Jolla – Different, in a good way

Stefano Mosconi is the Chief Information Officer for Jolla. I sat down with him here at Mobile World Congress and he’s an instantly likeable guy, being both open and honest about the product he’s helped to create.

Our very own Aran was one of the first to get the new Jolla Phone in December and we had a demo of the device just the other day. Despite the fact that Android apps pepper the OS, this isn’t an Android-powered device.

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A quick history lesson from Stefano reveals some of the huge decisions that he and others had to make. A few years ago Nokia, before diving into an agreement with Microsoft, decided to create to Maemo OS, based on Linux. It merged with an Intel project called “Moblin” and became MeeGo before the brown stuff hit the fan in early 2011 with that infamous “burning platform” announcement. The development of the MeeGo OS stopped and many staff left. They were faced with a tricky decision. Go and get other jobs, or invest heavily into their own company. They chose the latter, and Jolla was born.

Stefano admits that it was tough, and as he shows me the phone he instantly addresses my first concern before I get chance to voice it.

It’s a tad thick, we know that, but we’re not Samsung. We only have a certain amount of money.

It’s more than refreshing to hear comments like this, let’s put it that way. He’s also frank about how tough the market is and how difficult it is to make money…

It’s linear. The more money you put in, the more you get out.

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Despite the challenges, this is a very young but hugely experienced company who have delivered a separate operating system and a well crafted handset to the market successfully. They have a contagious passion for the product and their community, who are an active and welcome part of Jolla.

Our customers are not numbers.

..says Stefano.

But how do you tackle such a crowded and cut-throat mobile industry? How do you succeed when you have an OS which could be perceived as “incompatible” ? Well, for a start it’s not. The OS runs Android apps smoothly and easily. Sure, there’s no Google Play store but Jolla take care of that with their own store which contains all the apps most people will want when searching for their next phone. Native and Android apps sit in the same store, and the end user never needs to know which is which.

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Currently yes, Jolla seems to be the “early adopter” device, but the plans to move forward appear sound and well researched. Instead of tirelessly burning money to promote their own brand, they have an understated logo at the top of the handset and, surprisingly, one on the battery. None of that dull mAh information and voltage data, just a nice Jolla logo which proves that the designers looked inside as well as out.

Under the rear cover there’s pins for connecting to peripherals that haven’t been developed yet. The community are given the tools to create these, and together Jolla can hopefully deliver new and exciting accessories.

Stefano shows the simple and easy-to-use interface. It’s a GUI controlled by swipes, and you can swipe from the bottom to see your notifications. Simplicity, easy of use and almost no need to look. The OS operates smoothly, with information shown contextually in a gentle and unobtrusive manner. It’s got style, just like the device itself, and it’s about now that you realise how well matched the phone and the OS are.

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This is a company who haven’t just build an OS. Likewise, they’ve not just got some OEM to make a phone and added a logo onto it. They’ve been there, from the start, detailing every element of the phone and the design.

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So here, as you can see, there’s an Angry Bird on the back of this one. It’s a cover which will transform the theme of the handset instantly, and Jolla are hoping that, by keeping their part understated but polished, they can grow in a challenging mobile market.