The N-Gage in Q4 2003


Nokia has done quite the job on this launch. There's news items everywhere, even though it'll be almost a year before anyone starts to play with the thing... I mean, Q4 is when, October at the minimum and probably more like December, but the date will slip like every mobile phone date has yet, and I won't be able to touch the thing until next January at the least. Anyways, if you're interested in the buzz, check out the N-Gage minisite and some news at All About Symbian (of course), InfoSync, PMN, (AP), Nokia's press releases, Yahoo (Dow Jones), Net Imperitive, Wireless Newsfactor, and more if you bother looking.

I want to be positive about this thing because it's a cool Symbian phone, but it's hard. My negative thoughts sum up like this: It's probably not going to be cheap enough to be a real GBA competitor. No business users will buy it. The screen is tiny (the same screen that's on my 7650). The games are proprietary - only licensed developers will be able to distrubute their games on the custom copy-protected MMC cards. Text messaging will be difficult with one hand. There's no real photos of the device, so I think it's in trouble to ship by Christmas 2003. The mini-site sucks, it's all just Flash and marketing fluff. With only 4 Megs internal memory (not counting the MMC slot), it really limits Java based games (as if they aren't limited already). And who the hell thought that sending screen shots of in-game progress to your friends was something worth promoting? Ugh.

The screen thing is the most significant to me, being a GBA addict: I will say the N-gage "game deck" device isn't that big and relatively light, so I think in that context maybe the screen won't seem that bad. But I'm sorry, after using my phone day in and day out and getting used to the dimensions of the screen (which has a decent resolution, but is physically tiny), when I switch to my Gameboy Advance to play, it feels humungous! Like going to a friend's house to see a movie on their big screen TV. Now with the new backlit screen and smaller form-factor GBA coming out, it's going to be painfully obvious how woefully inadequate the N-Gage screen is for gaming.

The good stuff is that it's a Symbian-based device with all the bells and whistles and hardware support for the goodies like FM/MP3 Stereo, Bluetooth and tri-mode GPRS. And the OS and 104Mhz StrongARM processor means that the games can be much more detailed and complex than the GBA. If someone comes up with a killer mobile game in the next year, this will be THE device to play it on. But as it is now... ooof. It's going to be hard sell.

So anyways, it's a neat device and I want one of course, but we'll have to wait and see it in person.


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