Rovio To Make Angry Birds Smart Covers For Jolla’s Sailfish OS Handset

In a Finnish startup love-in, Angry Birds maker Rovio and Sailfish OS smartphone maker Jolla are partnering for co-branded content on Jolla’s first handset. Jolla is also working with Finland’s F-Secure to bring its secure cloud storage service, younited, to Jolla handsets — due to be made available “very soon.”

Jolla said its Sailfish OS has now reached release 1.0 and is almost ready to expand beyond Europe — a fourth update is due to the software at the beginning of March, after which it will be “commercially ready” for global distribution, Jolla said today.

The startup has previously talked about China being a big opportunity for its hardware and software but Jolla’s initial launch has been focused on Europe.

Jolla’s Sailfish OS uses a gesture-based user interface, without physical (or software) back buttons, and with the centerpiece being a dynamic homescreen that displays running but minimised apps as active cards so users can see multiple portions of content at a glance.

The Sailfish platform also includes Android compatibility so users of Jolla’s first handset can download and run Android apps via third-party Android stores such as the pre-loaded Yandex.Store.

Software tweaks to the Sailfish OS coming in the March update include “improved performance, extended landscape support, lots of visual improvements, lots of new camera functionalities, enhancements to the Jolla store, new general settings, and many more”, Jolla said today.

Jolla added that it is negotiating with partners in several countries to expand the handset’s availability outside Europe, including Russia, India and Hong Kong — where it said it will open online sales in the “near future”.

It also said it’s in discussions in “several” European countries to open up new sales channels. It does not specify what these channels are exactly but one possibility is being ranged by more European carriers. In Finland, Jolla’s phone is available through local carrier DNA’s shops.

Android expansion

Another way Jolla is seeking to extend the reach of its Sailfish OS is by making it available to select Android device users as a download so they can sample the gesture-based interface. It said it plans to release the downloadable Sailfish OS software in phases during the first half of 2014.

Initially it will be releasing a Sailfish UI Android launcher, as a downloadable Android app — due to arrive on and “common” Android market places “in the near future”, ahead of the full Sailfish OS download.

It said this is so the launcher can act as a primer for Android users who might want to then re-flash their phones with the full Sailfish OS. The OS has already been ported to select Android devices by members of the Sailfish community, including some Samsung Galaxy handsets, Google Nexus, and Sony Xperia. Community porting to Xiaomi devices is also “under way”, according to Jolla.

“We see this as a huge volume opportunity for Sailfish OS as there are close to a billion Android users globally. Many of them are looking for new user experiences to freshen up their existing devices,” said Antti Saarnio, Chairman of the Board of Jolla, in a statement.

“Last year in China alone, about 100 million devices were re-flashed after the purchase with a new operating system. This approach allows Sailfish OS to scale into volume fast without limitations. This is a scaling opportunity in a similar way as we have seen in the mobile gaming industry recently.”

Smart covers

Returning to the smart covers, Jolla and Rovio said the Angry Birds themed handset, currently in development, will make use of phone’s smart cover — which is known as The Other Half — as a bold canvas for Angry Birds character designs (as pictured above) and also to give users access to “tailor made ambiences, sounds, images, videos, and more”.

Jolla’s smart covers incorporate NFC so they can tie in with the software on the phone — meaning when a particular Other Half is put onto the handset it can change the look and feel of the software — by, for instance, altering theme colours and graphics.

In the Angry Birds Other Half example, it’s not clear whether any exclusive gaming content will also be made available via the smart cover. But that could presumably be an option.

Asked for more details, a Jolla spokesperson told TechCrunch: “As we’ve just started the co-operation, we can’t say exactly what the Angry Birds The Other Half will include, but we’re working together with Rovio to bring the full Angry Birds experience to Jolla.”

Currently Angry Birds games can be loaded to Jolla’s handset from Android app stores such as Aptoide. The preloaded Yandex app store also has Angry Birds rights but only for Russia and CIS countries.

Commenting on the forthcoming Angry Birds Other Half in a statement, Rovio’s Peter Vesterbacka said: “This co-branding concept gives Rovio a new fun way to delight the fans, and to expand the Angry Birds experience in an innovative way.”

The pair said the Angry Birds smart cover will be available in the first half of this year. Which — if it gets pushed to the end of that timeframe — could mean another fairly lengthy wait for Jolla fans, after the initial wait to get their hands on the handset itself.

Jolla’s origins date back to July 2012, when the core team of MeeGo engineers left Nokia to carry on developing the platform Nokia was abandoning. Jolla’s first phone finally went on very limited sale in Finland of a few hundred units, at the end of November 2013. Sales were then opened up to the whole of European Union countries, plus Switzerland and Norway, in late December — via Jolla’s online shop, costing €399. (You can read TechCrunch’s review of the handset here.)

As well as partnering with Rovio, also today Jolla said it has signed up Finnish clothing company Makia to make a co-branded Other Half — also due in the first half of this year.

“With the custom made wallpapers, ringtones and other sounds, direct online store access, photo galleries, product catalogues, and feeds to current news and events, the Makia The Other Half will be an effective marketing and sales tool for our brand, and a sought-after experience for all Makia fans,” said Jarno Luotonen, Creative Director/Marketing, at Makia Clothing.