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Nokia N9 officially announced: unibody design, buttonless 'swipe' UI, and the lost promise of Meego

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Nokia might be all about Windows Phone 7 now, but the Espoo crew isn't quite done with those "burning platforms" yet -- and the new N9 might be the ultimate oh-Meego-we-hardly-knew-ye swan song. The unibody handset features a completely new design with no front-facing buttons at all -- you just tap the screen three times to unlock it -- and a new "swipe" UI for Meego that calls to mind both webOS and the BlackBerry Playbook. There's also a new web browser built on WebKit 2 with "wide" HTML5 support, and a new version of Nokia Maps with free turn-by-turn navigation and public transport directions. It all runs on Meego 1.2 Harmattan on a 1GHz TI OMAP 3630 with PowerVR SGX530 graphics -- that's the same chip in the original Droid X, the Droid 2, and Pre 2, so it's not super high-end in today's dual-core world but it's not totally obsolete either. The 1450 mAh battery should be good for 7 hours of talking while on the pentaband 850 / 900 / 1900 / 1700 / 2100 WCDMA radio.

In terms of hardware, we're definitely intrigued by the 854 x 480 3.9-inch curved glass laminated AMOLED display that sounds like it might rival the iPhone 4 in terms of feeling like you're touching the actual pixels of the display, but falls behind in terms of pixel density at 251ppi vs Apple's 326. We're also a little disappointed in the plastic body, although Nokia says it offers "superior antenna performance" and it does come in cyan, black, and magenta, so that's fun. There's also an NFC chip for mobile payments and touch-and-go contact and photo sharing, an 8 megapixel camera with HD video capture and a wide-angle 28mm Zeiss lens, and Dolby Headphone and Dolby Digital Plus audio in case you like your jams with a side of sonic sweetener.

That's some serious hardware for a dead-end OS, but it's good to see Nokia can still produce a competitive device, and the company says the DNA of the N9 "will live on in a variety of ways." Let's hope so -- and let's hope we see some equally interesting hardware when Espoo turns its focus to Windows Phone 7. Video and more photos after the break.

Source: Nokia Conversations, N9 specs, UI demos, Spec PDF

Update: Here's a video demo from the N9's announcement at Nokia Connections 2011: