Nokia N8 Smartphone, with Symbian 3 OS, Now Shipping

Nokia N8 smartphones, the first to run the Symbian 3 operating system, have left factories in Finland and China and should reach the first lucky customers by the weekend, the company reported.

Nokia's newest flagship smartphone, the N8, has begun shipping around the world from its factories in Finland and China, Nokia announced Sept. 30 on its Conversations blog. Stressing the enormity of this big push from its factories, the phone maker worked to build excitement while calling for a last bit of patience.

"Being a global device launch, the Nokia N8 is shipping in tens of different languages to dozens of operators around the world," states the post. "That isn't something that happens overnight, and as factory production ramps up, so will the numbers of trucks leaving with freshly boxed N8s on board."

Accompanying the post are images of the devices being assembled, packaged and whisked off in shipping containers.

First to receive the smartphones-the very first to run the Symbian 3 operating system-will be those who pre-ordered, and the devices will reach some customers by Oct. 2 and then others in the "days and weeks" to follow, Nokia shared.

To view images of the Nokia N8, click here.

Nokia introduced the N8 April 27. It features a 3.5-inch high-definition capacitive touch screen, a 12-megapixel camera with HD video and HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) support, 16GB of built-in memory and a microSD slot that can support 48GB more. Additionally, it supports 2D and 3D graphics, as well as e-mail and a full Web browser, has on-board GPS with free Ovi Maps for walking and driving navigation in more than 70 countries, and a home screen application that streams together social-networking feeds, photos and location information while letting users update their status.

The N8 is also the first Nokia device to include the Qt software development environment, which enables developers to create one application and deploy it across a number of software platforms. (On Sept. 23, Nokia, with AT&T, offered developers still more enticement, with the announcement of an application-creation contest paired with $10 million in cash and prizes.)

Finally, for still more personalization, the N8 will come in five colors-Dark Gray, Silver White, Green, Blue and Orange. And free of a designated carrier, it's priced at 370 euros, or approximately $500.

Analysts have applauded the device, while tempering shipping predictions, since the N8's initial launch doesn't include the U.S. market.

Strategy Analytics Analyst Neil Mawston, in a July report, described the N8 as a welcome addition to Nokia's premium smartphone portfolio, and emphasized its capabilities as a "set-top box" phone for the home, with its multi-pinch Internet browsing, HD video playback, Dolby Digital Plus and HDMI port.

"The N8 provides a credible alternative to Apple and Android touchscreen models," Mawston wrote. "But its initial lack of distribution in the United States, the world's most important market for premium smartphones, means the N8 may not achieve its full sales potential." The phone isn't scheduled to arrive in the United States until the end of October.

Laurie Armstrong, Nokia's director of communications, responded to the assessment, telling eWEEK in a Sept. 30 e-mail, "While we're not giving any regional sales estimates, I can say that we've had a greater-than-expected demand in the pre-orders over the past weeks, and that includes the U.S. [via]."

While Nokia is the world's largest mobile phone maker, it has been slow to offer high-end smartphones that can effectively compete against the Apple iPhone and Android-running handsets such as those from HTC, Samsung and Motorola. However, at the Nokia World 2010 event, which was held in London on Sept. 14, the company showed off not just the N8, but the C6 and C7 sibling devices, as well as a business-oriented E7 smartphone.

"Nokia is going through a tough, challenging transition," Niklas Savander, executive vice president of markets at Nokia, said at the event's opening address. "We have a lot of work to do. We're not going to apologize for not being Apple or Google or Samsung or anybody else."

Savander added: "Today we shift into high gear, in Nokia's fight back in smartphone leadership."