Jolla Sailfish OS smartphone - Sailfish OS & Prospects

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Jolla Sailfish OS

While the hardware dares to be different, the real

interest in Jolla is the Sailfish operating system. Other than its

Nokia/Intel foundations, what immediately appeals is Sailfish OS will be

distributed to handset makers free of charge. Revenue will come from

the licence of optional proprietary features and intellectual property. A

‘free but…’ model, if you like.

So what will tempt handset

makers and telcos to invest? The most promising aspect to Sailfish is

its core user interface. It is heavily gesture-based and borrows

elements from BlackBerry 10, Windows Phone and Android, but combines

them to create something unique.
Sailfish OS 6
Arguably

Jolla has been motivated to do this because Nokia has kept the rights

to its lauded Harmattan UI on the N9, but we like what we saw. Rather

than icons, the homescreen features BlackBerry 10-esque tiles of the

most recently open programs. Much like an Android widget these can be

interacted with directly, swiping the phone tile left or right to reveal

the dialler or contacts, the music player to switch content or get

playback controls and so forth. Each tile also features live information

like Windows Phone and can even continue playback of video.

Intriguingly

Sailfish also requires no physical or virtual home, back, menu or

search buttons. Instead these are again gesture based. Swipe up to the

screen from the left or right bezel to go backwards or forwards between

apps; up from the bottom of the bezel from apps to go back to the home

screen and from the top bezel down to get critical information like

battery life, signal strength, search and key settings.

All

of these features work like BlackBerry 10 providing the option to

‘peak’ at information by not fully completing any swipe gesture. The

current screen becomes transparent mid transition to show the screen

before. Swiping up from the homescreen also pulls up an app drawer (akin

to Android).
Sailfish OS notifications 2
Some

of this will take time to learn, especially the swipe options of tiles

for each currently open app but we can see how it could become an

extremely fast and efficient way of navigating a UI. There were some

glitches in what we saw, but it was already predominantly smooth and

slick and an almost playful way to perform what are fairly arduous tasks

on other platforms.

This system also means no space is wasted

on docks at the bottom or the status bar at the top so the full screen is

used at all times.
Sailfish OS app drawer
Elsewhere

Jolla has a unified messaging system so Facebook, SMS and IM messages

can be grouped into a single feed. Photos and contacts also unify with

your social networks allowing you to comment on and like content without

the need for a dedicated app and the lock screen contains information

on missed calls, SMS and app notifications. This is much like Windows

phone and navigation within apps also works in a similar manner, swiping

left to right between sections and categories, rather than requiring

access to a menu.

As for apps support, Jolla is appealing to

developers to make Sailfish specific applications that take advantage of

its navigation system, but it will be compatible with apps for Android.

Jolla claims Android apps can be easily implemented because its lack of

physical or digital buttons means the stock Android buttons can be

recreated easily for each app. That said Jolla wasn’t demonstrating

Android apps at this stage and it won’t get access to the Google Play

store so third parties, including Amazon, will be necessary.
Sailfish OS notifications

Jolla Sailfish OS Prospects

From

this initial hands-on we came away with the impression that Sailfish OS

has a great deal of potential. It has a huge leg up from the core work

already done by Intel and Nokia and its UI is genuinely innovative while

taking a mixture of the best aspects from other platforms. On the

hardware side whether the ‘Other half’ functionality of covers can be a

genuine differentiator is less clear cut, but we can see it being

popular in younger age groups.

That said where the real battle

lies for Sailfish is not in convincing people it is a viable platform,

but that it is preferable to the existing heavyweights. Our feeling is

Jolla will have to reduce its handset price to achieve that, provide

tight Android app integration from the outset and pick its markets

carefully.
Sailfish OS 7
The

company has already said it will release in a limited number of

European countries for a Christmas targeted launch and telco agreements

for them will be crucial. Jolla is also targeting China, a smart move

given its sizable population and lesser commitment to iOS or Android.

Aside from this the other battle is with three more newcomers: the Samsung/Intel funded Tizen, Firefox OS and Ubuntu. The first two will also have phones out in 2013 with the latter expecting to debut in early 2014.

In

the months before launch Jolla is putting a strong focus on community

building and says a number of campaigns will appear between now and

Christmas while pre-orders are already open. Expectations are realistic too with the company saying it

doesn’t expect to be anything but a niche player for a number of years.

From what we have seen it at least deserves to attain that.

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