Nokia ships the N9, its first and last MeeGo phone

Nokia Corp. has started shipping the N9, its first and last smart phone based on the MeeGo operating system, the company said on Tuesday.

MeeGo is one of the operating systems Nokia decided to forsake in February when it announced plans to use Microsoft’s Windows Phone as its primary operating system for smart phones. The other operating system Nokia nixed was Symbian.

Four months after announcing the Windows Phone move, Nokia announced the N9. It has no physical buttons and instead relies on the 3.9-inch AMOLED touch screen for navigation.

The N9 user interface has three home views — applications, events and live applications. Users will be able to download applications from Nokia Ovi Store, which is in the process of changing its name to just Nokia Store, the company said.

Users will be able to find a mixture of entertainment, productivity, news, social network applications and games, including Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Facebook, and Mail for Exchange. But Nokia doesn’t want to put a number on how many applications will be available.

The N9 is compatible with Qt, a cross-platform application and user interface framework, which Nokia also uses on its Symbian-based smartphones. Developers that want to port a Qt-based app from Symbian to MeeGo have to recompile the app for compatibility with the MeeGo platform. The ease of porting an application depends on how the developer has built the app and screen sizes of devices, among other factors, according to Nokia.

The phone can access the Internet using HSDPA (High-Speed Download Packet Access) at 14.4M bps (bits per second) or Wi-Fi. Other features include A-GPS, an 8-megapixel camera that can shoot video at 720p, and an HTML5-compatible browser, according to Nokia.

The N9 weighs 135 grams and is 12.1 millimeters thick. 

The estimated retail price is €480 (US$650) for the version with 16GB of storage and €560 for the model that can store 64GB. The prices are before applicable taxes or any possible subsidies.

Even though Nokia has chosen Windows Phone over MeeGo for its future phones, the company won’t abandon users who decide to buy the N9, the company said. It will provide support for the Nokia N9 until at least 2015, including software updates, care and services support, a spokesman said via email.

The launch isn’t about MeeGo, but about Nokia proving that it can still develop an attractive phone with a good user interface, and it has succeeded at that, according to Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner. 

On a Nokia website, consumers in about 20 countries — including China, Russia and Portugal, but not France, Germany, the U.K. or the U.S — can choose to be notified when the phone becomes available. 

The distribution combined with the fact that it is an expensive phone with limited availability of applications compared to the iPhone and competing Android-based smartphones will limit the N9’s popularity, according to Milanesi.

“But Nokia wouldn’t launch the phone if it thought it would become a total disaster,” said Milanesi.

In Sweden, operator Three hopes to receive the first units on Oct. 6, a spokesman said. 

Nokia is expected to launch its first Windows Phone at the Nokia World conference on Oct. 26, and the start shipping it before the end of the year.

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