Tim Green: Will Jolla be undone by a bezel? | Mobile Entertainment

Tim Green: Will Jolla be undone by a bezel?

Tim Green: Will Jolla be undone by a bezel?
Tim Green

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General / May 30th 2013 at 2:32PM

The big deal about the MeeGo-based phone is supposed to be its software, but now it's all 'lip talk'.

In the bad old days, before it came storming back to glory with the KRZR and PEBL, Motorola was known to some as the company that made phones by engineers for engineers.

It was a cheap shot, but it had the ring of truth. Sadly, the jibe filtered through my mind again a few days ago when the first Jolla phone was unveiled.

This is not a great-looking phone (of which more later).

To remind you, Jolla is the Finnish company formed by ex-Nokia engineers (yes, engineers) forced out by the cost-cutting move to WinPho and inspired by a vision to build a device range around Nokia's abandoned Linux-based MeeGo platform.

Now, why would they want to do that you ask?

MeeGo only ever supported one and a half phones. The half was the Nokia N900, which was powered by the early version of MeeGo called Maemo.

It was a slider with a qwerty keypad and resembled a fat N97. Yeah, I know. You really want one now.

Then there was the N9, launched in a blaze of glory by Nokia in the form of a press release to a few mobile trade journalists. Apparently it was pretty lovely to use, and looked great too.

But it was buried. And now both of these phones are now rarer than a 70s TV entertainer with a clean arrest record.

So, again, why would anyone want to bring back MeeGo?

Well, like I said, MeeGo had a nice UI, and was also a gift to developer-types who like modding, rooting and all that other stuff.

Read the tech blogs and you'll see there's an army of these individuals out there, demanding access to the guts of their phones.

But what of the public?

As great as it would be to find consumers railing against the iOS/Android duopoly, it's just not happening.

In fact, it's the opposite.

Punters don't seem interested in WinPho or the new BlackBerry despite huge marketing campaigns to convince them to be.

And look at Android. Google wanted to create a vibrant ecosystem around its platform yet the public only seems to want one OEM: Samsung.

And although Samsung offers them various options it only wants Galaxy.

And of all the flavours of Galaxy, it's only interested in S4.

This is very bad news for Jolla, I think.

Especially as its phone really doesn't look so good.

After a tantalising wait, the first handset was revealed a week or so ago. And interestingly, even though you'd think the talk would be about the OS (now called Sailfish), instead most attention went on its looks – specifically on the clip-on back panel.

Now, this is an interesting idea.  

In theory, the detachable panel will support a degree of aesthetic and functional personalisation – with features like wireless charging, more powerful batteries, hard keys for gaming and extra storage all possible.

The trouble is that the snap-on pack gives the device a nasty bezel, and experience shows that phone buyers really hate bezels. If these people want filth on their phones they'll get it from m.youporn, not from human skin and sweat clustering to the perimeter of their touchscreen.

Alarmingly, the dreaded bezel makes the phone look a bit like the Nokia 5800 – a much unloved handset (I had one, which completely died and did so during Mobile World Congress, which wasn't very nice of it).

It's a shame.

Everyone wants to see the plucky underdog succeed – and they don't come much more under canine than Jolla.

I worry, though. For a new OEM to break through, you need a USP. BlackBerry had email. iPhone worked because its UI simply shat over anything that came before. Android worked because it was like iOS but a bit cheaper.

And even if you have a USP, you need distribution and ads and PR and apps.

Firefox and Asha have more of all these than Jolla. And I'm not convinced by them either.

Jolla means dinghy in Finnish – presumably a reference to Nokia's burning platform. 

I hope it's not up shit creek.