Almost exactly seven years ago, before the launch of Apple’s iPhone and the ubiquity of the App Store, Nokia launched the N-Gage. The N-Gage was a combination mobile phone and gaming device that was intended to take on Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance.
The N-Gage (mk1 pictured below) was pretty much the first gaming phone and should really be considered a failed yet bold attempt to kick-start what is now a huge multi-billion dollar business globally. The N-Gage didn’t get the kind of success Nokia really hoped for despite the many millions invested in marketing. I actually liked this phone and did happily use it as both a phone and gaming device, although admittedly the main game I played was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater! Combining a gadget with skateboarding is a sure way to catch my eye.
The most obvious quirk of the phone’s design was that you had to hold the thin edge of it to your head to make calls, so it looked pretty comical! (Check out http://sidetalking.com/ !) Nokia subsequently brought out the ‘N-Gage QD’ which removed the side-talking feature and added a backlight and made it a bit smaller, as well as putting the game card slot on the outside instead of inside behind the battery!
The demise of the N-Gage started back in 2005 when the N-Gage as a hardware device ceased production leaving only N-Gage as a software component on various Nokia devices. However, September last year marked the final nail in the coffin (N-Gage 2003-2009: An Obituary) of the N-Gage when it was finished off completely.
As quirky as it looked, I think the N-Gage was an interesting concept which was ahead of its time – location-based multi-player networked gaming via bluetooth or over the internet via mobile-phone networks? Back in 2003? Who would ever be able to afford the data fees that the carriers would have charged you back then?!! Nokia spent a lot of money trying to make it a success, but the timing just wasn’t right for a device with those capabilities.
Nokia are really up against the wall these days with Apple’s iOS platform and the Android platform pushing the bar in both hardware and software capabilities. Although I’m a hardcore iPhone user I used to be a very happy Nokia user, the Symbian S60 OS integrated pretty well with my Mac. Once I got an iPhone of course that all ended, but I’ve still enjoyed using my various Nokia handsets such as the N80 and N95.
Pushin’ the envelope
Nokia do seem to be trying to find their feet in this changing mobile device landscape, certainly the Nokia N8 device has some great features, especially the 12MP camera which seems to produce some pretty spectacular photography.
Innovation like Nokia’s Push project also seems to demonstrate some of the same pioneering spirit behind the N-Gage, breaking new ground by exploring the use of mobile devices as part of our physical activities – of particular interest to me are the skateboarding and snowboarding prototypes (as I said earlier, a sure way to get me interested is to combine gadgets with skateboarding!).
I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of these initiatives (I’d like to get my hands on either the skate or snow prototypes to play around with them!). For now I’ll just end with saying farewell to the Nokia N-Gage!