Remember that single MeeGo handset Nokia said it'd release? The N9 is here sooner than we expected, and it's swaggering in with an NFC chip and the fastest mobile camera ever.
Launched in Singapore this week, the first MeeGo handset is made up of a metallic unibody with a sizeable 3.9-inch curved glass AMOLED screen. Strange size, but it means true widescreen 16:9 resolution is supported. HD video is a go as well, so looks like the N9 is being pimped as another ultimate media device.
Unlike the majority of dual-core smartphones on the high-end market, it's running on an ARM Cortex A8 single-core 1GHz chip. That may or may not make a difference to its performance, since its OS would need to be optimised for dual-core to get that speed bump.
The N9 will also be one of the first handsets to launch with an NFC chip (if the new Samsung Galaxy S II doesn't get there first), which will allow contactless payments as well as pairing with NFC-enabled accessories such as speakers. The handset is made from polycarbonate, which apparently enables superior antenna performance (in your face, iPhone), better voice quality and fewer dropped calls.
Also, hate buttons? This is the world's first full-touch phone - sort of. Though there is an on-off button, once the phone is on, it's all about touch. You unlock it by double-tapping the screen. To head home, you swipe the touch-screen.
Like the N8, the N9 carries on Nokia's tradition of fine mobile snappers, with an eight-megapixel camera packing Carl Zeiss optics, dual LED flashes and a wide 28mm lens that has a faster shutter speed than any other phone. We're taking this on faith having not tested it, but given the N8's prowess in our last big camera shoot-off, we're inclined to believe.
Onto the software - MeeGo is the software Nokia was working on with Intel for months and months, and thankfully it doesn't have too much in common with the boxy setup of Symbian^3. In fact, it works quite differently to other smartphones, with each screen designated a different function.
One is for app shortcuts, another for multitasking and open apps, and the last showing a feed of news, social events and friends' updates. We're looking forward to seeing how this plays out.
The preloaded browser is built on WebKit 2 and supports HTML5 online video. There's no mention of Flash support - could Nokia be bucking the trend followed by its Symbian phones and going for HTML5 like the iPhone and Windows Phone, perhaps as a consequence of Nokia's recent tieup with Microsoft?
The main concern however will be the same issue that plagued Symbian smartphones - what of apps? The N9 isn't just the first MeeGo phone, it could well be its last, as Nokia turns its attention to Windows Phone. There are some apps available for MeeGo and Nokia's Ovi Store content will also be supported by the N9, but it's nothing compared to the apps you can get on iOS, Android and even BlackBerry and Windows Phone.
Can consumers be charmed by NFC and a great camera? We'll see when the N9 launches - though that, along with price is still TBC.