The smartphone market has come quite a long way, especially since the birth of Apple's iPhone in 2007, when the concept of a smartphone started to enter the minds of average, everyday people. Over the years, Google developed its robust Android OS — and other companies, like Microsoft and BlackBerry, offered distinct platforms to serve certain niches.
However, in recent times, some former mobile giants are considered superfluous and have been forced to downsize or pushed into bankruptcy. Would anyone really consider challenging the status quo and attempt to take on yet another new mobile OS platform, with companies like Apple and Google commanding such a sizable lead in market share? Jolla, a small outfit based in Finland that's founded by former Nokia employees, thinks so — and they're expected to release a new smartphone called Jolla that runs its own Sailfish operating system.
So, what makes Jolla so special? Could they actually manage to put out a solid product that survives the onslaught of devices from companies with deeper pockets? To answer these questions, and many others that readers might have, here are some things I like (pros) and things I don't like (cons) about the Jolla smartphone, which is expected to launch by the end of this year.
What I like
- Faithful to the GNU/Linux design philosophy
Even though Android is considered an open platform by many and uses the Linux kernel at its core, it lacks many of the fundamental user-land tools that are taken for granted in a typical Linux distribution. Sailfish aims to be a more complete experience, supporting standard Linux APIs and adhering to the Linux Standard Base specification.
- Compatible with Android apps
As of September 2013, the Jolla team announced that binary Android app compatibility through Davlik VM has been achieved. So, you won't have to abandon your favorite apps that haven't been ported over natively to Sailfish yet.
- Expandable storage via microSD
As of late, aside from Samsung, it would appear that an increasing number of Android phones are devoid of any microSD card storage expansion option, leaving you with whatever fixed internal storage you have when you purchased the device. Thankfully, Jolla will be bucking this trend by offering expandable storage on top of the base 16 GB internal flash.
- Innovative "Other Half" feature
In an effort to further expand what the phone is capable of at the hardware level, the back cover on the Jolla phone can be removed and replaced with an expansion pack or functionality extender of sorts, powered by the NXP I2C bus. Proposed "Other-Half" options from the community include a sliding QWERTY keyboard, a gamepad, wireless charging, and much more.
What I don't like
- No access to Google Play
Because Sailfish and the Jolla smartphone aren't sanctioned by Google, access to the Google Play Store isn't possible. For this reason, Android IPK files will have to either be side-loaded onto the device or downloaded from the Jolla app market.
- Initial launch limited to Europe and Asia
Due to Jolla's strong focus on developing markets, the smartphone isn't making it to the United States right away. That being said, it should be eay to have the phone imported stateside, but the phone's LTE radio is bound to be incompatible with American LTE frequencies, limiting the phone to 3G (at least until a version built for the U.S. market is available).
- Rather low-end specs
Since Jolla is just starting out, they won't have the same sort of command over the component supply chain as a company like Apple or Samsung would. The dual-core 1.4 GHz Qualcomm CPU, 1 GB of memory, and 960x540 screen resolution provided by the Jolla device is underwhelming when compared to the latest iOS and Android handsets.
- The competition
Let's face it. Jolla has quite an uphill battle to face with Android and iOS devices commanding huge leads in the marketplace. If you're not willing to take on the risks that early adopters might face, such as jumping onto a platform that can very well be orphaned if it doesn't take off, you might want to stick with an option from a more well-established company.
With these pros and cons in mind, let us know if you intend on purchasing a Jolla smartphone in the discussion thread below.
An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Customer Success Professional for Ultimate Software in Santa Ana, California.