Just one day after it was officially declared that the United States was in a recession, Nokia announced the beautiful, albeit expensive, N97, a $705 (550 Euros) smart phone. It’s the latest device in Nokia’s high-end N-series of phones, and it’s the first one in the lineup to sport a touch-screen interface as well as a full QWERTY keyboard. Nokia stressed that the N97 wasn’t “just a phone,” but rather, a marriage between both a handset and a computer (the slides during the unveiling even went as far to call it a mobile computer). We think it looks similar to the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1 phone. Both devices have an accelerometer and a touch capable wide-screen display, but the N97 has a 3.5-inch screen as opposed to the XPERIA’s 3-inch one. The N97 sports the superior Symbian S60 version 5 (touch) operating system, too, instead of Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional. It also has a 5MP camera, and 32GB of on-board storage which can be expanded to 48GB in total. Yes, 48GB on a phone. You can start to see where the mobile computer/netbook similarities could be drawn. Look below for more specs, a hands-on video, and our photo gallery of the N97. Also like the XPERIA X1, the N97 has a home screen with customizable panels. During the demo video, we saw a Facebook panel, and the actual device we got to paw had one for weather, and another for what looked to be an e-mail inbox. Nokia says an SDK for these panels will be available later this year, and that a few would be available from Nokia on the device at launch during the first half of 2009. The N97 sounded like it had decent stereo speakers, even over the background noise at the press event. It’s a fully qualified multimedia device as well: it has a 3.5mm headphone jack, an FM radio, and video and music playback capabilities. We like the addition of an FM transmitter this time around, which will let you stream audio from the phone to your car or home stereo. Better yet, Nokia also told us that it will play N-Gage games. Unlike the iPhone 3G, the N97 sports a browser with Flash support, but we weren’t able to go hands-on with that during our preview. The device was still a prototype and was a bit buggy. That said, we are crossing our fingers that browsing is as impressive as it is on the Flash-enabled Nokia E71. In some ways, it looks like a more pocket friendly Nokia N810 tablet, except instead of having a screen that slides directly out, the N97’s display sits at a 35 degree angle above the keyboard when fully extended. Nokia also announced Nokia Maps 3.0 which brings new topographical maps, satellite imagery, 3D renderings of popular buildings in over 200 cities, and more. But the N97 can take advantage of the new software in a unique way: it has a compass built in. That means you can load up a map and know exactly which part of the map you’re facing. It reminds us of the Google Maps street view option on the iPhone. The N97, like its predecessors, supports 3G networks in Europe and will support American ones when it hits our shores, shortly after landing in Europe. We’re excited to get some lengthy hands-on time with the N97. Its an expensive phone, but if it maintains the high-quality build that other N-series devices offer, we think its features and performance will sweep the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1 under the rug.