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Jolla Sailfish OS smartphone

Gordon Kelly



Review Price £339.00

Key Features: 4.5in display; 16GB storage; microSD slot; Replaceable battery; Sailfish OS

Manufacturer: Jolla

What is the Jolla Sailfish smartphone?

Jolla is the first phone by the Finnish start-up of the same name. It will be released in late 2013 and run the Sailfish OS, which is based on the abandoned MeeGo project founded by Intel and Nokia. Jolla is largely made up of ex-Nokia employees disenchanted by the handset maker’s move to Windows Phone exclusivity in early 2011.

Sailfish OS homescreen

Jolla announced itself to the world in late 2011. It has already raised $258 million in investment from the telecommunications industry to help revive tMeeGo, which has only been available to the public once before on the widely praised Nokia N9.

We got an early hands-on with the handset and its software at an exclusive launch event this week in Helsinki.

Jolla handset

Six months is an eternity in the handset market, so we were surprised Jolla was keen to demonstrate its smartphone just one day after it was formally announced and targeting a Christmas arrival. That said from a hardware perspective what we saw is extremely encouraging.

Jolla 2

The Jolla certainly has taken style cues off the Nokia N9, but its design is as unique as anything we have seen in recent years. On the surface the phone appears a fairly angular touchscreen slab and standard connectors including a top mounted micro USB charge port and headphone jack, side positioned power and volume buttons and speakers at the base. There are also some predictable specs: 4.5in display, 4G support, eight megapixel camera, 16GB of storage, microSD slot and an unspecified dual core processor.

Look closely, however, and things become more interesting. Firstly the phone has no facia buttons or soft keys (more of later) and secondly the phone quite clearly comes in two halves. Typically a colourful rear (though black in our demo) snaps on and off not only to allow access to a replaceable battery, but to enable an array of different covers to interact directly with the phone.

Jolla 4

Jolla wasn’t revealing technology behind this (we suspect NFC), but covers have the power to automatically change the colour scheme ('ambiance'), wallpaper, fonts, profiles and even functionality of the user interface. Jolla calls this ‘The Other Half’. Admittedly it is slightly gimmicky, but it opens up an array of marketing and brand opportunities we’re sure Jolla will be keen to exploit.

In hand the Jolla feels angular, though by no means uncomfortable compared to the 5-inch monsters now on the market. It was noticeable on our demo unit that some of the fittings weren’t flush and it had chips and dents, but we won’t read anything into that for a handset likely in heavy testing and still five to six months from release.

Jolla 6

The Jolla has been announced with a €399 (£339) SIM-free retail price which we find a little high, especially considering where the handset market could be come the end of 2013. That said Jolla admits this may change and with a network deal in Finland with DNA and several European and Chinese carrier deals “in the pipeline” it will be interesting to see if the company can secure those all important network subsidies.

What will attract them? The software itself...

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May 24, 2013, 11:05 am

Which came first, nokia N9 or BB10? I think you will find that BB10 has a lot of Nokia N9esque features. Credit where it's due...

Gordon Kelly

May 24, 2013, 12:33 pm

That's true and I don't think I have discredited Nokia. In fact I go out of my way to point out the merits of the N9 because it deserves them.

That said there *are* a lot of BB10 features in Sailfish.


May 24, 2013, 1:37 pm

I do like your review and I am very jealous that you have had a hands on. I have pre ordered one and cannot wait until it comes :D


May 24, 2013, 1:55 pm

Regarding BB10, most of the swipe features was already introduced in Meego N9. Its an excellent interface and Sailfish is of course built on that UI. RIM probably figured Meego dead already so basically copied the best features from the system.


May 24, 2013, 3:44 pm

BB OS 10 is webOS as it might have developed. If webOS hadn't been abandoned I would probably still be using it, instead of a Q10.

David Jensen

May 26, 2013, 12:13 pm

I have been following Meego since Nokia's Internet Tablet. The idea was that everything would be open source and Python, the easiest language, would be native. Apple's "There's an app for that" is a throwback to the 80's for microcomputers where you could not do anything unless someone developed it. This initial concept may have become mangled in Meego's previous partnerships, first with Intel (Moblin. based on Fedora combined(?) with Internet Tablet, based on Debian), then with Samsung. Sailfish must be REAL computer, as Ubuntu Touch apparently is, or it will not do well as do-it-yourselfers will want everything. A close examination will probably reveal that Microsoft took over Nokia by a type of force. Nokia's projects before the takeover indicates that Nokia understood open source very well.


May 26, 2013, 12:20 pm

Sailfish is more of a truly F/OSS stack than Ubuntu is ever likely to be...
It adopts all libraries/standards used in the community, Jolla's not plagued by the "NIH" syndrome as a way to CONTROL elements of the stack. Just one e.g; Canonical's Mir, as opposed to the community's Wayland/Weston.

Canonical has a dubious track-record in this area....
It's still early days, so they may turn out to be good citizens, but I won't hold by my breathe. I have more confidence in the Sailfish(Jolla) initiative for delivering something truly meritocratic, for the CORE, not the proprietary bits, which often have their place/uses.

Gordon Kelly

May 27, 2013, 10:20 pm

Which begs the question whether whoever owns these patents could now come calling...

Gordon Kelly

May 27, 2013, 10:22 pm

It is a really interesting project - both from marketing and technological standpoints. Impressed to see you sign straight up. Hopefully we can bring you a full review closer to launch, though do let us know your thoughts if you get your device before our full review is up.


July 9, 2013, 2:55 am

Actually, the reason I started following Blackberry's progress and eventually bought a Z10 was because it was very similar to Sailfish and Sailfish isn't 'out' yet ! I had been actively following Nokia's situation when I was looking for a replacement for my N8, and was happy to see the "MeeGo" work continued !

Kevin Haworth

September 16, 2013, 2:51 pm

I read this review with great interest. The handset looks and description are appealing.
It is of no great matter what the core software is based upon so long as it works. To buy the handset it would have to offer the same as what I have now or better. I tried an early Blackberry Z10, and was initially impressed with the gesture based ineterface. However I soon lost interest when I realised the camera was featureless, the navigation hopeless, and customisation out of the box none existant. To rub salt into the wound you have to pay extra for a Blackberry bolt on to obtain full functionallity. It is notable that the Z10 sells now for half what I paid for it 6 months ago. It would be a shame if the Jolla phone failed in these critical areas. For me it has to have a featured camera, useable satnav and customisation out of the box. I feel the jolla has hit the right note (not more of the same but also not too different). If the Jolla maintains the current specification / looks and addresses the camera, navigation and customisation criteria which are not mentioned in the review this handset should be a winner and I would wish them great success. I will follow progress in the run up to release, but it is too early for me to commit to pre order until the full specification and features are released.


September 18, 2013, 4:09 pm

There is no sense in Linux phone without QWERTY keyboard


December 1, 2013, 9:23 pm

I dont think the Jolla device has a special camera, thats not really the selling point, but it does have good navigation. It uses Here (Nokia) maps, these maps are used by all the large car manufacturers and is aguebly better than google maps (maybe not in features, but in accuracy). It does have some customization, from the feature called ambiance, and you're able to change the pulley menu, but I dont think its as customizable as android.


December 2, 2013, 2:02 am

There is 1-2 BIG functionality limitations with the maps, but they've already hinted that they have fixes coming soon that'll remove those, touch-wood. HERE's POI data generally isn't as good as Google's, but in terms of location accuracy & raw location data, it's just as good as Google.

In time Sailfish will be just as customisable -if not more*, they're focusing on stability/performance/feature_count in the ~1st yr of it's life before allowing too much flexibility WRT customisation. But there will be others in the community working on that in parallel regardless, so you can dip your toe into that area long before it becomes a hard-focus for Jolla/Partners.

*certainly Nemo already is "right now"


February 28, 2014, 10:08 am

The community is building at least one QWERTY keyboard Other Half amongst other, more imaginative things.

Bear in mind, this is a community which has rebuilt the N900 with faster CPU and more memory using off-the-shelf parts.



June 21, 2014, 10:48 pm

I'm Still using only one handset that's Nokia 808 pureview, and madly in love with it. But with time I'll have to replace it. Wondering what could be a worthy successor? I hate nokia 1020!

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