Jolla unveiled Sailfish OS 1.0, plus a Sailfish UI launcher app for Android devices, and tipped partnerships, including one for a custom Angry Birds phone.
Jolla announced the completion of version 1.0 of its MeeGo Linux based Sailfish OS, which runs on its Jolla smartphone, now shipping throughout Europe. The Finnish company also announced a Sailfish user interface launcher for Android, “which can be used to simulate the Sailfish OS experience on Android devices.”
Several industry partnerships were also announced, including one with Rovio (see farther below), but none of them involved phone manufacturers or mobile carriers. Jolla is currently selling the device online in all EU countries, as well as Norway and Switzerland, and via the DNA carrier in Finland. The company now says it is expanding to “common retail channels.” Jolla is also “negotiating with partners in several countries, including Russia, India, and Hong Kong where Jolla will open online sales in the near future.” In addition, the company plans to “open new channels in main European markets.”
Jolla phones with different “The Other Half” backplates
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Jolla’s original China strategy has been relegated, at least for now, to a European strategy. Back in 2012, Jolla announced a partnership with Chinese retail giant D.Phone, but this appears to have stalled, along with the Hong Kong-based Sailfish Alliance. We shall soon see if the potential new Hong Kong partnership bears fruit, and opens up China to Jolla.
The first formal Sailfish OS release includes performance and battery life improvements, as well as fixes and enhancements to features including landscape mode and camera zoom. At the beginning of March a fourth Sailfish OS release, the first of a series of monthly updates, will fulfill “commercial readiness” for the mobile OS.
The upcoming release will feature many visual improvements, new camera functions, and new settings, as well as enhancements to the Jolla store, says the company. This appears to be the release that will be heading to existing Jolla users, and will be available to download for selected Android devices.
The Jolla store, as well as “common Android market places” will also “soon” offer an Android app launcher that simulates the Sailfish UI experience on Android devices. Few details were offered on the launcher, which will apparently run on just about any Android device.
The latest list of Android devices that can run the full Sailfish OS firmware include major versions of Samsung Galaxy, Google Nexus, and Sony Xperia devices. Community projects are said to be porting Sailfish to Xiaomi Android phones. The idea is that adventurous Android users will first sample the fairly radical new gesture-based Sailfish UI, and then download the full firmware when it becomes available for their particular device.
The strategy of depending on Android users to flash their device to an unproven new OS is not so far-fetched, suggests Jolla. The company claims that last year in China alone about 100 million mobile devices were re-flashed after purchase.
To help smooth the way for the converted phones, Sailfish OS offers Android app compatibility as well. Sailfish OS now supports “hundreds of thousands” of Android apps, claimed Marc Dillon, co-founder and COO of Jolla, in today’s announcement. The Jolla currently ships with a link to Russia’s Yandex store, which features some 85,000 Android apps.
A mixed-bag TechCrunch review of the Jolla phone earlier this month noted that many of the Yandex Android apps ran sluggishly, and there were also a number of apps with more serious instability issues. However, a major bug that made the Android runtime take over the phone entirely seems to have been fixed.
So far there are only a few dozen native Sailfish OS apps available — all free. These include Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and Foursquare, as well as a Sailfish Browser, which was updated Feb. 11 in a version claimed to be the first fully open source Sailfish app.
Industry deals: Rovio, F-Secure, Tieto
Jolla may not have had any distribution deals to share, but did announce a few technology related partnerships. Rovio, for example, will work with Jolla to release an Angry Birds themed version of Jolla’s “The Other Half” customizable backplates. Finnish clothing company Makia is collaborating on another The Other Half model.
The Other Half backplates customized for Angry Birds and Makia
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Jolla announced its The Other Half concept last May when it unveiled its flagship Jolla smartphone. Each 5.5mm thick, polycarbonate The Other Half unit replaces the default backplate of the Jolla phone. The backplates connect with the phone via an NFC radio and a data transfer bus.
Earlier this month Jolla announced the availability of the first two custom backplates: a teal-colored Aloe model and an “electric, urban and industrial” Keira Black. Each design costs 29 Euros, or about $40, and supplies a coordinated set of colors, ringtones, system sounds, and wallpaper.
Jolla hopes to gain more partners like Rovio and Makia that will use the custom backplates for promotional purposes, but the main goal is to use the customizable hardware/software options to lure carriers and manufacturers. The Angry Birds backplate will feature “visually stunning physical covers, tailor made ambiences, sounds, images, videos, and more,” says Jolla. Both models will be shown at Mobile World Congress next week, but will not be commercially available until the second quarter.
The Other Half customizations are not limited to selected commercial partners. Earlier this month, Jolla released a development kit for The Other Half, including 3D-printable schematics. The SDK is available under a community license that provides a royalty-free copyright to non-commercial designs. Jolla eventually hopes to expand beyond cosmetics and multimedia to customized The Other Half additions such as a QWERTY keyboards, sensor arrays, or ebook or notification screens.
Other Jolla partnerships announced today include a deal with Finnish cloud security firm F-Secure to develop secure online storage for Jolla users. In addition, Jolla said that Finnish IT firm Tieto Corp. has been signed on to provide integration services to OEMs and ODMs.
Jolla and Sailfish OS background
The unlocked Jolla phone has been shipping to pre-order customers in Finland for 399 Euros (about $547) since early December, and the Finns have responded enthusiastically. By early January, Finland’s sole carrier to offer the phone — DNA — reported the Jolla to be its fifth hottest selling smartphone, ahead of the Apple iPhone 5C and 5s. By late January, it was available across Europe.
The Jolla smartphone features a dual-core, 1.4GHz processor, a 4.5-inch qHD screen, 8- and 2-megapixel cameras, and a full slate of wireless services including 4G LTE. The Jolla is roughly equivalent to the most advanced Firefox OS based phone, the Geeksphone Revolution. The Revolution went on sale today for a far more affordable 222 Euros ($304), plus tax.
Sailfish OS uses a version of the Linux/Qt-based Mer smartphone OS of the defunct, Intel- and Nokia-backed MeeGo project. However, it lacks the Harmattan UI that Nokia developed for its sole Mer/Meego-based device, the Nokia N9 smartphone, before it abandoned Meego. Instead, Jolla, which is largely made up of ex-Nokia employees, developed its own unique gesture-based interface, which has been praised, as well as critiqued for its high learning curve.
More information on Jolla and Sailfish OS 1.0 may be found at the Jollla website.