Jolla, makers of the Sailfish mobile operating system, have announced a new partnership with mi-Fone, Africa’s first smartphone brand and original equipment manufacturer (OEM). The announcement was made on the sidelines of the ongoing Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The move is part of the Sailfish Africa initiative, which will see an independent mobile ecosystem based on the operating system. The first Sailfish OS-based mi-Fone devices are expected to arrive in the second quarter of 2016.

“We, together with mi-Fone strongly believe that Africa needs its own mobile ecosystem where Sailfish OS can be a strong independent building block”, Jolla chairman Antti Saarnio said in a statement announcing the partnership.

“mi-Fone as an African brand is a natural device partner for us. When we then integrate leading banks, ecommerce platforms and other services into Sailfish OS we can truly offer something meaningful for consumers.”

“We believe the real value for consumers comes from experiences”, mi-Fone Founder and CEO Alpesh Patel added. “This is where Sailfish OS offers mi-Fone great opportunities to build differentiation and develop locally relevant offerings. We also believe that our African consumers will appreciate Sailfish OS’s focus on openness and privacy.”

Jolla also announced that its Sailfish OS would be offered as an optional operating system alongside Android on ethical smartphone maker Fairphone’s devices.

The partnership is a result of efforts by the Jolla developer community to port Sailfish OS to the Fairphone 2, touted as an ethical smartphone for those concerned about where the minerals that are used to manufacture the components of the smartphone are sourced from.

The Fairphone 2 uses a modular design, meaning that the phone can be taken apart and individual components such as the screen and the camera can be changed or upgraded, increasing the phone’s longevity and reparability.

Following the progress of the community porting, Jolla and Fairphone are now evaluating possibilities to enter into commercial collaboration.

“The partnership will give our users the choice in the operating systems that they want to use”,  Fairphone CTO Olivier Hebert said in a statement. “Sailfish OS is something that a large proportion of our community has been very interested in. We will continue supporting the community to port Sailfish OS to the Fairphone 2 and are excited to explore the opportunity of commercial collaboration with Jolla.”

Jolla was founded by former Nokia employees, and the Sailfish OS arose from Nokia’s abandoned Linux-based MeeGo operating system. The company initially sought to manufacture its own devices, launching the Jolla Phone in 2013, and the Jolla Tablet in 2015, but it has shifted gears in favour of a focus on software and partnerships with OEMs.

Eric Mugendi Author

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