As a company, Nokia is on the ropes, but while pundits called for a shift to Android and wrote up Nokia's obituaries, Nokia's team beavered away on what has turned out to be quite a secret project. Before seeing the N9, we wondered what was to be unveiled, placing our bets on a new Symbian handset. Instead, Nokia reveals its first MeeGo device, a phone that definitely looks and feels fresh and new.
Update: You can now also read more in our N9 Preview here.
Before steeping ourselves in specs and software, first take a look at the colour palette used in creating this new phone. Black and blue will be the launch colours, but the pink will be available for telcos who want something a little different. Nokia opts for a unibody chassis, like the N8, but uses polycarbonate for the body rather than aluminium.
Remarkably, this photo tells you nearly everything you need to know about MeeGo and the N9. Three colour variants and three home screens. The user interface is non-user customisable, and has three separate components. When you unlock the phone, you see the centre screen; swipe to the left to see notifications, or swipe to the right to multitask.
The central home screen is an apps list, which, as you might suspect, is the catch-all location for all pre-installed and user-downloaded apps. There are a few interesting things to note in this image; you can see the link to the Ovi Store and the pre-installed Facebook and Twitter clients. Nokia includes these, as well as many others, in the MeeGo firmware, so that you don't have to download separate apps.
A screen that many iPhone users will soon be familiar with — the notifications screen — lives to the left of the apps drawer. The top fragment is the weather, and can be selected for a more detailed view, and beneath it is an aggregation of all incoming messages, including social network updates.
The third screen of the MeeGo UI is a multitasking display, showing all recently used apps and the their saved states. Nokia tells us that while the N9 won't run videos in the background, tasks like loading a webpage will continue if you switch to a different task in the middle of the page load.
In line with Nokia's outstanding heritage in camera phones, the N9 ships with an 8-megapixel camera complete with Carl Zeiss optics. Similar to the N8, the lens on the N9 sports an f/2.2 aperture and user-adjustable auto-focus.
As you might expect, the N9 collects your photos in a gallery that looks great on the 3.9-inch AMOLED display.
Similar to Android devices, MeeGo aggregates all account management into one place, letting you sign in to a service and have its services present in all apps that use that information.
The N9 isn't just for snooty photographers; it's also for snooty music lovers, too! The N9 has Dolby Mobile software baked in, and has this loud external speaker on the base. For those with serious music collections, the N9 will come in 16GB or 64GB storage options.
As you'd probably expect, Nokia packs free maps with free turn-by-turn navigation into MeeGo and the N9.
Nokia has been toying around with NFC capabilities for just short of a decade, but it is banking on the N9 through the headset that really helps raise awareness of what NFC can achieve. We saw a demonstration of the N9 pairing with this Bluetooth headset just by tapping them together, but it can also be used to create multiplayer gaming sessions between two phones, or to share details like contact info or photos.