • How large is the tap area. Larger area requires less precise aiming
On Android, some of the most important taps are placed on top corners with small icons. On this aspect Sailfish OS beats Android in the user experience completely. On a smartphone, Sailfish OS is a one thumb user interface. On the other hand, having even less taps in general on Sailfish OS 1.0 was seen as perfect by many users. While reading on, please take a note on that. There is a compromise regarding taps, which seems to be required while extending to larger devices.

Sailfish OS 1.0 Gestures

The user interface, in general, was based more on flicks. In overall, it was a bit more complicated, as the gestures in use didn't work the same way on every system screen. According to Jolla, learning curve was more difficult, keeping new customers especially from Android world aside from adopting their different UI

Note also how the placement of gestures was done: Most of the gestures are available also in the bottom of the screen, right under your thumb. Click the image above to open it in full size.

Sailfish OS 2.0 Gestures

Biggest changes take place on the placement of the system screens, radically changing the swipe gesture actions. Events were moved from below the Home to left, and ambiences were moved from their dedicated screen on right to a top pulley menu. App cover actions were changed to taps instead of flicks, and favorite apps were removed from the Home screen. On top there's a new info bar, similar to Android - earlier this information was visible between the home and lock screen. Click the image above to open it in full size.

Actions compared - Sailfish OS 1.0 vs Sailfish OS 2.0

The most used actions should be (A) the most intuitive ones and (B) the quickest to perform. I collected a table of few selected actions below, and it seems that while Sailfish OS 1.0 was quicker to use from the Home screen, Sailfish OS 2.0 brought speed into situations when already using some app.

On Sailfish OS 1.0 the gestures were also varying more. Sailfish OS 2.0 seems more intuitive on this, having a shorter learning curve.

Below, the actions with green background are considered as quicker. Note that all the actions are divided under two user cases: Started from while there's an app on the foreground, or started from Home:
Action SFOS1 in app SFOS2 in app SFOS1 at home SFOS2 at home
Open event swipe+tap swipe+tap* swipe+tap swipe+tap
Lock device swipe+swipe swipe+tap swipe swipe+tap
Silence device swipe+flick+pull swipe+tap flick+pull swipe+tap
Call favorite contact* swipe+tap+tap+tap swipe+tap+tap+tap tap+tap+tap swipe+tap+tap+tap
Call new number* swipe+tap+pull swip+tap+pull tap+pull swipe+tap+pull
Launch favorite app* swipe+tap swipe+tap tap swipe+tap
Launch another app swipe+flick+tap swipe+tap flick+tap swipe+tap
Close app swipe swipe+longhold+tap longhold+tap longhold+tap
change wlan network swipe+flick+tap+tap+tap swipe+tap+tap+tap flick+tap+tap+tap swipe+tap+tap+tap
answer old message* swipe+tap+tap swipe+tap+tap tap+tap swipe+tap+tap
Play a song** swipe+flick+tap+tap+tap swipe+tap+tap+tap flick+tap+tap+tap swipe+tap+tap+tap
Play next song swipe+flick swipe+tap flick tap
Pause song swipe+flick swipe+tap flick tap
Change music volume (only hw buttons) (only hw buttons) (only hw buttons) (only hw buttons)
Change ringtone volume swipe+flick+tap(x4) swipe+tap(x4) flick+tap(x4) swipe+tap(x4)

Notes on the table:
  • Actions marked with (*) are assuming that the related app has been set as favorite (top row) on Sailfish OS 1.0
  • Play a song (**) means playing a new song before Media app has been launched. Actions include launching Media app on launcer screen (not as favorite)
  • On Sailfish OS there are some system settings to customize the gestures. Above, all these settings are set to enable fastest possible usage pattern
  • Volume can be adjusted also with a new 3-finger-pull gesture on Sailfish OS 2.0, but this gesture is implemented only for Jolla Tablet


On gestures, Sailfish OS 2.0 has some major changes which might cause some negative feedback from long time users who already have learned their ways, and have their routines on those. However, it seems the new user interface is easier to learn, and especially while the new system wide gestures have more similar workflow, not dependent on having app on the foreground or not, it should be easy to learn out from the old routines.

For new users coming from Android user interface, these changes must be more than welcome. Adding a new info bar on top of the Home screen, implementing the carousel to change views, and changing the cover actions from flicks to taps are closer to their routines.

For me, there are few things I will miss from Sailfish OS 1.0:
  • App cover gestures, earlier performed by flicks anywhere on top of the cover. Now it requires more precise aim to hit the small tap area in the bottom. Also some of these actions were lost, while few apps were updated to have only one cover action
  • Peek for time. When in app, there is a swipe-from-side gesture to drop the app to Home screen. Earlier, it could be used to just peek time, returning your finger to return to the app. Now the time is just too difficult to see.
And few things I really welcome on Sailfish OS 2.0
  • Silencing device is faster via always accessible top menu. Just after a bug is fixed, as currently it's not totally silencing the device (version
  • Having the app launcher always available, right under your thumb, is exceptional. Loving that!
Added by few gestures I'd still like to see made easier:
  • Quicker way to change to full screen brightness
  • A gesture to adjust music volume. I just dislike the HW buttons
  • Quicker way to change your presence on different social media accounts

About closing applications which has been discussed somewhat a lot (the change is radical), I think that Sailfish OS 2.0 doesn't fail on this. It's supposed to be a multitasking operating system, and after the current bugs and memory leaks are at some point fixed, it's only nice to keep all the apps in the home screen covers. Also the change to not let them change places with each other is welcome, especially after the favorite apps were dropped to the separate launcher screen.

Few tips

  • After updating to Sailfish OS 2.0, edit your launcher screen, moving your most used apps to the bottom corner. While the new user interface enables entering the launcher screen from anywhere, it's nice to have those as close to the thumb as possible after launcher is opened
  • Visit the new options at Settings > System > gestures, and setup your system to work as you wish. Especially the system wide access to the Events screen is worth testing. If you'll enable that option, you only need to learn it's moved from below to the left
  • If it seems you really need some of the gestures which have been dropped out, do consider patching. 3rd party developers have made excellent job on tuning the user interface, and most of these patches are available on However, please note that each patch needs to be unapplied before system updates, and those seems to be rolling in quite often (about every 6th week, so far)

Which one seems better for you? Any actions missing? Please comment below

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By: Review Jolla
Technical images: Creative Commons License Sailfish OS gestures by Review Jolla is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Cover photo: Combined of two screenshots by and
Published: 2015-09-20 09:24 UTC
Updated: 2015-09-20 21:10 UTC


  1. Some points about the table:
    1. "Pay next song" on SFOS 2.0 is just one tap. Media app has two cover actions: pause and next.
    2. Changing ringtone volume now is so easier and faster, especially for Android users.
    3. "Close app" can be a swipe also on SFOS 2.0.
    4. Add an "on lock screen" column and you'll feel the changes.

    I like new changes. The most annoying thing for me was these tap cover actions, but after some days of using I'm accustomed to it and gonna like its fastness; especially in case of changing music tracks or using stopwatch.

    Finally, about full brightness, a tap on the right (outer) side of the brightness slider is fast enough, isn't it?

    1. Change ringtone volume on "SFOS1 In app" needs an additional flick after the swipe. On SFOS2 you can change it simply using HW buttons. Also silencing can be done with a long press on volume down.

  2. Thanks AliNa, I made some updates to the table after your comment:
    1. You were right, my mistake
    2. Using gestures, no it isn't - unless using ambiences for that purpose
    3. Via a patch I guess? But those are not for everyone
    4. How do you enter the lock screen on SFOS2 (using gestures)?
    Full brightness: That's fast, but accessing that bar is not. Especially difficult to find when the brightness is low and the surrounding is light. Hidden bar somewhere on the Home screen would be great.
    SFOS1 in app, change ringtone: My mistake again, updated

    I also believe the cover actions as taps might actually work well, after one just gets used to them. But are they really faster in the end, I'm not sure on that - especially when having more than 4 app covers, the area to tap gets quite small, and precise aiming takes more time than a flick.

    Thanks for your comments!

    1. About (4), consider taking the phone out of your pocket you want to do something. SFOS 2 will be faster in half cases and have no many differences with when you are at home or in app.

  3. Close app gesture has been added to the gestures settings, bur enabling that also makes some things slower to do. It's good they added that because I don't like keeping too many apps open so I keep closing them with the gesture. I think I'll try to live without the close app gesture and actually start keeping some apps open instead of closing them all the time.

    I personally never got used to the cover pull actions and always felt they were a bit cumbersome. I often even forgot about the actions and went straight into the app instead. Taps are a lot intuitive here but may be a bit hard to trigger with more than 4 apps. I think I have started to use the cover actions more since the update.

  4. Oh yes, I considered that setting option as slower when writing the table to the post. Enabling it would add one step (when in app) to the actions using the top menu (silencing, locking). But for the people using hardware buttons for these two, it does speed up the overall experience. Great that there is that option!

  5. One thing i miss in sailfish is an easy way to choose connection, i need an way to choose connection for every time i connect to internet.
    N9 did this perfectly where i could choose any wifi network or 3G for every connection and i need this.
    I still find N9 to be better then my jolla and better UI but the 2.0 UI in sailfish is way better and more like my N9.