Finnish MeeGo Startup Jolla Reveals First Phone: 4.5″ Display, Customisable Shells, $513 Price-Tag, Shipping At Year’s End

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Jolla, the Finnish MeeGo startup composed of ex-Nokians building their own mobile hardware and Sailfish OS, has finally taken the wraps off its first handset, revealing what the hardware will look like on its website. The design is a clean-looking, elegant slab, with the most stand-out feature being the coloured shell on the back that wraps around half the sides of the phone to create a dual-tone sandwich effect.

The shell colours, which appear to be user-customisable, can also influence the theme colours of the Sailfish UI. This is a feature Jolla is calling “the Other Half”. “Attach the Other Half and your Jolla becomes alive and unique,” the text notes. “Magically, the software changes to match your selected colour and design. Your Ambience. Your Jolla.” It’s unclear exactly what technology is linking hardware and software but it sounds like it could be NFC.

The removable, customisable shells bring to mind Nokia’s Lumia 820 — a device for which Nokia has released the 3D print files so owners of 3D printers can  design and print their own custom shell. The Lumia 820 shells, however, do not have any link to the Windows Phone software.

Jolla’s handset will cost €399 ($513) and is slated to ship at the end of the year. Jolla notes:

Expected availability by end of 2013 subject to demand in your local market. Sales will start in European countries with more countries to follow. If you join the Movement and get the pre-order number to buy the phone when available, you’ll pay no more than 399€; including applicable VAT in Europe, but excluding shipping costs, duties and any local taxes.

Specs wise, the device has a 4.5″ Estrade display, a dual-core chip, 4G, 16GB internal memory plus a microSD card slot, an 8MP auto focus camera, a user-replaceable battery. The device is powered by Jolla’s Sailfish OS but can also run Android apps, giving it something of a leg up. Jolla is also encouraging developers to build native Sailfish apps too.

Jolla

Jolla

Jolla

The hardware reveal is also the start of Jolla’s pre-order sales campaign, announced last month. Jolla confirmed it is taking pre-orders from today, with the first shipments due at the start of Q4 2013. It is accepting pre-orders of either €100 or €40 for a limited edition Jolla (plus exclusive Other Half for those making the higher payment). It is also accepting pre-orders without any down payment to be among the first to get a Jolla handset.

The big question for Jolla is has it done enough to sustain people’s interest in a device that won’t ship for at least half a year — during which time scores more Android-powered handsets will arrive, and companies like Samsung will continue to push the limits of flagship phone hardware.

Jolla is holding an event in Helsinki today — dubbed the Jolla LoveDay — to promote the handset and encourage fans to pre-order the device, having kept the design tightly under wraps up to now.

Jolla