Jolla shows off first son of MeeGo
May 21, 2013
Jolla's first phone (also called Jolla - pronounced yo-la, of course) has been pre-announced and can be pre-ordered with a deposit (£85) even though the thing won't be delivered until some vague time near the end of the year.
It's what you might call crowd-funding, and there's been more than a touch of crowd-cheering for the entire Jolla adventure. The company is staffed by former Nokia employees keen to carry on with a project (MeeGo) that they felt has been unfairly cut short by Nokia's decision (or rather the then new Nokia CEO, Stephen Elop's decision) to throw in its lot with Microsoft and its Windows OS. In other words there is a huge store of good will behind Jolla, especially be those around the world who used to be part of the very first smartphone ecosystem - Nokia's.
The first fruit of the MeeGo project, the N9, actually managed to do very well in the marketplace - some argue strongly that it was clearly superior to, say, the Lumia line.
So right from the start Jolla has had a tail wind of support in Finland and beyond to develop what it called its Sailfish OS (derived from MeeGo) and products that would make use of it.
The Jolla phone is a fairly standard-looking slab - 4.5 inch screen, 8 Megapixel camera, LTE support - but it does have a hint of the sort of hardware innovation that is surely possible in a market now dominated by two operating systems and just one phone 'style'.
Jolla has developed a detachable back panel it's calling 'The Other Half'. The OS weirdly changes the panel's colour and the phone's fonts and ringtones. There is also a removable battery.
When it comes to apps, Jolla has done the only sensible thing and made the OS Android compatible. It has a slight problem at the moment around app stores, but no doubt that will be solved one way or another (there are enough Android app stores out there now for Jolla to choose from). And there are no navigation keys - the phone supports gestures and swipes.
Does Jolla have a chance? Some commentators have pointed out that the specs are a little underwhelming and will appear even more so once the phone hits the market in six to eight month's time. It's not that cheap either, at £340 in the UK. Then there is the competition - Lumia will still be around and Firefox OS will just be making itself felt in the market.
But then, who says smartphone users are particularly rational. Jolla has a huge asset - a loyal (if possibly fairly small) fan base, many of whom owned or knew the N9 and liked what they saw. There will be a cult market for this phone, sight unseen.
Then - seeing we're in the slightly irrational realm - let's just suppose for a moment that Jolla in some way 'takes off', just as Elop is clearing his desk after yet another year of Lumia non-performace.
Will whoever takes over Nokia bring MeeGo/Jolla back into the fold? It's a satisfying rags to riches fairy story and, if it comes about, I claim the film rights.