The Jolla stirred up a lot of excitement when first announced, especially among the community of Nokia fans who had wanted a device with the N9’s heritage. I was infected with the excitement too and longed to get my hands on a unit. I was an ardent fan of Maemo and owned the Nokia N900. I was a top fan of the Meego-powered Nokia N9 and was disappointed when Nokia dropped the platform. So, you can perhaps understand the excitement with which I anticipated Sailfish OS, which is a descendant of the MeeGo lineage. I finally got my hands on the Jolla in April, a fulfilment of a great desire, and ended up with a broken heart.
If I am to summarise the Jolla in one sentence, I’d say it is an underwhelming experience for me. Yes. It is different, yes. It is unique. But it just doesn’t wow in any way. I found it so underwhelming that I haven’t found the inspiration to publish a review.
I initially found navigation confusing. The Sailfish UI has a steep leaning curve. Whereas I was able to pick up MeeGo, Windows Phone and even BlackBerry 10 OS devices and find my way around them, not so Sailfish. I had to find a manual to understand what to do in this case.
Sailfish OS has done away with navigation via buttons entirely, so everything is done by swiping. Here is how navigation works on Sailfish OS:
- swipe in horizontally from either the right or left edges of the screen to minimise the app you are in and enter home view to see a list of running apps
- pull down the screen slowly to access the pulley menu, which provides you with options
- swipe up from the bottom edge of the screen to access Events view, which is some sort of notifications view
- in the multitasking view, swipe down to access the settings, or swipe up to access your apps
And there are still other gestures – including taps and flicks – besides the above-listed ones. It all takes some getting used to. I am sure that there are people who find it sweet to use, but it didn’t click with me.
The Events/Notifications page is accessible by swiping up from the bottom of the display. It shows you missed calls and texts, emails, instant messages and social network notifications, and system update notifications.
Multi-tasking was reminiscent of how it was on MeeGo, with running apps displayed in a grid of active thumbnails. One sets up social media accounts by going to Accounts in the Settings menu.
The browser was fine, Gmail worked fine, and my contacts were synchronised without issues. Searching through contacts was nice. It works based on picking an alphabet and then all names starting with that alphabet are listed for you to scroll through.
The Jolla received a software upgrade during the time it was with me and that ran OTA without any issues. Sailfish OS works fine and has standard features one would expect on a modern OS built in. However, the whole experience in using the Jolla just didn’t make a strong impression. Some limitations still exist in the OS. For example, selecting multiple photos, the only action available is Delete. There is no option to share. If you pick photos one by one, options to send via Bluetooth and MMS show up. Just those. This is an age of sharing, and that alone just felt bleh. Also, I never was able to get audio notifications for BBM messages all through the time I had the device.
I am not exactly sure why I felt underwhelmed by the Jolla. Was it the software or the hardware?Perhaps a little bit of both? In any case, Sailfish OS is a niche platform for now. Jolla is for geeks, especially people who loved Maemo and MeeGo because they could hack and tweak. If Jolla can stay profitable within that niche, good show. Personally, I just want to pick up a device that I can use right away without resorting to a manual. I was able to do that with the Nokia N9, Jolla’s ancestor that I gushed over with so much effervescent enthusiasm.
Founder of MobilityArena. Yomi’s journey in mobile started in 2001. Besides obsessing over mobile phones, he also started creating WAP sites (early mobile-friendly websites created with WML). He began writing about phones in 2004 and has been at it since then. He has owned over 200 devices, from Symbian, Palm, PocketPC/Windows Mobile, BlackBerry/BB10, webOS, Windows Phone, Firefox, Ubuntu Touch, to Android, iOS, and KaiOS operating systems.