An engineer's view on product launch

Today we launched the Jolla-phone:

We have worked hard to get to this point and there is still a lot of work ahead before this beauty is in the shops. Launch is one of the major milestones in any product's lifecycle, and many potentially good products do not even see that day. I'm so happy that we have gotten this far and the general public starts to see what we have been cooking.

For an engineer last weeks before product launch are typically quite intense. There are a lot things to do.

This time around I was pretty much doing my normal development work until almost last week before the launch. I was initially not too involved in the launch preparations since I was thinking that the app I've been lately working on would not be demoed, since it was not quite yet good enough. However, last week there was demand to get that also in a bit more polished state so that it also could be demoed if needed. I got some additional help working on it, and we got the biggest issues solved.

At the end of last week I was also asked to help with a demo content a bit so I did couple of longer days helping to get that done. Friday was the longest day for me. In the morning I quickly updated one of our older apps since somebody from management thought that we need to be able to quickly show it if needed. After finishing updating the app, it was time to prepare the devices for the hands-on sessions. We had few of the devices at the office and we were going to put the final software and setup on them, and then test that it all works perfectly. This took a bit longer than we thought and it was about 10 at the evening when we were ready.

I'm actually quite happy about how the last minute crunch went. Some people did work on last weekend, but most of the stuff was ready early enough. In some launches it has been much worse, I remember times when practically whole teams have lost their final weekends for last minute preparations.

Today and the next few days are one of the most interesting days for me. This is because now the feedback starts to come in. I love reading feedback on the device and on the software. The thing is that when we plan and design the features, the look, and in general how it all will works we do a lot of thinking and speculation on how people will use the device and what to they need. There are sometimes quite strong debates around these areas ("It needs to have this", "it can't behave like that", "That color is not pink enough"). Now we start to really see if we have been right or wrong in our thinking, and I find it very fascinating to know how well we have understood people's needs and answer them with a product.


  1. (Warning! Long post!)

    Wow Jolla, I get more invested & impressed with the brand every time I see it! What a big day!

    I love the potential of the two halves idea that was shown and the endless possibilities presents. It is definitely a step forward in the mobile space. I am really glad that the top half is anodized aluminium as at first I thought it was a cheap plastic (probably because of the combination of the glass covering it and the low res video I was watching). The device really is looking like a work of a craftsman. I like it.

    I am curious about the decision to place the buttons on the left-hand side, and whether or not this could be customised (another innovation?). As always, there is a lot of talk on TMO about the bezel. Less always seems to be preferred, but I presume people will never be satisfied until there is a bezel-less phone. What I would really have liked to know from the presentation was if the glass will be polarized, have smudge-proof layer, be hardened glass, and really importantly is the gap between the glass and the screen minimal (as this definitely add to the premium craftsman perception).

    On the software side, the thing looks as smooth as butter. Incredible job you've done, I must say! Loving the integrated functions in the feeds where flicking forward/backwards sends you to the contact card/home view without going and opening the app (its so quick and smooth! why hasn't this been done before?!), I also love the little animation of the indicators as you flick back & forth (its all in the details, isn't it!). Talking about details, I also like the subtle animation when closing apps from the multitasking screen.

    Areas where the software side could use some polish lay mainly in improving glance-ability. For instance, in the demos, many of the covers look very similar until closer inspection. I think the should look unique and importantly, should be vibrant. Have a look at this article which I mostly agree with (http://sfietkonstantin.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/i-like-sailfish-but-2nd-episode-the-wp-syndrom/). This glance-ability point also extends to the integrated messages app where it seems difficult to quickly pick up my message to my friend's message purely by the left & right justification. At the moment the perception is of a messy block of text. Maybe using different coloured backgrounds for each person, or shadows or textures would be enough. I'm sure you guys have something simple & clever up your sleeves to improve this. I still think the font size is a little on the large side, but maybe because I like to scroll as little as possible. It would also be nice to see a demo of some quick scrolling option, like we have on the N9.

    Anyway, that's all the feedback I can think of from what I saw in the demos.

    Congrats Veskuh & Jolla on the launch, I was very surprised and impressed! Cant wait to hear more, you've done a great job thus far.

    1. Not all of the top is aluminum, just the frame, but still it is good looking design.

      Many things about the physical aspects of the product (like button, speaker, connector, camera placement) are also a bit of a compromise between what the suppliers are offering to us and what we want to do. If you are big company like Samsung you have huge engineering resources and you can do pretty much what you want by redesigning everything. We on the other hand have to think much more about what reference design is and what would be the cost in time and money to customize the off-the-self component to match our desires more.

      For example the bezel is something that is not maybe optimal. We do what we can to improve it, but at the same time motherboard design and display placement constrain what can be done in the time we have.

      I do wish that we could have released a more thorough product spec that would have included the specifics of the display. I'm sure many people are curious about that, but I guess there was commercial reasons why these details could not be released yet.

      Social media integration to the user experience is definitely one of my favorite things of what we are doing on SW side. I loved events feed in N9, and I definitely love the way we try go even beyond that experience and I do want to see more of that kind of solutions in the UI.

      Yep, I've read that article and I know that our designers have also seen that. We have worked on to improve the covers and continue to do so. I think it is a bit better when you have the device on your hand than what it looks like on the video, but there is still room for improvement. This is also one of the reasons the grid is limited 3x3. Critique towards the messages app is fair, the conversation view is not yet clear enough.

      We have had two quick scrolling implementations already and I'm sure that we will find the right one and have it by the time we ship.

      Thanks a lot for the feedback. It's nice to get feedback, and it is especially nice when it is well thought out and constructive like yours.

  2. Hi Veskuh,

    I thought I'd let the dust settle a little bit before revisiting the videos and info that has been released since the launch. I'm glad you appreciated the feedback. I am very much behind Jolla & want to help out as much as I can to make it a success.

    I understand the compromises with respect to the product & what suppliers provide as I am also an engineer, albeit in a different field. At this point in time, what I am a little worried about is the phone's general durability, especially for the price stated at launch for a phone with significant risk. According to a PocketNow podcast, somebody present at launch is worried the phone feels cheaply made & missing tactility, although I know the models shown were prototypes & will change at release time. I did notice something subtle sortof with regards to the hardware - the phone now rotates in the opposite direction to the N9 in landscape mode. With the buttons being on the top & opposite side, it opens up the opportunity to use one of these buttons as the camera button, without adding an extra button. Nice, if true.

    On improving the glance-ability of the covers, I am glad that the designers are looking into it. If I may add, I think a large part of the problem is because of the dominance of Ambience. As a result of the background & apps having the same colour filter, each becomes somewhat indistinguishable from the other. It would be good to have a separate wallpaper background, and in-app background, or even turn Ambience off within apps. That might help with half the problem anyway.

    On the topic of Ambience, personally I swing between loving it & not. I think it’s because the weave/honeycomb texture takes away from the general purity & slickness of the OS within text dominated apps. Maybe you guys can inject some fun in it with different textures/filters such as something cleaner, flatter or even one that would make the background look like a Van Gough painting.

    Regarding the new icons, I like them. There's a purity and sense of fun in them. The only thing I could add to clean them up somewhat is to have smoother radius changes to the curves. As I see it, if I divide the icon into quarters, I can have 'pizza slice' or a box. It is the transition between each element that could benefit from smoothing of the curves. But overall, I'm a fan of the new app icon designs & would have no problem if they were final.

    Icons in status area on the other hand, need to look more pure/clear, and unification needs to be done between them & toggle icons & elsewhere. They just need more transparency in design to make them easily identifiable from varying distances/angles - weighting is important here. At the moment, some look like big blobs of white.

    I also noticed that there aren't any buttons to speak of. I could be wrong, but I've only seen text with a line underneath. Out of curiosity, are these coming or is this by design?

    I have a small idea that might add to ease of use of the OS. When you have the indicators at the top, and you swipe back, it brings to back to a home view & basically forgets where you've been. It may be handy to temporarily remember where you've been so when you swipe back/forward it takes you to where you've been. The indicator might fade out after a few seconds. This would be good for when I accidentally swipe back, without meaning to.

    Some things I'm looking forward to seeing in future previews are Folders (I hear they're coming), swipe down to close which is so convenient & integral to the experience on my N9, & options for message preview on the lockscreen. I'm also curious about the behaviour of the phone when you lock & unlock the phone whilst in an app. Does it go straight back into the app or does it go back to the homescreen? The behaviour on the N9 is quite convenient, for example changing a song in the music player without looking. Also, it would be cool to know what apps you're personally working on. Peace

    1. Yes, the device mechanics is something that we have worked on and the final version will be more solid/durable than the devices shown at launch. The buttons are on the left like you noticed.

      I agree on the status area icons. They are important and do need further polish.

      Text button is really just a text with a line underneath. We do not use it often in the built in apps. Then there is also icon button which is essentially just clickable icon without any additional chrome.

      Remembering where you swiped from is an interesting idea. It would definitely be useful, but like with many of these things it something that really needs to be experimented with to really see if it works or not.

      Yep, pretty much all those things (close, message previews, folders, ..) have been on our backlog. Let's see how much we can get done before release.

      After unlocking it goes back to home screen (the multitasking view), since lockscreen is part of the home canvas.

      Lately, I've been mostly using my time on the browser.