Nokia new Nseries woos with cameras, music, 3G

Nokia announces three new smart phones with multimedia features, the N90, N91 and N70.

Nokia on Wednesday launched three new Nseries mobile handsets, hoping users will be seduced by the smart phones' built-in multimedia gadgets, which take print-quality pictures, read e-mail, play music, browse Web sites and display mobile TV.

Nokia is also touting new features such as 3G (third-generation) technology, multigigabyte memory, VHS resolution video, WLAN (wireless LAN) capabilities, megapixel cameras and lens' from the German optics maker Carl Zeiss.

The new handsets are the N90, N91 and N70. The first of the new phones to hit the market, sometime before the end of June, will be the N90, which is being marketed as Nokia's premier mobile photography handset, though Nokia declined to give a specific launch date. The suggested retail price for the N90 is Euro 700 (AUD$1160), but a Nokia spokeswoman stressed that prices will depend on local markets and retailers.

The N90 has a multihinge twist-and-shoot design for its 2 megapixel camera, which also offers autofocus and 20x digital zoom as well as integrated flash. It has two screens: the main display has 352 x 416 pixels, while the second screen can shoot video in MP4 format using the display -- 352 x 416 pixels and 262,144 colors -- as a viewfinder, Nokia said.

The N70 is also a 3G smart phone with a 2 megapixel camera, video-calling capabilities, stereo FM radio, a digital music player and new 3D games all in a compact package measuring 108.8 millimeters by 53 mm by 17.5 mm. The phone will be available sometime in the third quarter for just over Euro 500, Nokia said.

Additionally, a variant of the N70 for EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) markets will be available at an unspecified later date.

The N91, which sports the ability to store up to 3,000 songs on the integrated 4G-byte hard disk and plays 12.5 hours of music, will begin shipping in November with a suggested retail price of about Euro 700, the Nokia spokeswoman said.

The phones are initially being pitched at the European markets with pricing in euros. However, the tri-band handsets will be offered worldwide, allowing U.S. consumers, for example, to use the phones wherever WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) and GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) networks are available, Nokia said.

The handsets are part of Nokia's answer to criticism that the world's largest handset maker had found itself behind the times when a demand for camera and clamshell phones sparked the market.

Nokia has aggressively sought to make its handsets more appealing to customers, particularly in the U.S. where demand for the clamshell form and cameras has been high. Last week the company surprised the market by beating first-quarter expectations with an 18 percent jump in net profit to Euro 863 million coupled with a 17 percent gain in net sales to Euro 7.4 billion. Speaking on a telephone conference call following the results, Chief Executive Officer Jorma Ollila attributed the gains to price cuts, increaesd marketing spending and new mobile phones with cameras and music players.

Nokia hopes that the new range of camera, based on its Series 60 software platform for smart phones and sporting stainless steel finishes and black pearl and silver colors, will continue that trend.

The company also wants to get users hooked on 3G and multimedia. As such it is partnering with companies to boost the appeal of its smart phones and entice users to utilize the Internet connection and audio/video features. On Tuesday, Nokia said that as part of a partnership with Yahoo Inc., it will begin embedding in some of its phones -- the 6680, 6681, 6630 and the N70 -- Yahoo messaging, search and Web browsing software. The 6680, 6681 and 6630 are already widely available in Europe and Asia, said Nokia spokeswoman Karoliina Lehmusvirta.

"We'll see the fruits of this partnership initially in Europe but there is great interest by both parties to expand the capabilities to additional handsets and markets, like the U.S.," Lehmusvirta said, "but we have no time tables to announce yet."

The agreement with Yahoo is not exclusive and Nokia is also currently in "discussions with other players, looking into similar partnerships," Lehmusvirta said, adding that she could not name any potential partners.