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Summary:

The Finnish handset maker is about to launch its handset on a small scale, but last year we were told of widespread distribution plans in China, as well as $260 million in backing from the “Sailfish Alliance”. Turns out that’s all on hold.

Jolla phone

This was a big week for Finland’s Jolla, what with the announcement of a launch date for its first smartphone, and the news that it will carry Yandex’s alternative Android store and Nokia’s Here maps. However, there was nothing said about some of Jolla’s early announcements, which promised all kinds of big backing. So what happened there?

This month’s launch is going to be as small as it gets — on November 27th, Finnish carrier DNA will have a pop-up shop in Helsinki for a single evening with a stock of just 450 devices. People have also been able to pre-order Jolla smartphones online, though the company has consistently refused to quantify that first batch’s numbers, saying only that there were “up to 50,000 units.”

Rewind back to July 2012, and the still wet-behind-the-ears Jolla was touting a much bigger deal, even before it revealed the DNA agreement in November of that year:

That agreement was with D.Phone, a big Chinese retailer, and we have heard not a word about this deal since November 2012. Although it’s no longer to be found on Jolla’s own site, the press release began:

“Jolla Ltd., a rising Finnish smartphone product company, has signed a Sales and Distribution agreement with D.Phone Group, the largest mobile phones retail chain in China. Together the companies have a shared target to reach significant sales volumes in China’s 150 million smartphone market. The agreement is such that D.Phone will start sales and distribution of Jolla smartphones in China, utilising D.Phone’s vast network of over 2000 retail stores to reach the Chinese consumers.”

It looked like a very promising start, so what happened? The contract “still exists”, according to Jolla CEO Tomi Pienimäki (already the company’s third chief), but it’s sounding a whole lot vaguer these days.

“There simply there hasn’t been action in that area because we haven’t had the device to deliver,” he told me on Friday. “Now we start the deliveries in Finland and Europe, and at some point we go to China… most likely next year, but we do not have any specific plans yet. We are a small company and we have to proceed in phases. It’s natural for us that we start in Finland, and that is what we are doing with DNA.”

“We need to gain experiences regarding the product and processes and after that we enter the next market.”

The other big announcement Jolla made early on was that of the
Sailfish Alliance, whose members were supposed to back Jolla’s Sailfish OS to the tune of $260 million. To quote from the original press release:

“The alliance partners will be investing an estimated 200 million euros to ensure the success and rapid expansion of the new ecosystem. The 200M€ ecosystem financing will come in gradually from Jolla and as members join the alliance, which will include chipset vendors, OEM and ODM manufacturers, operators and retailers.”

Pienimäki stressed the word “estimated” in that statement, telling me: “There has been some mis-understanding in the press [about] what we told and what was [reported] in some media. At that time we said that we believe to be able to build such an alliance would take a lot of money and partners.”

“It has been in practice on hold because we haven’t had the resources to do it.”

I wouldn’t beat up on Jolla for being small — everyone has to start somewhere — but it does feel like a lot of the company’s initial momentum didn’t really pan out, so it’s worth being clear about where those initial pronouncements stand today. The phone does look neat, though, so here’s hoping those early experiences Pienimäki mentions are good ones.

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  1. To bad that they aren’t going directly into the chinese market.
    With that great compagnion it could give the company the start boost it needs.

    Hope it will become a succes anyway, I’ve pre-ordered so I’m assured of a Jolla device!

  2. ^Well, it’s unclear if they’re NOT going directly into the Chinese market via d.phone/similar, this article is far from proving that.

  3. The underlying negative tone of this article is not really justified. For a company of approx 80/90 they have done an extraordinary job of creating and launching a new smartphone and small ecosystem in a short timescale.

    They have focused on the product where their strengths are and there is every chance that the D.Phone deal will contniue, along with Sailfish OS Alliance.

    If this was about a larger outfit then the tone would be justified.

  4. I think the grand scale of modern smartphone business has misled the perception about Jolla. They are well on their track with an OS, upcoming actual device, their own app store for sailfish, active and loyal developers and fans.

    It’s an amazing feat for them to actually ship the device. Besides they are currently on a recruiting spree.

    There’s no need to compete with billion selling Android, when a unique design and functional platform will sell enough for them to continue developing their dreams. Sounds more like they have become realistic.

  5. In my opinon the market is all about Android, iOS and Windows Phone 8 at the moment, and probably will continiue to be so.

    BlackBerry 10 was out to late. Tizen, Firefox OS and Jolla are also out to late.
    If the system are good or not have not so much to do with it. Its like with the gaming consoles in a way. Very difficult be out in wrong time and make some impact at the market.

  6. I think everyone needs a chill pill…
    They are getting their first phone out to market…
    And everyone should wish them well, its an amazing achievement into a
    cut-throat market.

    If anybody thinks they know something now they are idiots…

    Good luck Jolla

  7. As a Chinese Jolla fan, I think that is normal…

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