updated 08:00 am EDT, Thu August 27, 2009
Nokia N900 Official
Nokia this morning launched a new class of smartphone as its flagship. The promised N900 is a crossover between smartphones and Nokia's Internet tablets, and makes its biggest break in its change of operating system: although still a phone, the handset runs Nokia's latest Linux variant, not Symbian. Maemo 5 renders it one of the first smartphones to have true PC-like multitasking and not only lets it run "dozens" of app windows at once but gives it a simple, large dashboard for switching and closing apps.
The Maemo update also brings an overall more touch-friendly interface and a customizable home screen that can mix app icons with shortcuts and widgets. Nokia also claims full support for Flash, albeit for the older 9.4, and has a new touch-friendly media player as well as similar apps.
In hardware, Nokia makes clear the N900's role as an effective replacement for the N97 and the company's answer to the iPhone 3GS. The QWERTY slider design has the same 600MHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor as the Apple smartphone and a faster graphics core that, again like Apple, supports OpenGL ES 2.0 graphics features. GPS and Wi-Fi are similarly onboard. However, the N900 brings much more app memory at up to 1GB (256MB actual RAM), full HSPA-based 3G at up to 10Mbps down and 2Mbps up, and a much sharper 800x480, 3.5-inch touchscreen. The 5-megapixel camera and 32GB of storage are also carried over from the N97, but a microSDHC slot lets users add at least another 16GB with today's cards.
Unlike the heavily delayed N97, the N900 will have a quick turnaround and should ship in October. Pricing in Europe will be similar to the N97's on launch at 500 Euros ($712). Nokia's specs betray plans to bring the N900 to T-Mobile in the US and show 3G support for the American carrier's 1,700MHz band as well as the needed 850MHz support for GSM and EDGE.
The N900 is a rare turnaround for Nokia, which is suspected of facing poor N97 sales since that phone's launch in June. It has been eager to provide numbers for sales of the cheaper 5800 XpressMusic but has been quiet regarding the higher-end phone. Its post-launch price is still about $630 for an unsubsidized version, and the handset has been regularly criticized for including an old processor as well as the poor suitability of Symbian S60 5th Edition for touch.