Nokia N8 has started shipping

Customers who have pre-ordered the smartphone will get the first units

The first units of Nokia's N8 have left factories in China and Finland, and the smartphone will become broadly available in the coming weeks, the company said on Thursday.

Read our comprehensive Nokia N8 review.

Check out our Nokia N8 vs. iPhone 4 smartphone showdown.

Market availability will vary by country and by operator, Nokia said. However, customers who have preordered the smartphone from its websites or stores will be the first to receive it, according to Nokia.

The N8 is key to the company's efforts to turn around its fortunes in the ever-more-important high-end smartphone segment. The phone is based on Symbian version 3, which is a big improvement over previous versions of the Symbian operating system, but it still hasn't caught up to the Apple iPhone's iOS or Google's Android, according to market research company CCS Insight.

Getting the device out the door has been an uphill battle for Nokia. Originally, it was supposed to show up in stores during the second quarter. However, in April, Nokia announced the smartphone was delayed to the third quarter, and last week it had to put out a statement denying reports of further delays.

The N8 will come with a 3.5-inch touchscreen, a 12-megapixel camera with a Xenon flash and support for video recording at 720p. Other video features include an HDMI port to connect to a TV and support for Dolby Digital Plus surround sound, according to Nokia.

Users will be able to surf the Web using 802.11n, which is becoming increasingly common on new smartphones. The phone will have 16GB of memory and a micro SD card.

The N8 will cost about $US500, before taxes or subsidies.

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