New players in the smartphone market are finding it increasingly difficult to get the mobile operator support they need to expand their reach into new territories as Android and iOS form a duopoly responsible for more than 90 percent share of the market. Even Windows Phone, an established competitor, is struggling as it goes against the tide.
Jolla, being a new player, is no exception. The Finnish company says it is now ready to ship its smartphones across the globe, as it officially announced Sailfish OS 1.0, but the mobile operator support and international availability are not what you may call stellar at this point.
The company has announced it will sell its smartphones to those in Hong Kong, India and Russia, but, given that there is no mobile operator name involved at this point in any of the three markets, Jolla implies it is doing so directly. "Jolla is now rapidly entering into new markets, and is negotiating with partners in several countries, including Russia, India and Hong Kong where Jolla will open online sales in the near future", says the company in a blog post. Jolla also says it plans to expand in Europe, but there is no estimate for a possible launch.
Jolla's only mobile operator partner appears to be local -- Finland's DNA -- judging by the information provided so far. Direct sales may be fine, but not that many people are willing to shell out for expensive hardware off-contract, or import it from other markets.
Here is the Jolla OS 1.0 changelog: "The fourth software update released in the beginning of March, raising the software to commercial readiness, will again include many important improvements and new features. These will include further improved performance, extended landscape support, lots of visual improvements, lots of new camera functionalities, enhancements to the Jolla store, new general settings, and many more".
"We believe that Jolla now offers a truly viable option for all smartphone users. Naturally we are not stopping here, as we continue to provide monthly software updates to Jolla devices and Sailfish OS,” says Jolla co-founder and COO Marc Dillon. Other than launching in March and being ready for prime time at that point (which is debatable before any testing is performed), there is not much concrete info thus far.
There is a nice tidbit in the blog post, however. Jolla says it plans to release "the Sailfish OS experience as downloadable software to devices running Android OS". I can only assume it is firmware the company is talking about there. That is certainly an interesting approach to gaining market share, as there are many enthusiasts out there who are ready to ditch the pre-installed software and move to a third-party one. I have been in that place countless times, and it is a wonderful learning experience. The only thing that may hold those very people back is the size of Jolla's app store, but seeing as the OS is compatible with Android apps some of the important titles may already be compatible, and available to sideload. Perhaps BlackBerry should attempt to do the same.
For those who do not want to get rid of the pre-installed firmware on their smartphones, Jolla will also offer an Android launcher that mimics the Sailfish OS user experience. It will be available "for download in the near future from Jolla.com and from common Android market places".
From what Jolla is telling us so far, the company seems to have a better chance of gaining market share through Android rather than sales of its own smartphones, which face an uphill battle in gaining extended mobile operator support and consumer attention in most markets across the globe. As you might expect, the company will showcase Jolla smartphones and Sailfish OS 1.0 at MWC in Barcelona, later this month.