Jolla, the Finnish smartphone startup that used the MeeGo open source OS as a jumping off point for its own Android-app compatible Sailfish OS — and which last November released its first handset in its home market — has now expanded availability of the phone to India.
Jolla’s handset is priced at Rs. 16,499 in India (around $270), and is selling exclusively via local ecommerce giant Snapdeal.
India is the second non-European market that Jolla has launched its eponymous debut smartphone into, after adding Hong Kong back in August — via a partnership with the 3 carrier. Elsewhere, it says it has local operator/distribution partners in Finland, Estonia, Kazakhstan and Italy. In most Europe it sells its handsets direct, via shop.jolla.com.
Cumulative sales are an unknown at this point, as Jolla is not disclosing any sales figures for the handset.
While Jolla has set itself up as a refreshing alternative to the dominant smartphone platforms of Android and iOS — with a distinct, gesture-focused interface and smartphone hardware with a twist (thanks to a removable backplate that links via NFC to the phone’s software interface) — the task of standing out in emerging markets with high growth potential, such as India, is getting harder because of increasingly fierce competition in the lower end of the Android space.
Google has refreshed its own platform efforts to better target such markets, with the recent launch of Android One, an initiative to work with OEMs to establish hardware standards to ensure higher quality ‘affordable’ devices — and also build a strong lower end brand for Android, under the Android One banner.
Mountain View announced the first wave of Android One handsets in India just last week, starting at Rs 6,399/$105.
China’s Xiaomi, a smartphone startup which has forked Android and skins the OS with its own MIUI, is also targeting India, recently starting to sell its mid-tier handset, the M3, at Rs.13,999/$230 in the market. So the Android-powered competition is clearly undercutting Jolla’s efforts.
That said, Jolla has never aimed to compete on price — but rather by offering something different to the standard smartphone interface.
Still, it will undoubtedly have its work cut out to convince potential buyers to pay a premium for something different as rival, cheaper Android-powered handsets become increasingly affordable and capable — thanks to better hardware trickling down.
One element that helps Jolla is app compatibility with Android, so although it’s a different smartphone platform it can still tap into the Android app ecosystem. However Jolla’s device only runs a sub-set of Android apps, via an emulator Java virtual machine, and these apps can encounter stability and performance issues. Meanwhile, the number of native Sailfish apps available for Jolla’s handset pales in comparison to the vast scale of native Android/iOS apps on tap.