Yesterday, Jolla have done the announcement of their first phone, and got overwhelming support from all over the world. The product is really beautiful and seems to be very intelligently designed. As a Jolla fan since the beginning, I was very pleased by what I have seen, but there were also something else, that makes me uncomfortable.
My other half
The idea behind the other half, that is much more than a simple cover, is really interesting. The phone could get extended in many useful ways. People can add a Xenon flash, a fish-eye lens, an additional battery or a keyboard depending on their needs. As a developer and a heavy texter, I won’t mind exchanging some of the thinness of the phone with a slide out portrait keyboard with additional battery. The fans of the good old N900 might prefer a landscape keyboard though.
But currently, only colored covers has been demoed. I would say that they will still have success. A lot of people on Twitter were asking about in which color the Jolla phone will come out, expecting that they would be like those colorful Lumias. Well, that is not the case, since all Jollas are black. However, the colored covers makes your device really customization, and I felt in love with the black phone and white cover combination.
The phone itself do not feel bad at all. First good point, the battery is removable. The screen is also quite large and bright. Sailfish OS really shined on it, the vivid colors and icons being really pretty. The size of the device bothered me a bit. My personnal thinking is that the size of the Galaxy S2 is acceptable, but not more. However the Jolla is really huge, and I can barely hold it with one hand. Moreover, it seems that there is a lot of space wasted on the top and bottom, and I cannot really understand why it is there. But sailfish OS really shines on large devices. The gesture based OS is very suited for not moving your fingers around all the screen, and you can go back, and select entries from the pulley menus very easily.
Sailfish also packs a lot of new stuff compared to the previous version shown at MWC. The application store is now integrated at the end of the list of applications. Settings app is even more improved, (we had a slight peak of what would be the application settings panel), new beautiful apps appears, like a note taking application, a calendar, a video player that continue to play when minimized. The best application I have seen now is the contacts one. Usual contacts are presented as a list, sometimes with some pinned contacts at the top. That huge list, often accompanied with the impractical and inefficient «fast scroller», could be improved in the UI aspect. In Sailfish it is different. Since it is likely that you would give more attention to your favorite contacts than to the other ones, only the favorites are displayed. At the bottom of them, an grid of all the letters in the alphabet regroups all the other contacts. If you click on one of them, it will reveal all the contacts starting with that letter. Simple, efficient, no need to scroll.
Android apps also worked. Even if they looked out of context (like if a Harmattan application was running on Sailfish), I have not seen anything wrong with them. However the demos of Android applications were brief, and I think that the support might not be totally polished yet.
A great launch party
The K Klaus hostel is really a very good looking place. The bar where the event was handled was very nice and cozy. Free food and free alcohol (thanks to Jukka Eklund), nice people (Iekku, Andrea, Jason, Filip, Henri to name a few), and even some tables on which you could deploy your computer or tablet and live tweet / IRC the event. The decoration, with posters related to the «I’m the other half» motto was simple but nice.
Marc did really well at the quick demo and call of participation, and even the new CIO, Tomi Pienimäki, who was wearing an awesome pink shirt, did his presentation with energy, despite being less «dynamic» than Marc. We also discussed with several sailors, and most of them were very open, explaining design choices or listening to feedback, and answering questions.
At the end of the party, all the people that were invited even got a nice «I’m the other half» tee-shirt, and a letter signed by Tomi itself.
A pitiless world ?
The world of mobility is pitiless. In one side, there is Apple, once the company that worth the most in the world, and in the other half, Samsung, a company that spends about 400% the budget of Apple in adverts. However, mobility is more than just products and brands. It is a religion, indoctrinating millions of people who became fan-boys. Tech-press is not saved either, since many journalists are either already fan-boys, or are paid to «become» fan-boys. (Of cause, it is a bit reductive, but it happens)
What can Jolla do in that pitiless world ? Well, they have already done pretty impressive things, like a wonderful teasing for the 20th of May, as well as aggregating fans all over the world. On Twitter, there are many local Jolla communities that are represented, like @JollaFr, @JollaIT, or JollaUK to name a few.
The Jolla phone is really a nice product, especially with the awesome Sailfish OS, however, thanks to Samsung, people (especially fan-boys) tend to compare phones only based on the specs. And Samsung is the clear winner of the spec wars, doubling the number of cores in their phone each year. Most people are disappointed by the lack of specs provided by Jolla, because only mentioning that it is a dual-core is really not enough. People wanted to know if it was a ST-Ericsson, or a Qualcomm and how much GHz it is clocked.
The second problem is that OS. This year, 4 new OSes appeared, including Samsung’s Tizen and Ubuntu touch. Those two names are very appealing,. Samsung is the mobile phone market leader, that automatically implies that everything related to mobile by Samsung will be a good product. Ubuntu is appealing to geeks, because it is the most used Linux distribution in the world. And having that distribution on a mobile device is the dream of many. Jolla do not have a name, and even if they are doing true GNU Linux, (while Canonical is basing on Android), neither techies, nor geeks nor «normal consumers» cares about it. At least it runs Android, meaning that those people will still be able to run the application they used to run.
There is also people complaining about the lack of information. We don’t know what screen is on the device, if the screen support radio, FM transmitter, low power mode, 41 MPX cameras and a lot of other features. These questions often comes from (old) Nokia fans, since they are used to Nokia putting a lot of awesomeness into their phones. and the lack of reply only mean one thing to them: lack of communication, like in the old Nokia era. However, it is not the case. They simply did not decided on what to put into that phone. They were here to show that awesome new concept, that is the other half system.
But Jolla is still very weak in the smartphones wars. There is people everywhere complaining about the startup failing to deliver, that the OS is doomed.Tech press don’t care about that small event, that cannot be compared to the big players. Innovation has no more place into the flow of tech information on the Internet, only big names and big numbers. Even inside the Jolla communities, some people are angry, thinking that they should have get more during Jolla love day. However, Jolla is still small, they are moving forward step by step. Revealing the design of the phone, that includes that other half concept is already an important step.
So who is to be blamed ? Jolla for being slow, and failing to create a live stream that could hypnotize all their fans ? Maybe the fans, because they are expecting too much ? The other fan-boys, for protecting religiously their brand and spreading FUD ? Well, I would say that the problem is deeper. That in a world where the quantity of information (and advertisements) is so overwhelming that people do not take time to understand, instead they just follow the crowd. Jolla just wanted to reveal the interesting concept that they created. Instead, fans and tech journalists only wanted the specs, discarding the rest. Jolla bet on innovation and new concepts, but it seems that today, that’s not rewarding anymore.
I think that the Jolla love day was a success. I loved the passion and imagination that was created after that. My Twitter feed got filled with «Solar charger cover» and «Car mode cover» etc. But I feel sad. I just felt sad that even inside
our own community, people are divided, spreading FUD, instead of going forward, and building together.
EDIT: Actually JollaFr is still a place (quite) free of trollers and other non-Jolla fanboys that spread FUD, and I’m wrong on writing that in this community people are divided. However I’m really tired of seeing these kind of people fighting in Jolla posts in generic tech websites, and even on TMO. So yeah, I’m wrong about JollaFr 🙂 and I love that community for being so vibrant !