Ca 6 month ago I switched from the Galaxy Nexus to the Jolla smartphone. Here are my impressions.
From the Android world we are used to having devices with specs that could be taken from a low end Desktop computer The Jolla however has a pretty low end CPU, GPU and also only 1GB of memory. That said I have never felt limited by that, but more of that later. The phone itself only has a power button and a volume rocker, both located on the right side of the body. It does feel well build, solid and well balanced as it is slightly heavier on the bottom(the part that is leaning on your hand anyways). Battery life on the phone is really amazing. If you are using the phone a lot you can get about 2 days of battery life, the biggest drain is probably the screen but closely followed by LTE and Bluetooth. I might need to mention that I travel over the Øresunds bridge every day so the phone spends a bit of time switching between cell towers and searching for signal. If you are not using the phone a lot and you use WiFi at home you can manage to get a full week of battery life if not more.
The Other Half
The other half is in simple terms a back cover, with added functionality. The phone has a i2c port(The “USB” of embedded devices) on it’s back that let’s you add extra devices to the phone. A physical keyboard other half and a wireless charging other half was already made by community members (yes that’s right not a company but the community itself). Jolla opened up the specs and even the 3D drawings of the other half, so you can 3d print and create your own other half.
The phone is Linux powered or to be more precise it’s powered by SailfishOS which is based on mer. It is using modern technologies like systemd, btrfs and wayland. Jolla gives you full root access to the device and activates SSH when you activate the developer mode. To me as a Linux user this opens up many possibilities. For example I use scp regularly to download the pictures from the device to my owncloud folder. A native owncloud client is sadly not out yet.
Compared to Android or iOS sailfishOS really does not have a lot of apps. However my most needed apps have a native version and for all other needs one can install Android apps. Somehow Android apps are performing very well on the phone and that despite the low specs.
The OS comes with basic account management. So you can sync your contacts from google or Exchange Active Sync, post messages to twitter/facebook, read/write mails or chat with your friends on XMPP.
XMPP messages are integrated in the messaging app that is also used for SMS and it’s dead easy to switch between sending messages via XMPP,facebook, google talk and SMS.
Notifications are displayed on the lock screen as well as in the notification center. The notification center you can access at any time by swiping up from the buttom. Talking about gestures, you use them to navigate the entire OS since the phone has no physical buttons. Sliding from any side in any app let’s you “peak” or with a full slide switch to the home screen. When peaking you can see your network status, current time and battery status. The OS does not have a status bar, so apps take up the entire screen. I really this feature since it let’s you focus on this single app and you are not seeing those notifications waiting for you in the status bar. The notification is probably for some automated mail anyways.
SailfishOS feels like it is getting out of your way. On Android I often felt the OS is nagging me with notifications like: “Hey, look I found this thing close by you might like”. Facebook, google now, gmail, facebook messenger, google hangouts and gplus all popping up constantly. Many of them with messages from people sitting at a PC writing way faster than what I can manage on a touch keyboard.
On SailfishOS i can still chat with my friends via all those channels. However if I don’t want to I just swipe up to get to the notification center and then select “Set to Away” in the pulley menu, swipe up again to return to where I was before.
All apps follow a common design. So they are easy to navigate and your eyes don’t get blinded by apps with different colour tones.
Bugs? Yes SailfishOS is not bug free, however updates are rolling in regularly and what bugs are fixed first or what features are being worked on is heavily influenced by the community.
Jolla and the community
First I wanted to write about the company and the community separately but it’s simply not possible. Let me explain. Jolla started out with a call for a community, by marketing themselves as the rescue boat for all those people who where let down by Nokia switching to Windows Phone. They started with a pre-order campaign to get the much needed funding to realise this phone. In December 2013 Jolla then started shipping the device. Early 2014 Jolla then started together.jolla.com in order to give users a place to report bugs, make feature suggestions, discuss strategy and vote on bugs/features. All in public, for everyone to see. Jolla has the last word in what they want to work on, but so far at least user input is what sets the roadmap.
Jolla is contributing code upstream and slowly but steady open sourcing most parts of the OS. Why not all? Well jolla is not big enough to get open source drivers for everything and the android runtime is also licensed. Other than that Jolla just wants the art work to be under a none open source license.
Let’s leave the technology and community niceness aside for a moment. Am I still happy with my experience and the phone in general? Hell yeah!
Would I recommend the jolla phone to non techy users? Not yet. But we are getting closer and closer.
Am I trying to talk my Girlfriend into buying a Jolla phone? Yes, she is constantly complaining about various issues with her android phone that would just be no issue on a Jolla phone. (how ever she usually uses up my old phones and free is cheaper than a jolla phone 🙁 )