Nokia Communications, the largest global manufacturer of mobile phones, has announced plans for the N97, the company's latest smartphone. In brief, the N97 has a 3.5" touchscreen display combined with a sliding QWERTY keyboard, comes with 32 GB of storage, a 5 megapixel camera, and day and a half of continuous music playback, all at the low price of $700 (550 Euros).

For those of you who aren't aware, Nokia is the 500-pound gorilla in the European cell phone market, but is a relatively minor player in the United States.

What makes the phone different
In addition to all of the amenities that have become fairly standard in today's smartphones, the N97's most innovative new feature is something called social location. Combining GPS, Wi-Fi, and the social media craze, the N97 allows you to reveal your location at all times to your friends, and also see where they are. (And no, I doubt Google Maps is integrated to easily yield directions between your phone buddies. Though, I could imagine people getting a kick out of Googling how far it would take for your best friend to make it to your house. Gone are the days of using family reunions, sports events, and dentist appointments to explain why you couldn't make it to your friend's birthday party.)

In addition to the slightly-creepy ability to see where all your friends are, the N97 offers other integration with sharing pictures and videos. Though, I haven't found much relevant information at this point about exactly what those features are.

Worth the price?
OK, I can see how the whole "echo location" of all your nearest pals is pretty cool. But, is that really compelling enough to plunk down $700? I haven't checked the latest inflation statistics, but the last time I checked, that was an awful lot of money. And in addition to virtually free cell phones where you can surf the web and text or call your friends, there are already a variety of similar smartphones available at half the price of the N97.

To make a long story short: the N97 will probably earn great success in the European market, but when and if it comes to the United States, it won't be so fortunate. The N97 clearly targets a consumer market, and the iPhone and T-Mobile G1 already have that angle of America covered.

This does provide an interesting case study—in an age where money is increasingly more difficult to come by, the technologies being marketed to us continually become more innovative (and oftentimes, more expensive). Whereas a cell phone was once a luxury, the device (and its costly service and data plans) has now become a must-have. But has Nokia gone too far, or will consumers continue to surprise us with their desire for the latest gadgets—at whatever cost? We'll soon find out.

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