As you’ve likely seen today, Finnish handset up-and-comer has started showing off their hardware at a demo event in Helsinki. I’ll let others tell you how their market viability is, but if anything they’re going to be a fun company to watch.

With Ubuntu and Firefox also getting into the handset game, they’ve got competition even among up-and-comers, let alone the giants like Apple and Android. They say there’s plenty of room for innovation to challenge the larger competition, as as far as the newer competitors, they believe their experience in hardware, coming from Nokia, will be their path to success. As ex-CEO and current Head of Sailfish Marc Dillon says, “We know how to make products.”

But it’s unclear if they’re really fighting in the specs war in the mid-to-high range, given they haven’t released too many specs aside from 16GB + microSD memory, 8 MP camera, and 4G capability, and a removable battery. As co-founder Sami Pienimäki puts it, “The whole point of Jolla is to innovate in the combination of hardware and software.”

Their big innovation in hardware to talk about is the removable back cover that changes the look and feel of the UI. When pressed about how the plastic back-cover will interact with the hardware, they bring out the phrase “magically”, but it sounds like it will be based on NFC technology, with potentially some storage options.

The back panels can interact with the hardware in interesting ways, such as updating the UI based on the color of the cover that’s on the back. They’re still figuring out the licensing equation there, but it looks like an opportunity for brands.

You might want some back cover that’s got your favorite band on it, for example, and unlocks some content. There is also some use-case to change them during the day, for example you might put some other back cover on when you hand the device to your kids to play Angry Birds, and don’t want them to have access to your work emails. It’s kinda cool, but will be interesting to find out if these covers can add game-changing functionality to the device, or a just a fun gimmick.

But while we’re still speaking about the specs, the screen looked good, but they were unwilling to say at this time what exactly their ‘Estrade’ screen actually means in hardware terms, other than it’s 4.5″.

They’ve developed the UI to maximize the most real estate, but leave information available using gestures to ‘peak’ and pull down the screen. The logic here, according to Head Designer Martin Schuele, is that you don’t need bars clogging up your screen all the time to let you know you’re connected to a 3G network. Yes, there is some point to that.

When talking about apps, as you’ve read Jolla will be able to natively run Android apps. This doesn’t mean they’re wide open to the Google Play store, but they’re in talks with a large Android app directory to serve apps there. Additionally they plan on making it easy to find Android apps, native Sailfish apps, and web apps in one spot.

Their launch has some Kickstarter feel to it, given that you can preorder the device and get a t-shirt in return. Co-founder Sami Pienimäki tells us that part of this reason for pre-ordering is to help them gage the demand of the device in different markets. “Since we’ve started we’ve gotten encouraging messages from arround the world, but we need to prove that there is demand.” The phone is priced at €399.

Additionally through pre-orders they can start reaching out to customers and do it in a co-creative manner.

A video of their UI can be found in our previous article.

If anyone has any specific questions, I might be able to ask them before 21:00 EET tonight. Feel free to tweet at me @regandersong!