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What is the deal with Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and smart phones? Here we have the world’s largest cell phone producer - by a wide margin - and it can’t find a carrier partner in the U.S. for their new top-of-the-line smart phone, which features one of the company’s usual memorable names: the N97.

That doesn’t bother Kulbinder Garcha: the Credit Suisse analyst Tuesday repeated his Outperform rating on the stock, lifting his price target to 14 Euros, from 12 Euros. He also boosted his 2010 EPS estimate to 1.10 Euros per share, from 1.00 Euros. In his note, Garcha specifically looks at the N97 and other Nokia smart phones. He finds that the gross profit per unit of its newer models is about twice that of its existing smart phone portfolio.

On the other hand, he also notes that he did a comparison of four key new smartphones, and ranked them on 10 key metrics. The highest ranked, with a score of 91/100, was the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone. That was followed by the Palm (PALM) Pre at 77/100, and the HTC Magic with 71/100. Bringing up the rear, with a score of 63/100, “owing mainly to software deficiencies,” is the N97. (Although he does not that the N97 is much better than the previous generation smart phone, the N95.) That said, he thinks the N97 will become “the company’s highest earner” in the second half of this year.

No thanks to the U.S. market though, where you can buy the phone, but it will cost you $699 at retail, which seems a lot given you can get the 32 GB iPhone 3GS at $299 with a two-year carrier contract.

NOK Tuesday is up 34 cents, or 2.4%, to $14.42.

Anyway, below you’ll find an interview Walt Mossberg did with Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo at the recent D7 conference; about half way through the 8 minute clip is a demo of the N97.

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Source: Nokia Target Boosted on Hopes for the N97