Finnish smartphone maker Nokia has launched its first touchscreen phone, with the Nokia 5800 Xpress Music taking on Apple's iPhone on features and price.

Nokia has clearly taken a cue from Apple in its design of the 5800 Xpress Music, formerly known as 'Tube'. The device, due for release by year's end, looks quite similar to Apple's iPhone, which has a single panel of smooth glass on the front.

The similarities end there. The 5800 runs Symbian's Series 60 OS, which Nokia says it has modified to make the software more user-friendly. The handset maker plans to release a software development kit soon for the platform.

"We wanted to turn the user interface into a human interface," said Jo Harlow, senior vice president of marketing, during a launch event in London.

Nokia 5800 Xpress Music

On the software side, the 5800 has a 'contacts bar' that shows images of frequently contacted friends. Those friends can be sent text messages directly from the home screen. Also, feeds can be assigned to those friends that will alert the device's user to new content on social-networking sites. It also has a drop-down media bar that gives one-touch access to music, photos, video or the internet.

The 5800 Xpress Music will support Adobe Flash multimedia technology, which is not supported by the iPhone. While many websites have created mobile versions of their sites to support the iPhone's capabilities, the 5800 could potentially work with many more websites without modification.

"I know some people thought Flash wasn't important on a mobile device," Harlow said, in a clear reference to Apple.

Nokia 5800 Xpress Music

Like the iPhone, the 5800 Xpress Music has a software keyboard rather than a tactile one. Apple's software keyboard can at times be difficult to manipulate since it requires a person's fingertip to touch the screen. Harlow said the 5800's soft keyboard will work with a fingernail or even a guitar pick in addition to a finger.

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When tilted on its side, the 5800 has a full-screen qwerty keyboard plus a mini-qwerty one. It's also equipped with handwriting recognition, which will recognise 60 languages, which Harlow said will cover about 90 percent of the world's mobile-phone users.

Nokia said the 5800 has built-in surround-sound speakers, which are louder than any other mobile device on the market. Nokia let those attending the launch try out the 5800's speakers in a soundproof booth. The 5800 has a 3.2Mp camera with a dual flash and a Carl Zeiss lens. The 5800's screen supports 16 million colours, which Harlow claimed is best in the industry.

The suggested retail price for the 5800 is €279 (£220) without subsidies or taxes, Harlow said. UK operators are likely to subsidise the handset for those users signing a long-term contract.

"That means this device is about half the price of competitive touch devices in the market today, and it certainly means that it is the best touch value proposition on the market," Harlow said.

NEXT PAGE: why the Nokia 5800 Xpress Music won't beat the iPhone

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