Nokia World: "Nokia is back", claims handset maker with three new devices but MeeGo is M.I.A.

With the company in-between CEOs, it was left to Niklas Savander, Executive Vice President, Markets, to deliver the opening keynote at today’s Nokia World in London. And strangely but perhaps appropriately, he was later joined by Anssi Vanjoki, EVP Mobile Solutions and effectively Nokia’s no. 2, who just yesterday handed in his notice.

Admirably, Savander did his best to rally the troops – all 3,000 attendees, apparently – telling the audience that the message is: “Nokia is back”, a direct reference to the Finnish handset maker’s loss of the high end smartphone crown, even if in terms of raw numbers it still dominates the market world wide, depending on how you define smartphone, of course. But we’ll save that debate for another day.

To put some meat on the bone, Vanjoki then took to the stage to unveil three new Nokia devices – the C6, C7 and E7 – all of which run Symbian^3. Yes, that’s right, MeeGo – the company’s next-generation mobile OS developed in partnership with Intel – was missing in action, leaving some attendees clearly disappointed. That said, I got some hands-on time with each of Nokia’s newly announced smartphones as well as the N8, which also runs Symbian^3 and came away fairly impressed. Here’s a quick run-down of those devices.

Probably the most interesting of the bunch, the Nokia E7 (pictured above) is said to be a successor to the company’s original “communicator” smartphone of yesteryear. That’s because it features a large 4inch touch screen and (very usable) 4-row physical landscape QWERTY. Like all of the devices announced today, it benefits from improvements to Symbian, including speed but most notably the UI, which now eliminates inconsistencies like the need to double tap in some parts of the OS while not in others, a previous kludge as Symbian moved from scroll and click to touch.

Naturally, being primarily a business device (although the lines are purposefully blurred), the E7 supports Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync. The screen, which as Engadget notes, “really pops”, uses Nokia’s ClearBlack technology “for improved outdoor visibility” and on first impressions rivals the iPhone 4’s Retina Display. It has 16GB of built-in storage too. Price: €495 excluding taxes and carrier subsidies.

A sort of mass-market N8 (see below), the C7 is described as a “social networking smartphone” with the emphasis on updates from social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and email alerts pushed to the homescreen. It features a 3.5-inch AMOLED display with a build that combines “stainless steel, glass and soft edges”, and 8GB of built-in storage. It’ll be priced at around €335, excluding taxes and carrier subsidies.

To get an idea of how it feels in the hand, imagine an all touch screen version of the Nokia E71, minus the physical QWERTY keyboard. In fact, the C7 and all the devices announced today appear to have benefited from the fact that the E-Series and N-Series (and the company’s other smartphone ranges) reportedly no longer work as separate divisions, with design cues shared more broadly across the board.

The C6 is the more low-budget of the four Symbian^3 powered devices. It sports a 3.2-inch AMOLED touch screen and once again uses Nokia’s new ClearBlack technology. It’s being pitched as “the best of social networking and mobile entertainment” and will cost in the region of €260, excluding taxes and carrier subsidies.

Positioned as the “ultimate entertainment smartphone and world’s best cameraphone”, the N8’s flagship feature is its 12 megapixel camera, which is said to rival standalone digital cameras and is capable of shooting 720p HD video, as are all of today’s newly announced phones. The device also has 16GB of built-in storage and an HDMI out so that it can be plugged into a HD television and, unlike the iPhone, anything on the phone (not just video and photos) is mirrored on the TV.