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Jolla, the Finnish based mobile startup, unveiled its first smartphone earlier this week. The phone will run on the Sailfish operating system. The company is made up of the directors and core professionals from the Nokia N9 team which left the company to bring MeeGo back to market, after it was abandoned in favor of the Windows Phone OS.
Jolla first unveiled and demonstrated the Sailfish OS at the Slush event in Helsinki, Finland on November 21, last year. It also released an SDK that day which consisted of Mer Core’s tools, Qt Creator, Jolla UI components, Sailfish UI framework and Sailfish handset application interfaces.
Apart from creating its own Jolla-branded phone hardware running Sailfish, the company also plans to license the Sailfish OS to other device makers and create customized, branded versions of the software for third parties
The First Sailfish OS Phone – Jolla
The first phone to run the the MeeGo based Sailfish OS will be the Jolla. According to the company, the phone will have a 4.5-inch screen, a dual-core processor, 4G connectivity, 16GB of internal memory, a micro-SD card slot and an 8-megapixel rear camera.
Jolla also says the device will be compatible with Android apps. However, we will have to wait and see how these apps perform in real life. If the BlackBerry Playbook is anything to go by this may not be a smooth experience.
The highlight of the phone is its back cover, which Jolla is calling ‘The Other Half’, which apart from being interchangeable with various colors has a unique feature which when paired with the phone, activates a different set of preferences and functionalities within the phone. Thus one can have different themes which can be customized both by users and brands. Brands can create covers which when attached to the phone change the background and also ringtones and other stuff. The back cover when changed can also customize fonts on the phone.
Pre-Orders, Cost and Availability of Jolla
The Jolla device is up for pre-order right now for €399. Jolla say that it plans to ship the device by the end of 2013. Pre-orders will only ship to a handful of countries when it is ready and India is not in that list so far.
Also in what looks like somewhat of a Kickstarter movement and to gauge demand for the phone, Jolla is offering three different pre-order packages. The first is the above offer which is a simple, free reservation of a Jolla smartphone, guaranteeing buyers a unit once the rollout begins. The second package is priced at €40, includes a limited edition Jolla device as well as a t-shirt and priority pre-order status. The €100 pre-order package will get buyers a limited edition Other Half, a t-shirt, priority pre-order status and a €100 voucher for the Jolla online store.
There is also a €0 option for buyers to show that there is a demand for the phone. These customers will get a pre-order number.
Jolla has mentioned on its website the €399 price will only be applicable to pre-orders, so the final price could be higher, and that it does not include shipping costs, duties and any local taxes.
The Sailfish Operating System
The Sailfish operating system is based on the erstwhile MeeGo operating system. The Nokia N9 and N950 were the only device that ran MeeGo before the project was cancelled.
The Sailfish user interface definitely looks new and refreshing and not like something that is in the market already. One of the highlights of the new OS will be its multitasking abilities. Users don’t need to enter an app to interact with it. On the home screen are widget-like Covers, which can be controlled directly like pausing a song or starting a song directly from the widget itself.
Presently the Sailfish OS can run 9 apps at the same time but this is likely to change in the final build.
The UI is also packed with gesture-based shortcuts which make using the device much easier. For example, one can just half pan out from an open app to display the homescreen below. Also, the UI seems to work in a top-bottom fashion to reveal more just like in Windows Phone 8.
From the demo video, one of the interesting highlights was the ability to go into the gallery and once you choose a picture you can change the ambience of the phone by just swiping the pulley menu down. Once this is done, the pulley menu as well as the homescreen and default apps takes that image as the background, giving one a consistent feel throughout the UI.
The interface looks fluid and seems to run quite well for a test build. The UI seems to rely much on the ambient image as well as text and one does not see much textures and solid backgrounds.
Just like the BlackBerry 10 operating system, navigating through Sailfish will take some getting used to but will become natural after a few days of use.
Could This be the Next Big OS?
The one thing that Jolla has going for them is a very passionate community. The pre-order page of Jolla is said to have got over 2,00,000 visits within the first six hours, though we don’t know how many of those got converted to orders. The ability to run Android apps and also the pre-release of the SDKs way before the actually release of the phone, will go a long way in gaining the trust of both consumers and developers.
The one main issue that they may face is that the phone will be launched only at the end of the year. By then both the leading mobile operating systems, Android and iOS, would have got their version numbers bumped up by at least one and have a whole lot of new features. Windows Phone 8, which is slowly gaining market share, will be another player that Jolla will have to keep an eye out on. BlackBerry 10 unfortunately will still cater to a very niche market and is unlikely to gain mass acceptance.
Apart from the existing players Mozilla’s Firefox OS which will run HTML5 apps and Ubuntu are also expected to be on phones by the end of the year. With so many operating systems there are definitely likely to be a few casualties along the way and we hope that Jolla’s Sailfish lives to fight another day.