Jolla, the Finnish startup comprised of ex-Nokians who left to keep the MeeGo fire burning, has confirmed it will be showing off its first handset next month, and kicking off a “pre-sales” campaign to allow fans to register to buy the phone. Although Jolla has demoed its Sailfish UI in some detail before, it has generally been tight-lipped about its plans for the device’s hardware design — so next month will mean another big reveal.
Jolla had previously pegged the second half of this year for its debut device launch. Today it has confirmed to TechCrunch that this launch timeframe is not changing, despite its intention to show the phone next month. It provided the following emailed statement confirming the pre-sales campaign and noting that the shipping timeframe remains the same:
Jolla will showcase its first device in May. The exact timing of the introduction will be announced later. A pre-sales campaign is expected to start after mid-May. The campaign is currently being planned and further details will be available at the time of the product introduction. The sales start of the first Jolla device will take place during the second half of 2013 as earlier announced.
The pre-sales campaign was reported earlier in Finnish publication digitoday, which ran an interview with Jolla chairman Antti Saarnio. According to the interview (translated from the Finnish by Google translate), the pre-sales campaign will be a “Kickstarter-style” crowdfunding campaign, whereby early backers can expect to get a device with a few special extras compared to buyers who pile in later.
Jolla told TechCrunch via Twitter that the pre-sales campaign is not a crowdfunding campaign to fund the initial production run, rather “pre-sales is for the fans to sign up their interest and make sure they get the device first”. However the distinction between a pre-sales campaign for fans and a crowdfunding campaign to fund production is a minimal one, and mostly a difference of emphasis.
In its interview with digitoday, Saarnio apparently talks about taking “advance payments” and “pre-payments” from fans who register to buy the device — payments that “will not be so great as to constitute a threshold for the fans” but will be tiered, allowing them to get a more “tailored” phone, the more they pay.
Jolla has not, however, confirmed this advanced payment detail separately to TechCrunch. Its statement suggests it is still finalising plans for the pre-sales campaign. Update: Jolla has now confirmed via Twitter that it will be taking payments ahead of the phone’s launch from fans who intend to buy it. “Yes, there will be various options to show the support and get something in return. Stay tuned for the announcement in May,” it said.
The pre-sales campaign is clearly part of Jolla’s marketing and community-building efforts to spread the word about Sailfish and build momentum behind it. But taking payments ahead of production also makes sense for a startup with limited resources to build hardware and one that is competing in such as fiercely competitive space, against smartphone makers with such huge resources.