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Nokia announce N96, N78, 6210 Navigator and 6220 Classic

With all eyes on Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress, Nokia took the opportunity to announce the first of its big handset releases of the year.

Top to bottom: N96, N78, 6220 Classic and the 6210 Navigator

With all eyes on Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress, Nokia held its Asia/Pacific 2008 showcase in Sydney and took the opportunity to announce the first of its big handset releases of the year; two N-series and two 6000 series phones.

While each of the four handsets has a specific focus, there are also several similarities. All four phones are Wi-Fi and HSDPA capable, and they all have built-in assisted GPS chipsets. Nokia has stated its intention to focus on providing content and services, including music, games and maps, and as such, the new handsets have the components necessary to take advantage of these services.

The obvious show-stopper was to be Nokia's update to one of last year's most popular handsets, the N95, however, instead we saw the disappointingly similar N96. Following in Apple's footsteps with 16GB internal memory is a nice touch, but when time was spent highlighting the "new" kickstand for watching videos, we knew the jig was up.

Of coarse, the videos watched while the handset is reclining on its kickstand will be played back at 30fps, which is very nice. The N96 will also broadcast "Live TV" using a built-in DVB-H tuner, although before you get excited remember there are currently no DVB-H services operating in Australia.

Considering we are talking about an update to a very complete device, you can expect the N96 to have every tech bell and whistle you could want in a handset, and, to Nokia's credit, the N96 is markedly slimmer. Just don't expect to be blown away when you see it.

Strip away the 16GB of storage, the DVB-H tuner, the dual-sliding form factor and about 3mm in thickness and the N96 becomes the N78. Physically the N78 looks like a cross between the N81 and the N82, and from our brief hands-on we can say that we liked Nokia's no-frills approach to a high-end handset.

The N78 features a 3.2-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, the Navi-wheel we liked so much from the N81, and an FM radio transmitter for streaming music from your phone to your car radio.

The two 6000 series announcements were also incremental updates on some of last years best Nokia releases.

When we reviewed the 6120 Classic we lamented that a good handset was let down by a crumby camera. Well, the Classic branding is back on the 6220 and the shoddy 2-megapixel camera has been replaced by a massive 5-megapixel Carl Zeiss shooter with a Xenon flash and 20 times digital zoom.

However, our favourite Nokia upgrade has to be the 6210 Navigator. Its predecessor, the 6110 Navigator, really put mobile GPS systems on the map (pun intended); it was a shame the 6110 was such a large and clunky device to use. After a short play with the 6210 we're happy to say that both issues are cleared up to an extent. The handset is now much trimmer and the user interface seems faster too.

But to make the 6210 a real navigation tool it has a built-in "accelerometer" and digital compass. The combination of these two features means that when you turn, so does the display in Nokia maps to show you which direction you are facing.

Now that Nokia has our attention our next task is to wait. The N78 is expected to be released locally in Q2 and the other three handsets in Q3.