One week has past with my Jolla in my hands and while everyone were rushing through reviewing the phone without understanding it, I kept it and my laptop’s HDD decided to go bankrupt. Anyhow I made it till today which is the day of the truth!
Please Note: This review is not based on my love and respect to Jolla, and it is totally a one week experience with the phone. So please beware that I’m not being biased. I’m just telling you my experience, my opinions and my understanding of the concept behind Jolla, Sailfish and being open source.
Speaking of open source, why don’t we start?
Shall we ignore any photos or videos of me seen by anyone while un-boxing my phone?
One like this?
— DNA (@DNA_fi) November 27, 2013
Okay yes that was just show off, I don’t have any other picture opening my phone so just let me be happy with it and please continue reading!
Well, it’s an absolutely fantastic design but you don’t actually know what you’re looking at until a person from Jolla tells you that this is a part of the actual source code of Sailfish OS written on the box looking like a fingerprint all together. It totally shows how open they are right from the beginning.
There is this Sailfish logo on the very top of the box (If you hold it vertically) and that is the beginning of the codes. There’s some genius behind this I’m sure because it’s certainly more impressive than the quality of Jolla’s portable charger after you find out it doesn’t even have Jolla logo on it and frankly speaking and to be kind at the same time, it’s a bit too… cost saving I would say. I don’t want to stress on it nor I want to bash in the beginning! but the build quality of the charger is something that does NOT match the build quality of the phone. Use N9′s charger if you still have it I’d say. Matches the white other half perfectly and they have the same output (Both are 1A).
There is a USB cable as well, nothing too special and nothing too bad about it! Because it’s a cable! What can possibly go wrong with that?
Yes, you heard right from here and there! I couldn’t find any headset/headphone either, and I can gladly say that I’m not disappointed because I have never ever used any stock headphone provided on any phone thus they always turn me and my ears down. Always use a third party headphone and I suggest, pay good money for the headphone you’re choosing because it can easily triple the music experience/fun.
The Phone (Hardware)
And finally the phone. So my criticisms about some stuff are done, now I can easily brag about the exquisite and fantabulastic (Yes, that’s a word!) build quality of the phone. I was only “hoping” for some Nokia build quality and my hope turned out to be my luck! I was expeting the other half to get lousy after a while of usage, but it didn’t turn me down and it is absolutely glued to it’s place.
The aluminum first half is great for shooting out some heat while 3G is transferring massive amount of data so the phone won’t turn out to be your expensive heater in Nordic winters. Oh and yes I said 3G, because 4G is not supported until the 1st quarter of 2014. Disappointed? Nah, as long as the hardware is there, which it is.
Being curvy at the side helps a lot for the edge gestures. Unlike Nokia N9 which used to have a curved glass on top of the screen, Jolla phone has a flat gorilla on top but uses the side curves on the aluminum body to help you slid your finger through the ample 4.5” screen. It is slippery enough and there’s no drama.
On top, the first thing that gathers your attention is the unlike way that Jolla used their logo to show off or better say use the customer as a moving little billboard. Jolla logo as you saw in many photos, is engraved by laser on the top left corner of the device, in a way that when you’re holding the phone it definitely will gather the attention of the person in front of you (Even if they are not a geek)
Then next to the logo from left to right, there is the noise canceling microphone being beautifully crafted into aluminum, micro USB port and 3.5mm 4pin headphone jack.
Afterwards you’ll reach the aluminum made power button and volume rockers gathering your attention on the right side of the phone covered in a sort of black/gray color and feeling cool! They are extremely easy to push yet they won’t be misused by accident quite easily.
The bottom of the phone, from right to left, contains the microphone and speaker grills, crafted into the aluminum quite nicely.
They are not too small so when dust goes in, it’s extremely easy to clean them ou with a brush.
And there is a design improvement since the latest prototype that the grills are down by one layer of … grills!
I’d say this is less busy and more good looking while it does not affect the quality of the sound no matter on the microphone (right) or the speaker itself (left).
The N9′s speaker/microphone grill was super good looking but if some small things went into it you were doomed! Thankfully we won’t have that issue here.
Front, you have nothing but pitch black! It’s obviously an all screen phone but not a fake one with virtual soft buttons.
Some may say the bezels are big, but I personally have no problems with them because I know how sensitive the edges are on a gesture based OS like Sailfish and I seriously don’t want to mess with them while having my palm interacted with the edges by accident.
There is a well disguised notification light at the bottom of the lower bezel, there is a 2Mpx (1Mpx usable by the software at the moment, and I am wondering why?!) front facing camera plus an ear-piece and at last the proximity and the ambient light sensor.
There is a 1.4Ghz Qualcomm glowing in there waiting for commands to process, and it does it well! I have a suspicious that it is a bit under-clocked on purpose because you know how linux communities love to overclock stuff, so they made it easier to have fun with!
The processor does it’s job well, and as you will see in the video, it is fast enough because there are no lags or glitches.
There is an Adreno 305 GPU helping the processor to do it’s job better by processing all the graphics. I have tested Munion Rush and Asphalt on it and it performed better than my Xperia V! (Well the Xperia suffers from Adreno 225)
1GB of RAM available is apparently enough, but who wouldn’t go for a 2GB as we have a multitasking super machine here?
To be very honest with you, Jolla should go for a higher RAM. I mean, overall everything seems to be normal but when you have several Android apps open plus a few native apps and then you are willing to run the browser, it’s the moment you see “loading…” for 2-3 seconds! Which is quite okay but unexpected on Sailfish.
IPS LCD panel feels sharp and at the first look you won’t notice any lack of pixels. Honestly, a 720P screen would be sweet and look much better but even on this qHD screen, you barely notice the pixels unless the text is too tiny. I am quite satisfied, but this goes back to personal opinions! I came from a 720P screen to a qHD which is literally downgrading! But I can’t feel it that much because the sharpness of the screen and the colours are just too good. They are *real* colours!
It is the UI as well, it is made to look like as a pixelized glass while not messing with your eyes.
The only criticism goes to the part when you are using the peek feature of the OS and the text on the tile you’re peeking on is too small. Then you run into a problem and you’ll notice the lack of pixels.
Camera is way better than what anyone expected it to be! It is fast and fluid, of course it still lacks some software-wise features such as zoom, or exposure settings, or even Macro mode (I have found out it has a sort of auto Macro but that’s not good enough for me!) but still, the matter of taking photos is well defined for the phone! You can change the place of your shutter key according to your hands position which I found very cool thus it adds speed to your shooting performance.
On the other hand there is this issue with “switching between still and video mode” which is following the N9′s tradition that you have a toggle so you can switch between photo mode or video mode, but nowadays it’s more modern if you simply have both keys (Video shutter / Photo snapper) in one page but looks like it’s not happening, at least for now. It switches very fast but it’s outdated already.
The rear camera is customize-able between 6Mpx and 8Mpx (16:9 and 4:3) and the front cam can do 1Mpx and 0.3 for now. I wonder if they will use the actual 2Mpx front facing camera capacity so duck-facers will be more happy
Oh and one question from Jolla: Couldn’t it be easier if the camera menu would appear from the bottom of the screen so all the buttons were available to use without moving the hand too much? It can be considered for the next update maybe! Pretty please?
I took a night mode sample last night which turned out to be decent! There are noises, but it was really dark and the only lights sources are the ones you see on the round and well, they only light themselves up!
There is a trick with Jolla’s camera! Always use 4:3 aspect ratio to get the best result. 16:9 doesn’t do a good job in detail capturing. Here you have a 4:3 aspect ratio example taken with Flash:
Battery life, well if you are okay with a phone that lasts 1 day when you thrash it’s 3G and use everything in that day (Which is quite normal on these days) then you’re good to go. If you use only 2G then you will have a 2 or more days of usage, but yet you’ll have to wait more for the Internet
There still is work to be done on the power saving or power management in the OS by Jolla’s engineers but this is good enough for me. Better than N9, better than my Sony.
If you need a detailed battery life experience, please tell me in the comment section so I can manage something.
More than what was I expecting. I have been hearing that it’s good and it’s well made, but I never believe as I should until I see what I hear.
You can believe this or not but I’m being honest; hands down… This is so well made!
The two halves stick together like a they are glued together (At least after 1 week of usage and demoing the Other Half features to people there’s no drama) And the phone itself grips to your hand like Nissan GT-R grips to tarmac!
The phone might be bigger than N9, but it is well sized as I can easily use it with one hand *except while typing and walking* and I have relativey small hands.
There is nothing “beta” about the hardware and it is solid as a rock, inside out!
I have been hearing bezel nags from here and there and yet again I have to admit that if ever we had a smaller bezel, as I have mentioned above there would easily have been problems with Sailfish gesture based OS because while holding the phone, there is a high chance of palm interaction with the side bezels, so please let it be like that! Trust me it looks good enough!
Here is a quick hardware video, apologies if the sound is not as loud as possible, I couldn’t make it louder unfortunately.
Dual-core or more? Well I’d say this is more than enough for a simple OS like this. It does not lack performance at any point plus the GPU is doing it’s job well so there always is some performance available to use and thanks to this powerful yet power efficient chip, we have a long lasting battery (In my opinion) with a beta OS.
1GB 2GB? I have said that 1GB is okay but I was hoping for 2GB and I still want 2GB of RAM since this OS is built to do multitasking while having a 2GB RAM also means multitasking! So why not sticking them together for the next device?
Sailfish OS Beta.
It’s all you need for a start! It’s fast, it’s fluid, and it’s fairly responsive. It is the beginning!
Gestures are definitely not complicated if you have a functional brain, some muscles and some nerves to control the moves, because it’s been proven that once your muscle memory gets the gestures, you will undoubtedly apply them on regular phones at least once until you realize that the phone has buttons! If you are a true N9er you’ve already experienced that a lot!
Double tap to unlock gives me a very nostalgic feel from N9 days, and once I push the lock screen up to the home view it immediately makes itself look like a candy bar to my eyes! Because the screen is mounted so high up near the glass, you can actually touch what you see! And since you’re away from tapping on icons, you’ll have a sweet time experiencing the UI. Though it’s hard to explain but you can definitely feel the soul in the OS! I personally am addicted to just play around with the UI already! Just do NOT look at the screen too closely as the pixels will bug you down if you are migrating from a 720P or higher Android device. If you’re coming from N9, you’ll have a good time!
Applications run fast on the phone and they function well. Android apps take only a few seconds to be installed and they run quite smooth. There are some crashes on Android apps here and there at a time, but I blame the OS being beta or the compatibility layer being yet to be fully optimized.
Interacting with active covers are just pure joy! You can do basically every important thing that an application might need to do without opening the app. On the browser, you can add a new tab or refresh the page without opening the app, in media player as you’d know you can play/pause, go to the next song and shuffle! On Jolla store you can directly select search before entering the app, or on the phone app you can simply bring up contacts with a simple interaction. As for third parties, you can simply take screenshot via active covers! Sweet.
Each and every interaction you make, has a special feedback with vibration and sounds. The pulley menu feels absolutely fantastic and it wants you to actually use it every time!! Active covers also have their sounds and vibrations, though the vibrator motor could be something like what we had in N9, very accurate! It’s not that anyways, it’s more of a normal rotation motor.
Social media integration still lacks many components such as a real native integration.
Yes you can have notifications from your Facebook and Twitter, and yes you can see your Twitter feed plus replying or retweeting or switching accounts if you have more than one but no further than that. The most further you can get with the social media is the messaging system which is integrated into your messaging app and everything goes into one place but that needs polishing as well.
Here is a quick software video I made. Sorry if the sound is not as loud as it should be. Apparently I wasn’t able to make it louder. Again!
Many people use Whatsapp and Viber and other services as their messaging apps and those only work of you leave them open which is a pain because there is no active cover for Android apps. No active cover for Android apps means you’ll get motivated to use native apps but there are very limited native apps available to the device and no one knows if for instance Viber is going to make an integrated Silica native app for Sailfish OS. At first it’s the matter of getting big to be noticed by these companies, and Jolla is not yet big enough as a matter of fact. So basically if you have your Android apps open, and you close them, no more notifications for you. That’s why we need native applications ASAP.
It’s not so pleasant to click on your Facebook notification and wait for the browser to come up and open Facebook’s webpage and in that case we all wish for a native solution which in fact was shown in the previous demos of the device and the OS but for some reasons they are not available at the launch. There are some rumors that some guys at the community are making an unofficial client for Facebook, integrated into the OS. But for now, if you don’t want the browser to come on every time simply turn the notifications off as they are not even push notifications. Sadly I found out that they work like N9 and the OS randomly refreshes itself to sync all the notifications in.
Messaging is different though, good job on that and hope to see more integrations into the app soon. (Can anyone make a whatsapp client for Sailfish as an integrated client? Come on! Chop chop )
Music Player looks and sounds amazing. I mostly listen to metal music and when I’m satisfied, others will definitely be satisfied. The loudness is amazing but sometimes too much! The overall quality can be improved by time but as a beta I totally adore it.
Everyone probably knows about the feeds view of Jolla phone by now so I’m only gonna say it’s accessible from basically anywhere with only swipe from the bottom of your screen. It shows every kind of notifications including Facebook and Twitter but if you want to actually tap on them, it opens the browser. I really hope they fix these and have a nice and fluid native social media support.
From the way I see it, it’s a forward going thing. As we have seen on demos before the Facebook feed support is there but not yet published for some unknown reasons (Perhaps it still has polishing and it will soon be added via software updates)
It is absolutely nothing that anyone has experienced no matter if they had N9 or not. It is totally new, totally sweet and maginificant. Yes I loved Jolla from the beginning but thet’s not the case here, my case is my experience with Jolla within 1 week and it is absolutely brilliant. Not perfect, but good enough for a beta.
Lags? Nope! Apparently according to Frame Rate Display (Activated via developer mode) there actually are some lags but my eyes could not catch them yet. And that’s the native UI. If you ask me about Android UI, there are lags as it’s pretty normal because it’s Android. Yet still, despite everything it performs decent!
You can see with all the apps up and running, it barely lags or misbehaves!
Here is a screenshot from the Frame Rate Display. Green means no lag and red means lag for a few miliseconds:
And before we end, I’d like to answer some frequently asked questions from the awesome community The rest of the questions will be answered in our future posts:
- Do some water resistance test!
- Android games run pretty smooth on the device, I have tested Munion rush which used to lag on my Xperia V but runs smooth on Jolla
3. Can you get birthdays/avatars/profile/ to the calendar/contactlist from a social media site like FB, G+ or Twitter?
- The phone gathers them automatically.
4. does the plastic feel cheap ?!
- Not a chance.
5. I only have one thing to ask – can I have your phone?
- I’d love to lend it to you for 0.5 second
6. Does it fits comfortably in your hand . Does it has any rough edge?
- It grips to my hand, it has sharp corners but doesn’t bother my hands.
7. Can you login to Facebook VIA Android apps?
- Instagram worked. Haven’t tried the rest, but should be the same!
8. 1) How’s the battery life in your opinion? 2) How easily does the other half fall off the device? 3) How responsive is the UI generally? 4) How is the Facebook and Twitter experience? 5) How good is reception?
- 1) Decent 2) Easy, but it makes cracking noise. 3) More responsive than imagination can handle 4) Not quite as I hoped! 5) Decent enough
9. Is there any difference between the poppy red other half, and the white?
- Yes, Limited Other Half brings you a special ambience, special ringtones and it has “The First One” written on it.
10. Have you gotten any updates for Sailfish or any apps yet?
- Yes, Wikipedia app got updated yesterday!
11. Does it get hot on the back or on the front like the N9 when used alot.? Can you OC it?
- Most of the heat generated by 3G modem goes out via the aluminium first half (Mostly on top of the device)
12. In the email application, with various imap folders, is there a ‘mark folder as read’ function? (to mark all emails in that folder as read)
- Interesting question, but could not find it…
13. Can it record hd video? Full hd?
- Yes, 1080P
14. System wide font magnifier/manager…?? Does it have a flashlight as default ??
- Magnifier, yes! Manager? Not yet. Flashlight is available as an application.
There were more questions on Jolla Pioneer Fans group on Facebook but this is getting way longer than expected so why don’t we postpone them to our next articles? Or maybe dedicate an article just for Q & A? Tell me your opinions!
And in case if anything is missing, kindly please remind me in the comment section so I can make more in depth posts about them.
Any request, is highly appreciated as well.
If you think this review was biased, well you’re wrong. I still have criticisms left out that I want to dedicate a post to them just for the sake of being more organized, this was an overall 1 week experience of mine.
In my personal opinion from what I see, Jolla is the future of mobile industry only if they continue what they are doing exactly as they are inspired to do it now. They are changing some definitions and one can not understand unless they try the OS out. As said, it’s a forward going thing and according to them, and my experience, despite the awesomeness there is a lot work to do on the software.
Good luck Jolla Family.