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Nokia takes on iPod, Canon
Joji Thomas Philip in New Delhi
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May 26, 2005

The era of convergence can throw up unimaginable scenarios -- mobile handset manufacturers competing head on with IT majors and also aiming for a chunk of the exploding digital camera market.

Nokia, the world's largest mobile phone manufacturer, has taken the handset battle to the next dimension with its 'iPod killer' and 'digital camera alternative' -- the high-end 3G compatible 'N series', which is slated to hit the market in the third quarter.

Consider the features and Nokia's executives can be forgiven for predicting that its music phone, dubbed the 'iPod Killer' will outsell Apple's iPod, and its camera handset will overtake digital camera maker Canon in sales.

For industry analysts, the N series that was launched recently in Hong Kong, Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur is more than Nokia's answer to the top-end phones of its competitors, rather, it spelt the company's move to regain the niche market.

According to Nokia's vice president, Asia Pacific, Mauro Montanaro, the N90 would be the first to the market by July followed by both the N70 and N91 before the year-end.

After trying out the handsets during the launch at Kuala Lumpur, it is not difficult to state that the N91, the most awaited handset of the series, is easily the best of the lot.

This stylish 3G and EDGE compatible handset offers unmatched music facilities and can store up to 3,000 songs on its integrated 4GB hard disk and play music for 12.5 hours at a stretch.

It also boasts of an MP3 and ACC playback, in addition to remote controlled earphones and an FM tuner. Other features include shock proof hard disk, a 2 mega pixel camera, web browser and integrated Wi-Fi.

While the music features are more than a match for the heavily successful iPod Mini, the price tag remains the catch - the N91 is likely to be priced around $700, almost double of Apple's Mini and other music players.

While N91 is significant improvement from the 1.5 GB Samsung SPH V5400, it would still have to compete with Sony Ericsson's walkman phone, W800.

The W800, with an USP of a 30-hour battery life, will sport a similar price bracket and is likely to hit the shelves at about the same time as the N 91.

The N90 marks Nokia's attempt to grab the high-end camera phone customers which it had lost to rivals, most notably Samsung.

The two-screened handset (a 352-by-416-pixel main display and a 352-by-416-pixel second screen with 262,144 colors) features a 2-megapixel camera with a multihinge twist-and-shoot design and offers autofocus, 20X digital zoom, the Carl Zeiss lens used standalone cameras, integrated flash, VHS resolution video and supports video calling.

Similar to digital cameras, this handset comes with a memory slot, offering the option of saving photographs beyond the 31 MB of internal memory.

Gadget loving geeks will notice that the camera module is CMOS, and not the higher quality CCD. However it still remains advantage Nokia as the N90's closest rival, Samsung's SCH-A970, offering matching features happens to be on the CDMA camp.

But can it take on the Canon, other digital camera makers or even as the handicam market, as predicted? For one, digital cameras offering similar features come at half the price.

"Customers will pay more because they are buying not just a handset, but also a full fledged camera," answers a confident Montanaro.

With digital cameras offering ever increasing resolutions, bigger zoom lens and a host of multimedia features by the day, skeptics argue that it is likely to take years before handset manufactures can match the pace.

The N70 is equipped with all music playing facilities and supports a two mega pixel camera with a 20x digital zoom, web browsing facilities, video-calling capabilities, stereo FM radio, a digital music player and new 3D games. A great smart phone.

Montanaro also said since the N series devices would be based on the Series 60 platform, users had the option to choose from over 3,000 existing applications and also add new functionalities to their devises.

While it may be too early to predict if people will give up their Discmans and iPods, it would not be so to say that the N series would easily make the best Christmas present.

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