Nokia has started shipping its N95 mobile phone in Europe and Asia, the first in an expected series of devices from the Finnish company with built-in GPS (global positioning system) capabilities.
The N95 is rich in features and carries a price tag to match: At €550 (£375) before operator rebates it is one of the priciest additions to Nokia's Nseries range. Nokia calls it a "multimedia computer”.
The mobile phone is a slider-type device with a 5-megapixel camera for shooting photos and 30-frames-per-second video. It has a 2.6in TFT display with 240 x 320 resolution, and comes with an MP3 music player and a MicroSD memory card slot.
The phone works on HSDPA (high speed downlink packet access) networks, as well as wireless LANs, EDGE and WCDMA networks, and it's based on Nokia's S60 software and the Symbian OS.
One of the main selling points is its built-in GPS, which allows users to find out where they are, get directions, and search for nearby hotels and other services. It comes with about 150 maps for cities worldwide, and city guides and audio tours are sold separately.
Nokia becomes one of the first major handset makers to include GPS, but it's unclear how well it will perform, at least in this first iteration, said Chris Jones, a principal analyst with UK research firm Canalys.
Looking at the phone's design, the GPS components appear to be buried deep in the device, according to Jones, which means the N95 may take longer than ideal to pinpoint a user's location.
"When you walk out of a tube station you want to have a [location] fix in a few seconds rather than minutes," he said. "From what we understand it won't be in the seconds because the GPS is inside the handset."
The route-finding function won't be of the "turn left, turn right" variety found in car navigation systems, either, Jones said. Rather, the directions will be in text format or a line drawn onto a map.
Users will be able to buy more sophisticated directional software separately from Nokia, he said. Nokia acquired the technology when it bought Gate5 AG last year.
Still, "the Nokia Maps application will be nice to have in your phone; you'll have maps and a GPS in your pocket wherever you are," he added.
The phone was announced six months ago so there may be some pent-up demand, but given its price it is unlikely to be a high-volume seller for Nokia, Jones said.
"It's certainly packed with features; it's got pretty much everything you could want in a phone," he said. "The 5-megapixel camera is the highest specification Nokia has put in a phone."
Other software includes RealNetworks' RealPlayer, Nokia's PC Suite, which has a calendar and email, and software for posting to blogs and to the Flickr.com photo site. The device can connect to a PC via Bluetooth, USB 2.0 or a wireless LAN, so users can download music and video to the device to play later.
Other devices with built-in GPS are expected soon from Nokia, Jones said, including the 6110-Navigator and the E90-Communicator, which is aimed at business users.