The Nokia N96 will be going against the Apple iPhone next month. The release date of N96 has been advanced -- it was only expected sometime past October. The N96 has all the right specs to go against the iPhone, which will be officially available on August 22nd.

First things first -- price? Well, the official price of the N96 is currently unknown. The N96 can be priced anywhere between Rs. 28,000 and Rs. 36,000, and the iPhone will sell for Rs. 31,000 for the 8GB version and Rs. 36,100, for the 16GB version. Although, as we note later in this piece, it would be wise for Nokia to price the N96 significantly less than the iPhone 3G -- it is, after all, Nokia's market share to lose.

On to the comparison then. While the iPhone includes a 3.5-inch screen, the N96 comes with a 2.8-inch one -- the iPhone's is a multi-touch screen, while the N96's isn't. The iPhone seems to enjoy a better footing as far as its user interface is concerned; especially with that 3.5-inch screen. In every other aspect however, the Nokia N96 seems to have an upper hand.

- The Nokia N96 has dedicated keys for dialing and SMS. The iPhone 3G comes with a virtual keyboard.

- Both devices will come with 16GB of internal memory. However, the N96 supports the microSD format which will allow for an additional 8GB of storage. The iPhone has no expansion slots.

- Both devices will support 3G.

- The N96 supports Bluetooth with A2DP, the iPhone does not offer A2DP support. Both phones offer WiFi.

- The N96 sports a 5MP Carl Zeiss lens with auto-focus and an LED flash. Compare this to the iPhone's 2MP camera. Both support photo geotagging.

- Both devices will support A-GPS. The N96 adds value to this feature by bundling maps from three countries along with the unit. India, Singapore and the UAE will come bundled with a 3 month navigation license across eight Indian cities: Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi/NCR, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Mumbai and Pune.

- N96 comes preloaded with Wave Secure, a S60 security application that allows consumers to track their handset in the event it is lost or stolen. It also allows them to backup their phone data over the Internet.

- Both devices support multimedia features and play videos and music. Here too, the N96 will add value to its proposition: it will come bundled with a full-length Hindi feature film -- Om Shanti Om, 50 music videos, and a mix of 100 Hindi and 100 English songs.

- The N96 will also pack along three N-Gage games, with an unlimited license on for the 3rd edition of Asphalt Urban.

- The N96 also comes with an additional VGA camera on its face for making video calls. Handy when we do get 3G connections.

- The iPhone has the App Store for third-party applications, while the N96 has the plethora of apps made for the Symbian S60.

If you are wondering which of these phones to pick up, we suggest waiting a bit until our labs does a thorough job of testing both of them. The iPhone's review should be ready for your perusal on the 22nd of August; the N96's not too long after that.

It's a shame that we have no official word on Nokia N96's price -- that would make a value comparison much easier at this stage. It looks like both parties are playing the price card very close to their chest.

Our take on the price equation: Nokia cannot afford to let the iPhone get the upper hand in the consumer market that both are targeting. While Nokia holds about 60% of the market in India, it will certainly need to guard against the Apple juggernaut. Note that the same retailers that pushed Nokia products will now be carrying the iPhone as well. Considering that, it would be wise if Nokia prices the N96 at a significantly lower point than the iPhone 3G.

Which one would you go for -- the iPhone 3G or the Nokia N96? You can book your Nokia N96 at Note that you will need to pay a pre-order amount of Rs. 4,000. The N96 will be available come September.

Pics from the press conference. The real phone is expected to be much smaller: