"The Third Mobile Operating System Is Here" Declares Jolla As It Launches In …
The smartphone manufacturer Jolla has announced that their flagship handset (the self-titled Jolla, reviewed on Forbes previously) is now available in Hong Kong. On sale via Three, the handset is available for free on the 4G LTE Super Plan, or for HK$2,888 direct from the network.
While Jolla continues to be cagy about the exact number of handsets that have been sold, the Finnish company continues to expand the distribution of the Jolla handset and the Sailfish OS that is at the core of the business.
The plucky handset is available to buy from Jolla’s website, but the handset is also available through mobile networks in its home country of Finland, Estonia, and Kazakhstan, as well as Italian distributor RCH Importazioni. The specs might not be as high as the flagship Android handsets of Samsung or Sony (with a dual-core 1.4 GHz Processor, 1GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, and a 4.5 inch 960×540 qHD IPS screen), but the Sailfish OS does not need the grunt that Android 4.4 sometimes demands.
Having gone on retail sale at the end of 2013, it’s been a busy and productive year for a company with an employee count that is in the low hundreds. Compare that to Microsoft, Apple, or Samsung, and you can put the success of the Jolla hardware and software into perspective.
That doesn’t mean Jolla is lacking in ambition. Speaking at the launch, Antti Saarnio, Chairman of the Board of Jolla Antti Saarnio was aggressive in setting out where Jolla is.
“A wise man said nine months ago, that the third mobile operating system is coming any day now. This man was Li Ka-shing, Asia’s richest man. As Jolla launches today the Jolla smartphone with Hutchison Telecommunications, I claim that the day is today. Good things do take time to grow and the world needs a new mobile OS.”
It is this persistent and quiet Finnish determination that has driven Jolla since 2011 when a number of former Nokia employees decided that if Nokia was going to push them aside in favour of Windows Phone, they would build their linux lifeboat anyway. You can read more about the formation and years of Jolla in my interview with co-founder Marc Dillon.
Speaking to Dillon ahead of today’s launch, he spoke about the role of the Asian market to Jolla’s future prospects, and the importance of launching in Hong Kong. “We’re happy to be launching any partnership, but we’re very happy to be launching in partnership with Three Hong Kong.
“They are important because they are a progressive operator, interested in new technology, and are looking for a commercial differentiator. Which Jolla is.
“Hong Kong is a natural place to start with Three. It is their home market, but they are also a global company so this launch can be a great stepping stone for Jolla to ramp up in additional markets.”
Antti Saarni shares that view. “Jolla phone is a spearhead device for Sailfish OS… China especially is currently needing a new alternative OS. Building a smart society based on borrowed technology, corresponds to building your house on sand.”
The Jolla handset does not follow the normal paradigms for a smartphone user interface. As the smartphone moves away from the hackers and early supporters, improving the consumer experience has been one goal. The Sailfish UI is fast and flexible, and well-suited to one-handed usage. But it does take some getting used to. Jolla has improved the UI tutorial, and also added in dynamic hints and tips if the OS feels the user is ‘stuck’ looking for something in the UI.
Sailfish OS has also seen regular updates on a monthly basis (which led to a delightfully Finnish email letting everyone politely know in advance that there would not be an update during July). The first update after the Hong Kong launch will feature a new ‘low-power’ display mode that will show the time and current notifications when the handset is picked up or turned over without the user having to switch the handset on. This will allow a quick check of the phone without powering up all the circuits.
Practically, Jolla is not the third ecosystem, and is quantitatively nowhere close to either BlackBerry or Microsoft’s Windows Phone in terms of sales, third party applications, carrier support, or public image. That said, the Finnish company is not playing a pure numbers or volume game. The company is going down a boutique route where the volume of sales is not as important as the quality that each sale creates for an individual customer. Hong Kong is the next step as Jolla looks to win hearts and minds around the world for a different style of smartphone.