In the first six months since the original N-Gage was released, Nokia realized it had made some mistakes due to lackluster sales. As a result, it has recently announced the release of its improved version of the first-generation N-Gage phone / multiplayer gaming system, called the N-Gage QD.
Nokia has stressed that the new N-Gage QD isn't N-Gage 2.0, but rather still based on the original platform. The 2.0 platform will not be expected to surface until 2005 at the earliest. The N-Gage QD is built upon the existing N-Gage platform but has some improved features that should have been on the original.
Since we will be comparing the original N-Gage and the new N-Gage QD quite extensively, it can be quite confusing distinguishing which one is being referenced. For simplicity's sake, further mention of the original N-Gage will be "N-Gage" while the recently released improved N-Gage QD will be called "N-Gage QD" or simply "QD."
One of the first noticeable changes was the design of the N-Gage QD. The original N-Gage's microphone and speaker were located on the top. This forced users to hold the phone on edge. Due to the N-Gage's shape, the term "taco phone" or "elephant ear" came to be synonymous with embarrassed users talking on the N-Gage. Many people complained about it's awkward shape and even more awkward design as a phone.
Nokia listened and created the QD to have the earpiece and speaker on the front allowing for a much more natural way of answering the phone. Additionally, the dimensions are slightly smaller at 118 x 68 x 22 mm, compared to the 133 x 70 x 22 mm of the N-Gage. But unfortunately, that makes the N-Gage QD slightly harder to grip.
The N-Gage QD keypad has been altered as well. Many consumers have complained that the original N-Gage's keypad was too stiff to be used comfortably. Fortunately, the QD has been redesigned to include a more responsive keypad.
The directional keypad has also lost the ability to be pressed down. Instead of a 5-way keypad, the QD has a 4-way keypad with an extra button below. As to if this is better or not will depend on the user. Some may find it frustrating to pick up their thumb to press the button, while others may find the change refreshing.
Although some changes were cosmetic, others are functional. A major concern about the N-Gage was the hassle of changing games. Users needed to turn off the unit, remove the back cover, and then take out the battery in order to finally get to the game slot. Since this made swapping games difficult and time consuming, Nokia has designed the N-Gage QD have the ability to hot swap through a side compartment.
The basic features of the N-Gage QD are mostly unchanged from the original. However, the phone is now either dual-band GSM 850 / 1900 (Americas) or GSM 900 / 1800 (Europe, Asia, and Africa). The original N-Gage was tri-band 900 / 1800 / 1900.
Now the QD will not be able to used worldwide. However, this is not necessarily a drawback. For U.S. consumers, the addition of the 850 MHz frequency allows the QD to work across Cingular and AT&T's mixed networks where the original could not before.
The QD's operating platform is the Symbian 6.1 OS, not 7 like other Nokia phones. Nokia has also managed to increase its battery life from the original 6 hours of gameplay, to the new QD's 10 hours by bumping up the battery from 850 mAh to 1070 mAh.
The QD's LCD display is a 4096 color 176 x 208 px, making it a vertical screen. The orientation of the screen is a deviation from the classic horizontal orientation of most hand-held game decks.
Compared to the N-Gage, the screen is virtually the same, with the exception of the QD's screen being slightly brighter and sharper. But both the N-Gage and the QD has a TFT screen for fast refresh rates needed for gaming.
LCDs come in two forms, and TFT, as opposed to STN, has the circuit transistors placed on the glass at the pixel location instead of the need to scan the pixel location. This results in greatly increasing the response time and allows for very fast refresh rates, which is needed for fast paced games with high refresh rates.
Thus far we have mentioned how the new N-Gage QD outperforms the N-Gage. However where the QD is lacking is in the audio capabilities. Unlike its predecessor, the QD does not have either a MP3 player or a built-in FM radio. However, QD owners can still purchase music software to install on the console. But the QD doesn't support stereo audio output.
Nokia's reasoning behind stripping down the QD's capabilities was to avoid the premium price tag that the N-Gage had. This was a major discouragement for potential consumers, so the QD's production costs were cut down in order to keep its price competitive. Another reason was that Nokia had attempted to pack in too much. The N-Gage was meant to be a game console. Although including MP3 players and FM radios is great, it was not vital.
The QD can assign either WAV or MIDI files as ring tones making it much more versatile than classic phones, allowing users to record their own voice, or anything from an audio output to play when the phone rings. Additionally an internal speakerphone is present for times of driving.
SMS, MMS, and chat are supported. However due to the layout of the keypad, text messaging is more difficult on the one-sided N-Gage QD. Multimedia messaging (MMS) allows users to send messages containing images, text, and sound, as well as play audio, insert multimedia content, and save images as wallpapers.
External email accounts are supported with POP3, IMAP4, SMTP, and MIME2 protocols, allowing users to setup email accounts and check their mail when they're away from the computer.
Limited instant messaging and chat room features are supported through Nokia's N-Gage Arena. The N-Gage Arena is new to the QD, and not previously offered on the N-Gage. It is a software application that comes preinstalled on the game deck to allow users to access to the N-Gage Arena community. Once launched, the application connects via GPRS to allowing members to access chat rooms to communicate with one another.
Despite all the changes in design, Nokia's greatest challenge is attracting new game developers. Although the N-Gage QD supports existing N-Gage games titles, at the time of this review, the N-Gage has less than 20 games on the market.
Plans for new games such as "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004," "The Sims Bustin' Out," and "Ashen" are in the works. But there is still has much work ahead to catch up with competitors like the Game Boy SP with a broad range of games.
But the strength of the N-Gage is undoubtedly its multiplayer capabilities. Being built with a wireless phone connection allows users to play other people throughout the world from anywhere they go. That is a very powerful tool makes it outshine its competitors. However, Nokia has not yet utilized this feature to its full potential. Currently there are only a handful of multiplayer capable games out the market.
The N-Gage QD is also built on the Java 2 Platform Micro Edition, or J2ME for short. J2ME is currently the most popular platform for cell phone games on the market. Users will be able to download, install, or remove Java games onto their N-Gage.
While not comparable to the cartridge games in terms of graphics or gameplay, the J2ME games can be quite entertaining. Currently there are hundreds of J2ME games on the internet. Some are free to download, others require you to pay.
Other useful applications common on most phones are included as well. The QD comes with a calendar feature with monthly, weekly, and daily views. A To-Do list is also included for keeping track of tasks such as shopping lists or tasks to accomplish. Other useful tools include a currency converter, and Dictaphone to dictate text.
The N-Gage QD comes with WAP 1.2.1 with the ability to render xHTML pages. It also supports GPRS Class B, 3+1, 2+2 for increased bandwidth capabilities over standard CSD networks. This results in faster connection speeds of up to 40.2 kbps, which benefits in multiplayer games.
The internal N-Gage QD's memory is 3.4 MB. However there are slots for external memory cards. 32, 64, 128, and 256 MB cards can be purchased separately.
The N-Gage QD comes with Bluetooth technology to connect to other N-Gages or N-Gage QDs within a 10m radius. Up to 4 players can connect for multiplayer games. Connecting the N-Gage QD online can also be done through the N-Gage Arena software mentioned earlier. Once connected, access to the N-Gage members can also, download exclusive content, access rankings statistics, participate in events and activities, and more. Existing N-Gage users will be able download the N-Gage Arena launcher from the N-Gage website in May 2004.
The phone also supports all the latest PAN (Personal Area Network) features for sharing information between the N-Gage QD and a PC. SyncML is the common language for synchronizing all devices and applications over any network. With SyncML any personal information, such as email, calendars, to-do lists, contact information and other relevant data, will be consistent, accessible, and up to date, no matter where the information is stored.
However, neither the N-Gage nor the QD contains infrared ports. That makes transferring pictures, ring tones, J2ME games, and synchronization more inconvenient. Users who want to connect to a PC will have to buy a Bluetooth adapter for their computer or the USB data cable accessory.
Nokia has listened to its consumers. Many of the major problems with the original N-Gage are fixed in the new N-Gage QD. Mainly the awkward phone design, difficulty in swapping games, and high price. Small improvements have also been added to include the N-Gage Arena software, and brighter and sharper screen. However, to keep the price competitive, unnecessary features people might have come to love will be missing. Notably the MP3 player, FM radio, and tri-band functionality.
Some will like the new N-Gage QD, while others will prefer the original. Now users have two versions to choose from. The main reason for creating the QD was to make it more competitive with existing portable gaming devices. Understandably, a major concern was the price since competitors are selling their consoles and hundreds less than the original N-Gage retail price of $299. The N-Gage is a gaming deck, and Nokia felt it put too much on the first design that was not necessary.
Nokia's largest hurdle in the N-Gage QD's success is not with the device itself. It lies within the gaming market. Currently only a few games are available for the N-Gage. While more are in the works, the selection is not nearly as large as the Game Boy SP's. Nokia knows this, and plans on releasing 50 new N-Gage titles on the market by the end of this year, 75 percent of which will offer multiplayer sessions via the N-Gage Arena service.
The release dates for the QD is expected to be next May in Europe, Africa and Asia Pacific (GSM 900 / 1800) and in June for the Americas (GSM 850 / 1900). For the first time, consumers can purchase the N-Gage QD through cell phone carriers at a subsidized price of $99. Otherwise the QD will debut at retail price of $199. ♦
First of all, let say that first N-Gage was a huge disappointment. All those annoying small things that could have been done better were not.
New N-Gage QD strips off some features like FM radio and MP3 player which are nice to have, but are not mandatory for a good phone, which is meant to be a hand held gaming console. After all you can download MP3 player for QD and have it that way if you want.
Having talked to one of Nokia engineer who took part in development of this phone, he thought this one is way better that the old one, which he was not too keen to discuss about. New QD has a built in 3D-engine and all we have to wait is game developers to take full advantage of that. Also there were plenty of minor fixes that make QD better in quality and overall usage.
Reduced size of QD compared to the old N-Gage is in my opinion a huge improvement. No it fits in my pocket like all normal cell phones and it somehow fits better in hand... maybe because of rounded edges or something.
That's all for now. Let's hope that game developers take Nokia seriously and we get plenty of high quality games to play with N-Gage and N-Gage QD.
What bothers me more is the stereo plug for headphones, which is mini-size and needs some sort of adapter to fit for real headphones instead of the ones supplied with the phone. Adapters are always nasty to carry around and they have tendency to make sound quality even worse, if it was good in first place.Was this review helpful to you?
The QD's only impressive features are extra battery time (the battery lasts twice as long as the N-Gage); it's sleeker and smaller, face-talking rather than side-talking and an external MMC slot for games.
The N-Gage QD is a somewhat downgrade of evolution for the N-Gage. The "original" is still the fan favorite after this pitiful attempt at a sequel to merge the best of gaming and a phone. Unfortunately, there's still no real player for movies and shows, or an MP3 player and FM radio for your music needs. Nokia could have done a better try at entertainment for the nomad gamer.Was this review helpful to you?
- Headset included (dual-mono).
- Dummy-SIM-card included (so even people without a SIM card can use the game to play).
- "Busy" sign when opening an app/games/access MMC (you'll if something is going on).
- RealPlayer is included, but it needs to be installed manually. It is on the CD which came with the phone.
- Clear screen.
- Good games.
- Good for gaming.
- Nice size.
- Extreme clear and loud loudspeaker.
- Screen-capturing app.
I bought it as second phone and for gaming. And it was a good choice. I like it, subway-rides won't be that bored anymore.
- No full screen 3GP playback.
I've never had the original N-Gage, but the QD version does it for me. Being a gaming addict with a PC it's interesting to play 3D games on a phone. Tomb Raider is all I have, but it's definitely a cool 3D challenge. I played Multiplayer Snake in 3D once, which was a real laugh. There are heaps of games so you won't get bored with this one.
Apart from not being the greatest phone to put in your pocket, size-wise it does all the things a phone should do like making a phone call and receiving calls. It's a pity there's no radio or MP3 player because there's the possibility to remove MMC cards without turning the phone off.Was this review helpful to you?
The Nokia N-Gage QD was one phone I was always looking for. I had a Nintendo Game Boy sometime back and so I wanted some phone that could help kill boredom as I always looked for a reason to carry my Game Boy everywhere I went.
The only regrets I have are that it doesn't have an FM radio, which could make it the best phone around and kill the competition. I don't think a camera is required, but an FM radio could make it a better bet. I don't quite miss the fact that it does not have an MP3 player as you could download it from the Internet by using Bluetooth or a card reader for MMC card.
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