By Patrick Avenell

Nokia has today launched the N96 handset, which the company now calls its “flagship” model.

The N96 is a step up from the N95, which was released in April 2007. Although the N95 will not be discontinued, Nokia marketing manager John McCreadie said that he was predicting trade-ups to the new device, as well as converts from other handset manufacturers, to form the consumer base.

Described as a convergent phone, the N96 is aimed at technologically savvy consumers who like stay at the forefront of digital advances. In launching the handset, Nokia Australia general manager Emile Baak said that of all the times people used their mobile phones, only 12 per cent was to make or receive a call. This phone is aimed at satisfying the user demands of the remaining 88 per cent.

With in-built memory of 16 gigabytes, the phone is on par with the iPhone, although some of features are significantly better specified. For instance, the camera is five megapixels, video capture is onboard and MMS messaging is available. Additionally, the battery is replaceable. A three-month guidance service on Nokia Maps 2.0 is also available through the A-GPS receiver pre-installed on the phone.

For video playback and gaming, the screen is 2.8 inches. The double slide separates the gaming and playback controls from the numerical keypad, and while there are some concerns that slide devices can become loose, and a double slide will exacerbate this, Nokia representatives were confident that the research and development teams had overcome this.

In an effort to further monetise consumers, Nokia will be including vouchers to its music, gaming and television services to encourage try before you buy. Nokia has partnered with BBC Worldwide to enable season downloads of popular programmes to then be sideloaded onto the device.

To promote the N96 Nokia will be conducting a $4.2 million 360° advertising campaign in the coming months. This will include television, cinema, outdoor and internet promotions.

The great sticking point to take-up of this device, however, is the price point. At RRP $1,349 it is one of the most expensive mobile phone handsets currently available. Nokia today reported that over 10 million N95 and N95 8GB models had so far been sold – it will be interesting to compare the take-up of this new handset to that benchmark.