Nokia unveils N9 as Symbian 'Anna' gears up for release

The company has introduced the first and probably only handset to use the Linux-based MeeGo operating system, and has set a release date for the next big update to Symbian

Nokia has unveiled its only commercial MeeGo handset, the N9, while also providing details about when the 'Anna' update to Symbian will appear.

Nokia N9

Nokia has unveiled the MeeGo-based N9 handset and outlined the Symbian 'Anna' update. Photo credit: Nokia

At the Nokia Connection event on Tuesday in Singapore, chief executive Stephen Elop announced the NFC-enabled N9. The handset is the first — and supposedly last — generally available smartphone to use MeeGo, the fruit of Nokia's short-lived Linux union with Intel. The company is also releasing the N950 MeeGo phone, but that device is for developers only.

Also on Tuesday, Elop said Nokia will start shipping its recent handsets — the N8, E7, C7 and C6-01 — with the new Symbian Anna version, which includes a faster browser, enhanced text input and other tweaks. A download of the updated OS will be made available to existing owners of these phones by the end of August, and Nokia will release "up to 10 new Symbian-based smartphones" within the next year, the company said in a statement.


Nokia's big tie-in with Microsoft over the Windows Phone platform involved the phasing out over two years of Symbian and the effective cancellation of Nokia's MeeGo efforts, apart from the N9.

MeeGo is the descendant of Nokia's old Maemo Linux OS and Intel's Moblin. Versions of the OS are usable on tablets and netbooks, but the handset variant has always been intended specifically for Nokia phones.

The N9 uses MeeGo 1.2, or Harmattan, which used to be known as Maemo 6.0. It can run apps built using Qt, so apps built for Symbian should be easily ported over. The Nokia Store will be fully integrated into the N9.

N9 handset

The handset, which has no physical buttons and relies purely on the screen interface, uses a swipe motion as a replacement for the standard home button. It has three main menu views — apps, notifications and social networks — as well as a full multitasking view. The body is polycarbonate, to enable "superior antenna performance", and the 3.9-inch Amoled screen is slightly curved, toughened glass.

The N9 has an eight-megapixel, wide-angle Carl Zeiss lens and comes with Dolby Digital Plus sound and Dolby Headphone post-processing audio technology. There are two inbuilt storage options: 16GB and 64GB.

As well as coming with pre-loaded Nokia Maps and Drive directions apps, the N9 is also enabled for near-field communication (NFC). NFC is a contactless payment and identification technology found in several recent handsets, and is seen as the way to turn phones into 'mobile wallets'.

The N950 is similar to the N9, except that it is made of aluminium, has a slide-out Qwerty keyboard, uses a slightly larger display with the same 854 x 480-pixel resolution, has a slightly smaller battery capacity and features no NFC.

Nokia said the N9 will come out at some point later this year, at some as-yet-unspecified price. This timescale could mean it hits the shelves at around the same time as the first Nokia Windows Phones.

Get the latest technology news and analysis, blogs and reviews delivered directly to your inbox with ZDNet UK's newsletters.