updated 11:40 pm EDT, Mon June 20, 2011
Nokia N9 confirmed at last
Nokia at its Singapore event unveiled its most anticipated phone in years through the N9. The just-leaked design is the first MeeGo smartphone and centers on a rare, truly buttonless design: swipe gestures control switching apps from a pane-based interface and even include an iOS 5-style swipe to launch apps from individual notifications. The design goes so far as to omit a home button and is based on multi-touch at most every step, including in modern web and media browsers.
An Events view helps keep track of updates, including directly from Facebook and Twitter. Pro users are served by a unified inbox, Exchange support for mail and calendars, and direct Office file viewing. Everyone gets free Nokia Maps turn-by-turn navigation in a head-on challenge to Google.
The phone itself is considered Nokia's most powerful media device to date and revolves around a 3.9-inch, 480x854 AMOLED screen with a still-uncommon curved glass surface. It supports Dolby Headphone and Digital Plus audio decoding, and has an eight-megapixel camera that's wide-angle, wide aperture (f2.2) and one of the fastest cameras in a phone. A microSDHC slot gives it removable storage that hasn't been on Nokia's newer Symbian phones.
NFC is built-in and can not only help for wireless payments but for NFC-aware games like Angry Birds Magic that can react to things nearby. An upcoming Nokia Play 360 wireless speaker only needs a single pairing over Bluetooth and from then on can play music just by tapping the phone against the speaker. The device will also play from other Bluetooth audio sources or a 3.5mm headphone jack and lasts for up to 20 hours when completely wireless.
In a slight dig at Apple, the iPod nano-like design is both nearly as thin as an iPhone 4 but also made of polycarbonate rather than metal, giving it better than usual reception.
Versions of the phone are due to ship "later this year" with local details coming closer to release. Nokia is spreading the capacities and will include both a 16GB model as well as a 64GB edition for sheer storage.
Although Nokia is still primarily transitioning to Windows Phone, the N9 may be vital as proof Nokia can develop its own mostly self-contained platform even with Symbian on its way out. MeeGo was co-developed with Intel and has left the chip maker scrambling for support after Nokia relegated it to a secondary platform. Success with the N9 could lead to more development as well as confidence in Nokia's health over the long term.