Founded by a group of former Nokia engineers, Jolla is one of those companies built more on goodwill and rose-tainted optimism than practical business acumen. Back in 2013, its Sailfish OS promised to extend and develop the potential of Nokia's Harmattan interface, as best demonstrated by the MeeGo-powered N9, but it never really went anywhere. The original Jolla smartphone shipped with notable deficiencies around access to apps and LTE, while boasting a relatively high €399 price. On Thursday, Jolla announced its second smartphone, the Jolla C, offering it as part of a new Sailfish Community Device Program for developers and fans — and it sold out its limited quantity of 1,000 units on the same day.
In its native Finland, Jolla's new initiative costs €169 with VAT, but without any warranties provided for the phone. Despite being the key attraction of the yearlong program, the Jolla C handset is being treated as essentially a dev platform and therefore provided "as is." This seems like a crafty way to avoid taking on the duties of a proper smartphone vendor while still, essentially, selling a smartphone. Another popular way of dodging the proper customer relationship is through crowdfunding, which Jolla tapped for millions in funding through two Indiegogo campaigns for its Jolla Tablet project. Unfortunately, this January Jolla had to cancel the whole thing, promising full refunds if its financial situation allowed it.
From the company that didn't bring you the Jolla Tablet
At this point, Jolla is a company and a platform with no forward momentum and no mainstream appeal beyond serving as a protest vote against the status quo of an Apple-Google mobile duopoly. A thousand willing souls have been found to participate, and they've been promised shipment of the Jolla C device in July. For their money, they'll get a smartphone with a 5-inch 720p display, a Snapdragon 212 processor with 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, an 8-megapixel camera, and a 2,500mAh battery.
It gives me no joy to criticize the little guys trying to take on the established superpowers of the mobile industry. But Jolla's track record, especially with the misfiring tablet campaign bracketed by its two smartphones, leaves a sour taste for me and anyone involved in funding the Sailfish project. Jolla's supporters deserve credit for sustaining it as long as they have, however the entire project now seems foolhardy and destined to join the likes of Firefox OS on the list of failed Android competitors.