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Nokia back in the hardware game with Android Lollipop-powered N1 tablet

Nokia has returned to the hardware market with a 7.9-inch Android tablet. While it will sell the device, it's hoping to license its name, design, and software to OEMs.

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When Nokia sold its hardware business to Microsoft in April , the company promised not to make any own-brand smartphones for the next three years. That hasn't stopped it from launching a new 7.9-inch tablet bearing a strong resemblance to Apple's own slates, however.

After teasing a surprise new product yesterday on Twitter, the company that no longer has a devices business has revealed its first tablet since the Microsoft deal: the $249 Android Lollipop-powered N1.

Nokia unveiled the tablet on Tuesday at the Slush startup conference in the Finnish capital Helsinki.

To say Nokia has taken a leaf from Apple's book with the N1 may be an understatement: it seems to have taken its biggest cue from the latest iPhones with curved edges rather than the chamfered frame found on the most recent iPads .

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Some features in common with the iPad mini include the N1's 7.9-inch display, with a 4:3 aspect ratio and 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution. The tablet has also got the same 6.9mm depth as the iPhone 6 — 0.8mm thicker than Apple's new iPad Air. The tablet weighs 318 grams, or seven grams heavier than the iPad mini 2 and mini 3.

To distinguish the device from other Android tablets, the N1 will come with Nokia's own Android Z Launcher, which the company has been experimenting with since June this year. Today, it made the app available on the Google Play store as a beta, compatible with Android versions 4.1 to 4.4.

Nokia's new tablet is also running a 2.3GHz Intel 64-bit Z3580 Atom processor and comes with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage, but without microSD support. The device's power connector is the newer Type-C reversible USB 2.0, bringing it up to par with Apple's reversible Lightning connector. Nokia has opted for an eight-megapixel rear camera with autofocus and a five megapixel front-facing fixed-focus camera.

While the N1 will be sold as a tablet from Nokia, the former handset giant has new plans for distributing its hardware. As it outlined at its capital markets day last week , Nokia's new device strategy centres on licensing the Nokia brand.  In the case of the N1, it will also be licensing the industrial design, Z Launcher software layer, and IP on a running royalty basis to OEM partners.

As the company outlined today, its OEM partners will be responsible "for full business execution, from engineering and sales to customer care, including liabilities and warranty costs, inbound IP and software licensing and contractual agreements with third parties".

Nokia noted today that the N1's design and Z Launcher come from its Nokia Technologies business, the third unit alongside networks and Here that focuses on developing and licensing its IP. Other technology it's keen to license may appear in TVs and cameras.  

Nokia plans to make the N1 available for purchase in China in the first quarter of next year for an estimated $249 before taxes. It anticipates expanding sales to other markets but hasn't said when yet.

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