Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Jolla Phone and it's New Sailfish OS

These days it seems like the smartphone game is already over. You either have an Apple iPhone, maybe a select few Android phones, or you just don't have a phone at all. Companies like Microsoft aren't doing so well with their Windows Phone attempts, and BlackBerry has all but fallen off the map completely. Is it really a great idea to launch a new phone with a completely new operating system in this day and age? Jolla doesn't seem to be worried about it at all.

Jolla, a company from Finland, brings their new Sailfish operating system to the table. The new OS even supports a ton of Android apps. That, paired with the fun-colored, case swapping phone, makes a lot of people think that the Jolla Phone is going to make an impact on the smartphone market and show the other companies how to do it right.

The Jolla phone is being shipped out right now to those who pre-ordered it in Europe. No word on when it will be available anywhere else yet.

Taking a look at the design of the phone, the first thing you notice is the distinctive two tone look. It kind of looks like two phones stuck together, taking it back to the old days when people used to go to flea markets and buy whole new cases for their phones and be the coolest kid on the block. Other than that, the front and the back separately are really simplistic, taking the same kind of approach we see on Apple products.

The colorful back panels are interchangeable. The panels have NFC chips in them so that when you snap one on, it can change the themes and settings on your phone accordingly to match its new look. The cool/not cool thing about it (depending on how you look at it) is that because the chips link to your Jolla account, you won't be able to swap or trade with friends. It's pretty neat I suppose, I'm just not sure anyone cares about making their phone lime green anymore. Most people I know use cases that would cover it up anyway.

The display is 4.5 inches with a 960x540 pixel resolution. I'm not sure why they chose to skimp on this. The resolution is way below industry standard, and even the Motorola Moto G has a higher 720p resolution with a $179 price tag. So, I can't wrap my mind around that one.

Everything else about it is pretty standard. It's not the lightest phone on the market, nor is it the slimmest. At 131mm long, 68mm wide and 9.9mm, thick its not that hateful, and probably still very comfortable to hold. It also comes standard with 16GB of storage, and has a Micro SD slot for adding more.

As for the Jolla's new Sailfish OS, it is basically an upgraded version of the MeeGo software that came on the Nokia N9. It has a lot of similarities to the old software, but it functions very different and has gone the complete opposite direction from the Android operating system or iOS. One huge difference is that there are no navigation buttons. Getting around on the device is a little bit more involved. A double tap wakes the phone up and shows you notifications. Swipe up and you'll see your recent apps and keep swiping up to make your way to a grid of app icons. To return to the home screen, swipe in from the left and it will place the app in a multi-tasking panel. When going through menus or text message conversations, simply swiping back will return you to the previous page. A swipe up from below the screen shows a notifications panel. Could be a little confusing at first.

The multi-tasking panel shows you up to nine apps that you can switch to pretty easily, while four apps sit below for accessing tools quickly. Unlike Android, there are no big widgets on the home screen at all.

Once again with the minimalist styling, you'll see the least amount of text possible and rounded app icons. Contrary to what you would think though, previous iOS users will probably have a hard time adapting, as it is not as simple as it looks. A quick user guide is included though if you have any trouble, going over all of the basic gestures to get you to where you need to be.

The app selection for the new operating system is one of the drawbacks. There is almost no app support from any developer. BlackBerry has always been plagued with the same issue, along with Windows Phone. Windows Phone just recently got Instagram! The one thing that gives the Jolla Phone the advantage over BlackBerry and Windows Phone is that it is possible to run Android apps. You can't access Google Play from the phone, but there are plenty of third party app stores where you can pick up apps like Spotify, Skype, Facebook and twitter. You can't get all of the same apps that you'd generally find on Google Play on an Android phone, and no one knows how many apps are available for Jolla yet. One thing we can count on though, you will have a better selection than BlackBerry either way.

The available apps will run exactly how they would on any standard Android device. On screen virtual navigation keys are located below the display to help you get around, but returning home requires a quick swipe from the left. There is a reported issue with the phone always taking you back to the previously opened Android app before loading the new one that you click. This is probably necessary because the apps are being "virtualized" rather than running natively, kind of like an emulator. There is a delay before the app opens, which could get annoying.

The processor is a dual core 1.4GHz and is powerful enough to offer smooth casual performance. The batter is a 2,100mAh which is said to give you about 9 hours of talk time. The phone also comes with an 8 megapixel camera and LTE connectivity.

Overall, the Jolla Phone has some neat qualities. It kind of seems like a glorified N9, but I guess I'll find out for sure when the phone comes to the states.

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