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Smartphones Reviews
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Jolla smartphone review: The iPhone and Android alternative with Sailfish OS


Manufacturer: Jolla

Our Rating: We rate this 2.5 out of 5

There's a new smartphone and mobile operating system on the block. Here's our full review of the Sailfish OS Jolla smartphone.

Jolla smartphone apps

The Jolla, in case you haven’t heard of it, is a smartphone from a team of ex-Nokia employees. It’s pronounced yol-la, and the device runs on a 'new' operating system called Sailfish. We say that because Sailfish is based on another mobile OS called MeeGo.

MeeGo was owned by Nokia but got ditched in favour of Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system. The last MeeGo device was the Nokia N9 smartphone which never launched in the UK.

MeeGo is an open source project, so the ex-Nokia employees used it to make Sailfish. The Jolla smartphone is effectively the N9's legacy.

Jolla smartphone the other half

It costs €399 (£329), so isn’t trying to compete with the Motorola Moto G or other budget smartphones. Currently, there's a 2-3 week wait for delivery and you'll have to pay €15 (£12) for shipping. It's a little frustrating that a UK plug isn't included but you've probably got a USB charger lying around already.

Jolla smartphone video review

Jolla smartphone: Design and build

The Jolla’s design is quite unlike any other smartphone we’ve seen. The two-tone black and white case makes the Jolla look a little like Sony's Xperia devices.

It has a two-piece construction with the front section being rounded at the top and bottom, and the back piece having rounded sides. The sides which aren’t rounded are square, resulting in a slab that’s not as comfortable to hold as other smartphones. It's a little chunky at 9.9mm and a middling weight of 141g.

The rear piece is a cover which unclips to reveal a removable battery, micro-SIM card slot and microSD card slot.

The removable covers, which come in a number of different colours, each have an NFC chip which stores information. When attached to the phone, the case dictates the wallpaper, custom tones and other settings.

The feature is called 'The Other Half'. The Keira Black and Aloe covers on Jolla’s site acost €29 (£24) each – an expensive way to change your wallpaper, but more reasonable if you just want to personalise your phone.

In the box you get a white 'The Other Half' cover and it's prone to becoming grubby.

Jolla smartphone: Hardware and performance

The Jolla is powered by a 1.4GHz dual-core processor made by Qualcomm and 1GB of RAM. That used to be about right for a mid-range smartphone, but these days the devices like the Nexus 5 and Moto G have quad-core chips. Dual-core can offer just as good performance with software optimisation and while apps generally open and close without hesitation and navigations animations are smooth, we've encountered some hiccups.

Jolla smartphone homescreen

The camera app is sluggish to load and web browsing isn't flawless, with pinch-to-zoom unreliable and a noticeable lag when rendering pages. Games don't perform well either with Fruit Ninja playing at a depressingly poor frame rate.

There's 16GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot underneath the rear cover for adding more, so we’ve no quibbles there.

A 7.98Wh battery is removable and we've found performance to be of a good standard. The Jolla has lasted a couple of days fairly comfortably and didn't drop much in percentage overnight.

The rest of the specifications are towards the top end of the mid-range with a 4.5in IPS screen which has a qHD resolution (540x960). Colour saturation is good, giving the display an eye-popping look without slipping into garish territory.

Unfortunately contrast isn't its forte, and the viewing angles aren't up to the normal IPS standard we're used to. There seems to be certain sweet spots where the display looks fine but at angles in between these, everything goes a bit dim and contrast drops off.

You get the usual Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and A-GPS, plus 4G support which you'd expect to find on a modern smartphone (the Moto G is stuck at 3G speeds, for comparison). It's also got NFC, but this is only there for use with the Jolla's interchangeable covers (see design and build).

Jolla smartphone: Cameras

There's an 8Mp rear camera with an LED flash and a 2Mp front-facing webcam. Those numbers sound reasonable enough, but as we've said time and again, they're no guarantee of quality.

As you can see from the test photo below, the main camera is ok when light is decent, but it struggles to come up with anything decent when indoors.

Jolla camera test shot

The camera app is extremely basic only allowing you to adjust the flash mode, white balan

ce and auto-focus. Switch into video mode and you can record 1080p clips – see our test footage below.

Jolla Expert Verdict »

Sailfish OS
4.5in IPS display (540x960), 245 ppi
1.4GHz Duad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 CPU
Adreno 305 GPU
16GB internal storage
microSD (up to 64GB)
8Mp rear camera, AF with LED Flash
2Mp front camera
Video recording at up to 1080p
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0
7.8Wh battery
  • Build Quality: We give this item 6 of 10 for build quality
  • Features: We give this item 5 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 4 of 10 for value for money
  • Performance: We give this item 5 of 10 for performance
  • Overall: We give this item 5 of 10 overall

The Jolla is an interesting new smartphone with its eye-catching Sailfish OS. However, it's too expensive for the average hardware on offer, a confusing interface and a reliance on Android apps. You're better off getting the superior Nexus 5 and saving a few quid in the process.

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