Jolla phone is a colorful, Sailfish OS-powered Android alternative for 399 euros


With even Microsoft struggling to make much impact into the smartphone world with Windows Phone, and BlackBerry's outlook looking less than brilliant, launching a new phone with an entirely new operating system might seem like a risky decision.

Jolla doesn't seem worried though. The Finnish company reckons its Sailfish OS software -- which supports numerous Android apps -- together with its colorful, case-swapping phone, also called Jolla, will succeed where others haven't.

The Jolla phone is currently being shipped out to early pre-order customers across Europe for 399 euros (around $540), although Jolla couldn't say when it will be available anywhere else at the time of writing.

Design

With its two-tone split, the Jolla phone is distinctive. It looks almost like two phones squashed together. Both the glass front and plastic back are very plain, but I found the stark, minimalist design quite attractive -- particularly with the bright, lime green case.
(Credit: Andrew Hoyle/CNET)
 
These back panels are interchangeable and have NFC chips in, allowing different covers to automatically change themes and settings when they're clicked on to your phone. They link to your Jolla account to allow them to save your settings, which has the knock-on effect of stopping you from trading them with your friends. It's a neat idea, but I'm not sure it really adds anything over just manually selecting different themes.
The 4.5-inch display has a 960x540-pixel resolution. That's a little low and it does result in small text under the icons looking a little fuzzy. Web pages too didn't look as crisp as you'd see on other, higher resolution phones. Given that the $179 Motorola Moto G packs in a higher 720p resolution, I'd like to see more pixels here.

The phone measures 131mm long, 68m wide and is 9.9mm thick. It's hardly the slimmest phone around, nor is it the lightest, but it's easy enough to hold and more comfortable to type on one-handed than any of the 5 and 6-inch phablets.
(Credit: Andrew Hoyle/CNET)
Volume and power buttons are on the side, with a 3.5mm headphone jack and micro-USB port on the top. A microSD card is hidden under the back cover, allowing you to expand the 16GB of storage.

Sailfish OS

The phone runs Jolla's Sailfish OS, an offshoot of the MeeGo software that used to be found on old Nokia phones such as the N9. While the software has some visual similarities to MeeGo, it's functionally very different, and far removed from its Android or iOS rivals.


For one, there are no navigation buttons, so making your way around requires you to use various gestures. A double tap will wake the phone up and show 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 home from an app, swipe in from the left and it'll 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.
(Credit: Andrew Hoyle/CNET)
 
The multi-tasking panel can show up to nine app thumbnails for you to easily switch to, with four apps sitting below for quick access to crucial tools. Sailfish does not make use of big widgets across its homescreen, so keen Android users might feel out of place here.

It's a fairly attractive interface, full of modern, minimalist text and rounded app icons, but there will be a sharp learning curve for those of you used to the simplicity of iOS. A quick user guide takes you through some of the key gestures when you first start the phone up, but you're still required to remember them all.

In my few hours with the phone I felt I was able to get to grips with the basics, but performing simple tasks like connecting to Wi-Fi networks was awkward, and required an extra tap or swipe than it would performing the same task on Android. I also found that when closing apps to put them in the multi-tasking panel, they would sometimes reopen immediately afterwards, as though they just didn't want to be closed. It's common for new software to have some bugs, but given that the phone is already on sale, I'd like to see it free of these little annoyances.

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About Doru Somcutean

Hello, my name is Somcutean Doru and I'm from Romania.

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