African smartphone brand Mi-Fone has inked a new deal with Scandinavian company Jolla that will see the former’s devices powered by software from the latter. The partnership with Mi-Fone is part of Jolla’s Sailfish Africa program which debuted last year.
Mi-Fone is expected to make available in the market (select countries) its first smartphone running Sailfish OS by mid-2016. Mi-Fone’s current smartphone lineup which is very aged as there have been no new devices in a long time, runs on Google’s Android. It is not clear at this point if the company will, like Indian counterpart Intex, keep Android while still experimenting with Sailfish or it will go all in on the new platform. The latter option is unlikely since Android devices are very popular on the continent, a market Mi-Fone hopes to have properly cannibalized by the year 2020.
Mi-Fone has been angling for a comeback to the African smartphone market since an unnamed investor came on board last year. With the Mi-Fone CEO, Alpesh Patel, revealing to us that the company was giving itself at least six months to turn itself around, it looks like Jolla’s Sailfish was part of its plans from the start. Not only will it give it the difference it needs to stand out from budget devices by competitors, it will also allow it to break some new ground as well since the Sailfish Africa program is meant to localize Sailfish.
Jolla has focused its energies on availing its software to the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) after putting on hold its hardware ambitions. The company’s earlier efforts in hardware did not go well in a market already crowded with budget devices powered by Google’s Android operating system. However, it believes it can make a difference by providing its software to nations looking for solutions that give them the flexibility they desire while also ensuring security and privacy, key themes when it comes to opposition to some aspects of platforms like Google’s Android by authorities in some countries.
Ethical smartphone maker Fairphone, who also entered into an understanding with the Finnish company that may see it bundle the software on its devices, will be giving users an option to go with Sailfish or its existing options if that happens.
Jolla entered the African market last year starting in South Africa where it formed a consortium of local players. In Russia, it is helping the government to come up with its own mobile operating system. In India, Jolla has partnered with Intex which will be releasing the first Sailfish OS-powered smartphone in the market this year come April, the Aqua Fish. Last year, the Indian firm was the first to showcase version 2.0 of the Sailfish operating system on its then new smartphone.