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The Nokia N8 smartphone is displayed in Espoo in this September 8, 2010 file photo.

LEHTIKUVA/Lehtikuva

The world's leading cellphone maker, Nokia, said on Thursday it has started to ship its flagship smart phone model the N8.

Last week Nokia said it had delayed by a few weeks deliveries of the N8 to clients who had pre-ordered, hitting its shares on the day chief executive Stephen Elop started at the helm of the company.

The N8 is seen by analysts as Nokia's first real challenge to Apple's iPhone, more than three years after its launch. Its success and timing of its introduction are seen crucial to Nokia's profit margins in the third and fourth quarter.

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Nordea analyst Sami Sarkamies noted the new flagship device was expected to have a bigger impact on profitability in the fourth quarter than in the third.

Nokia said the N8 would be widely available in coming weeks.

"The N8 has received the highest amount of pre-orders in Nokia's history," said Jo Harlow, head of the company's smart phone unit, in a statement.

The N8, first to use Nokia's new Symbian software, was originally scheduled to reach consumers in June.

In April, Nokia warned the software renewal would take longer than expected due to quality problems, and said that the model would reach consumers by the end of September.

A weak offering of smart phones and problems with software were seen as the main reasons for Nokia replacing Chief Executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo with Stephen Elop from Microsoft.

The N8 stands out among its rivals for its 12 megapixel camera, but has a slower processor than Samsung's leading model, the Galaxy S, and Apple's latest iPhone.

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