February 26, 2013, 12:34 PM — Finnish company Jolla and its CEO Marc Dillon are hoping to convince consumers that buying a new smartphone isn't just about the number of cores available and the size of the screen when the company later this year releases the first smartphone based on the Sailfish OS.
Breaking into the smartphone market with a new OS may seem like a tall order, but at Mobile World Congress the backers of several new ones are showing off their software. Mozilla, which develops Firefox OS, has been the most visible, but Jolla is equally determined to make a dent in Google and Apple's dominance.
Jolla was founded by former Nokia employees who wanted to continue the development work the Finnish phone maker had done on the MeeGo OS. The company currently has about 60 employees.
Unlike the Firefox OS camp Jolla isn't launching any products in Barcelona. The first Sailfish-based smartphone will hopefully be launched in the next month or two and go on sale before the end of the year.
"This being our first device, we are putting our hearts and souls and everything into this, so we want to make sure it is as good as possible when it comes out," Dillon said.
He doesn't want reveal any details about the product, but said it will be a high-end device that is "maybe a bit more mid-tier" when it comes to the price tag. The company doesn't want to get involved in the current specification war, according to Dillon.
"The final specification of the product we'll talk about at launch. But, that's the thing, when you make it a spec war it doesn't really have anything to do with how the phone feels to the user and what its like," Dillon said.
In general, more choice is good for consumers, and is going to help drive innovation in a market that has gone a bit stale. So it's the perfect time for challengers to come along, according to Dillon.
"[Google and Apple] have been going on with the status quo, and we have seen little innovation once they have gotten their market position and their dominance. Those are the guys that have the most to lose at the moment," Dillon said.
In a demo, Dillon showed some of the features that will help set Sailfish apart from the competition. For example, a pulley menu allows users to directly access often-used features. Haptics tell the user as the menu goes from one option to the next, so it isn't necessary to look at the screen.
"It is available in all applications as well as the home screen and other places. It doesn't take up any real estate or button space on the device, and you can basically use it blindfolded," Dillon said.
The homescreen also uses what Jolla calls active covers, which are thumbnails of opened applications from which users also can access multiple features directly by scrolling from side-to-side or just clicking on them to access the main feature.