Nokia's chief executive has heaped praise on Apple for the iPhone, just hours ahead of the official launch of the Nokia "Tube" touchscreen phone.

Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, speaking at a Silicon Valley event, said emerging rivals in the mobile phone market such as Apple and Google have helped to grow consumer's interest in accessing the web on mobiles.

"Suddenly you have the mightiest companies in the world there as your competitors. That is a little mind-boggling", Kallasvuo said.

Nokia, the world's largest producer of mobile phones, will be the last of the big manufacturers to offer a mass market touchscreen device when their music-themed offering launches later today.

Stating that Apple had done the mobile phone industry "a big favour", the Nokia boss stated: "We have a new, credible competitor in this business. You know I need to take my hat off".

However, Kallasvuo added: "Of course we need to be able to respond to any competitor and we will".