The Nokia castaways at Jolla were showing off their first smartphone running their mobile operating system Sailfish OS, a derivative of the late MeeGo OS, at MWC in Barcelona and we got some time alone with it. It’s a unique smartphone with an atypical design and gesture-based interface that intends to compete directly with Android and iOS.
Jolla Phone (Sailfish OS)Review
Here it is, the much-talked-about Jolla Phone. Designed by developers and engineers who left Nokia in 2011 after the company decided to stop working on its MeeGo operating system, it offers a new approach to both hardware and software.
The Jolla Phone has a decidedly unique design. It looks like two smartphones playing piggy back, almost as though you could pull them apart and have two phones in your hands. But it is indeed one single handset, but it sports a removable back shell that has everything to do with the company’s customisation-geared philosophy.
The Jolla Phone has a 4.5″ touchscreen with qHD resolution (960 x 540 pixels, pretty skimpy nowadays) and Gorilla Glass 2. Inside is a 1.4 GHz Qualcomm dual-core processor with 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage that are expandable with a microSD card.
On the back is an 8-Megapixel camera and there’s a 2-Megapixel camera on the front.
Jolla calls the removable back shell “The Other Half” and, as we saw at their stand at MWC, it’s much more than a simple plastic replacement like an ordinary smartphone has. With the Jolla Phone, smartphone accessory makers can create their own interactive shells that latch onto the phone and communicate with it via NFC to provide their own features, such as wallpapers, visual cues, services, etc. that show up in the phone’s interface.
The Angry Birds shell that was on display made the phone’s background change to an Angry Birds-themed image and also added the game into the phone’s app list. This could become a great medium for mobile marketers, as well as a way for carriers to give the phone their own flavour.
This opens up all sorts of possibilities for accessory makers, and on display were several original shells: one with colour-changing LEDs on the back; one with a retractable keyboard and fingerprint sensor (pictured above); one that charges the phone wirelessly; and one with a screen on the back that shows the time and the phone’s battery level (pictured below).
At first sight, Sailfish OS seems complicated to use due to the fact that almost everything is done via touch gestures. As opposed to most mobile OS’s in which the majority of actions are done by tapping touch-sensitive buttons or icons, here you do more swiping than anything else. Any MeeGo-based Nokia N9 owners will feel right at home.
The interface consists of windows in which you navigate vertically and horizontally by swiping the screen. The lock screen has notifications on it and the home screen has all your open activities in the form of tiles arranged in columns. Each screen can hold four to nine tiles.
To bring up the app launcher, you slide the screen downwards. Swiping from bottom to top from the edge of the screen brings up all your notifications, and you bring up your Events by pulling on an arrow. Any time you’re in an app, you can place it in the multitasking menu and return to the home screen by swiping from the edge of the screen towards the centre.
It certainly takes time to get used to the way Jolla Phone works with its touch gestures and interface
, but once everything’s learned, it could turn out to be quite effective
since you can basically use it one-handed for almost any activity.
More than aware that Android and iOS are formidable opponents right now, Jolla will soon be releasing an Android app that acts as a new launcher. It’s a software overlay that gives Android users a chance to try out Sailfish OS on their own phones. Sailfish itself has an .APK Android app installer, so you can install any apps designed for Android 4.1 or later on your Jolla Phone, as well as alternative stores, such as Amazon Appstore. Jolla is clearly trying every avenue possible to draw in users.
The Jolla Phone is already available on Jolla’s website
for €399. It comes with the white back shown here, and you can choose between two other shells, Keira Black and Aloe—we assume more are on their way—for an extra €29.