Jolla Ltd. opened pre-order voucher sales for the first smartphone to run its Sailfish OS, an open source distribution based on the Linux MeeGo project. The dual-core, 4.5-inch Jolla phone features a gesture UI, Android app compatibility, and interchangeable “Other Half” back covers that switch user profiles.
The Jolla (pronounced “yoh-lah”) smartphone is the first to use its Sailfish OS, which is based on the Mer branch of the Linux Foundation’s now-defunct MeeGo operating system (see farther below for details). Pre-orders begin June 24 for customers in selected European countries, with shipments due in the fourth quarter. Finland-based Jolla Ltd. has begun to sell 40- and 100-Euro vouchers for priority access to the 399-Euro ($513) device, with the latter providing access to a unique backplate option called the Other Half that enables UI customization.
Jolla Co-Founder Marc Dillon, Jolla phone, Sailfish homescreen
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Jolla offered very few technical details regarding its flagship phone. The phone runs on an unnamed dual-core processor and is equipped with a 4.5-inch touchscreen which the company refers to as an “Estrade” display. No RAM details were supplied, but we know the phone will offer 16GB of storage, a microSD port, an 8-megapixel camera, and a user-replaceable battery.
The most unusual feature of the new phone is the Other Half backplate option. These multi-colored backplates let carriers, resellers, or users switch the “colours, fonts, tones, and profiles” of the Sailfish OS, for example to switch from work to play profiles or to turn it into a child-friendly device. Other backplate options include automatically launching or modifying an application linked to the Other Half or linking “your favorite music or brand into your Jolla.”
Jolla with blue backplate
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A ZDNet report quotes new CEO Tomi Pienimaki as saying that the Other Half add-ons could be used for a variety of purposes. For example, a music group could offer a customized experience that would promote new recordings and unlock online music. The Sailfish OS community will be invited to lobby Jolla as to how the Other Half concept should be used, he added.
Pienimaki also told ZDNet that while the Jolla phone now supports Android in general, the company has yet to sign any app-store deals. Jolla has previously said it would use OpenMobile’s Application Compatibility Layer (ACL) technology, which claims to run 500,000 Android apps on multiple platforms. OpenMobile’s highest profile customer is the Linux Foundation’s Tizen platform, which will use ACL to run Android on the first Samsung Tizen phones later this year.
LTE 4G support will also be available on the Jolla, depending on support from carriers, which have yet to be listed. Last July, Jolla said Chinese mobile retail giant D.Phone Group would offer Sailfish OS phones, but then later in the year said the phones would be based on Sailfish, but would not be fully compatible. Since then, there has been little mention of D.Phone.
Last October, Jolla announced it had raised $258 million from unstated investors and partners to support a new Sailfish Alliance and data center based in Hong Kong. It also said it would offer Sailfish OS for licensing to device vendors, carriers, and other third parties.
Sailfish OS background
Without any major backers announced to date, Sailfish OS is a longshot compared to other new Linux mobile OS contenders like Tizen, Firefox OS, and Ubuntu Touch, which arguably are also longshots themselves. However, it has a mature base in the smartphone-oriented Mer development branch of MeeGo, and has attracted many of the Meego/Mer developers who developed software for the only MeeGo phone to reach market, the Nokia N9.
Sailfish operating system architecture
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Finland-based Jolla was started by former Nokia employees who launched the Sailfish OS project after it became clear that the Intel- and Samsung-backed Tizen would only borrow selected portions of MeeGo. By then, Nokia had already switched from Symbian and MeeGo to Windows Phone.
Jolla did not license Nokia’s Harmattan user interface. Instead, it invented its own gesture-supported UI. The buttonless UI layer also makes extensive use of animations, haptics, and sounds. Jolla also added new middleware for multitasking, multimedia codecs, localizations, power management, and other services.
Sailfish OS is open source, and available to all. However, certain UI extensions and apps available on Jolla phones are proprietary, much in same way that some key software elements and apps found on most popular Android phones include proprietary Google code.
Here’s a short YouTube video, in which Jolla Co-founder Marc Dillon introduces Jolla’s Sailfish-based smartphone, and urges the early-adoptor community to “show that there’s a market for Jolla by participating in our pre-order campaign.”
Marc Dillon introduces Jolla’s first Sailfish smartphone
Basic (40-Euro) and premium (100-Euro) vouchers are now available to gain priority access to pre-orders of the Jolla Phone, which begin June 14 at 399 Euros. A Jolla T-shirt is also part of the deal. The 100-Euro package also gives you an Other Half backplate. Users can also sign up for free to gain priority access for pre-orders, although presumably getting in line after the paid voucher customers.
Shipments are expected in the fourth quarter. Pre-orders are initially available only from customers living in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, U.K, Germany, Spain, France, and Italy, but more European countries will be announced soon.
Pre-order vouchers sales and other information may be found at Jolla’s sign-up page and the Jolla home page. A livestream demo of the Jolla phone may be found here. More information on Sailfish OS, including downloads, may be found at the Sailfish OS developers site.