Svelte Nokia N9 prototype breaks cover in China, possibly running MeeGo

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With all the stories over the past few months regarding Nokia and the future of the N-series, a mental picture has steadily been taking shape for what we can expect from the next big product out of the Finnish giant. Today that imaginary image gets a massive dose of reality with actual photos of what is likely to be the latest and greatest in the N-series line-up, the Nokia N9 smartphone. With the Symbian^3 running Nokia N8 occupying the second-tier rank in the family, we knew that the flagship N9 was probably in the works. The announcement that the N8 would be the last of the N-series to run Symbian confirmed that the N9 would probably run the new MeeGo OS, while Nokia's assertion that its first MeeGo device would use an ARM-based CPU instead of Intel's Atom Z6xx Moorestown and launch by the end of the year further fleshed out the picture.

These latest images depict a device that is consistent with a leaked video of the N9 released a few months ago, showing an impressively slim slide-and-tilt design with a full four-row QWERTY keyboard in a metal (probably aluminum) unibody similar to the N8. The device is running an unidentified OS that is not Symbian and is probably MeeGo, matching some of what we have seen before. Other new information includes a rumored launch date of early December and evidence that this device is an official Nokia prototype made in Finland, with appropriate labeling, prototype product codes, and recognition in Nokia's system. There are also claims that this isn't quite the final design, being an earlier representation of what will be the final retail product.

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Bearing in mind the possibility of hoaxes, I personally do think these images are the real deal and I'm overall pretty impressed. I really like the design and all-metal construction, and the keyboard looks great too, although I would need to try it out to be certain.

With some of the questions regarding the design answered, the remaining unknowns are clearly in the hardware and software department, which are two areas that Nokia has to get right in order to be competitive. I'm cautiously optimistic regarding MeeGo, but I have heard rumors that the hardware may be similar to the N8, which would be a bit underpowered in comparison to the current leading smartphones. Here's hoping the N9 packs the firepower under the hood to go with the impressive design. For those interested in having a look at the prototype's internals, head on over to this forum thread on Baidu, where someone has taken the liberty of doing a complete teardown!

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[Baidu via eldarmurtazin livejournal via BoyGeniusReport]  

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Jeremy To

Jeremy is a former editor at Pocketables.