Back in 2003, Nokia was basically the Samsung of today, selling more phones than any other manufacturer. So, the Finnish phone giant thought this was a good time to experiment. Well, we have seen Nokia experiment before and some of them have been crazy (take the lipstick phone for example), but this time, the company wanted to fancy its chances in the gaming market.
Remember that back in 2003, phones were not gaming devices. Snake was probably the most popular game back then. So, launching a gaming smartphone hybrid wasn’t a mainstream idea. But Nokia was the largest phone manufacturer in the world and it could afford to make mistakes. This led to the birth of the legendary N-Gage lineup.
N-Gage was no ordinary phone and you could tell that just by looking at its design. The phone had a 2.1-inch display, which is really small by today’s standard, that was flanked by D-pad and several quick keys on the left and an alphanumeric keypad and other quick buttons on the right. If not for the buttons on the right, you would have easily mistaken it as an handheld gaming console.
Yet, the Nokia N-Gage was a true phone. You could make calls, send and receive texts, and even access calendar and other media applications. Further, you had Bluetooth and a WAP browser! So, it was a pretty decent phone for its time. One thing that was a bit awkward was the way you had to make/receive calls. Because the speaker was located on the side, when talking on the phone, you had to keep it sideways. Well, I’m sure not a lot of people were eager to talk on this device!
If you somehow could ignore this design aspect, the N-Gage offered some really good features on the gaming side. First, big names such as Sega, EA, and Ubisoft brought their popular titles to the N-Gage platform. Games like Call of Duty, FIFA, Sonic, and Tomb Raider were available to play on the phone. All you had to do is insert the gaming cartridge in the device and you were set for your gaming session. To top it off, the N-Gage supported Bluetooth wireless multiplayer and came with an onboard mp3 and video player too which was a big deal in its time!
However, despite the popular titles available on the phone, it didn’t garner enough sales. One big reason could have been its expensive price tag of $299. In contrast, the Gameboy was cheaper! Another reason could have been its design and usability issues. I mean, you had to switch off the phone and remove the battery every single time to replace the gaming cartridge.
No wonder PC Mag described the N-Gage in these words — “a poorly implemented great idea.”
Despite the criticisms it received, the concept of a gaming phone, as we know it today, was established by the N-Gage. So when you see flagship smartphones like the ASUS ROG, Nubia Red Magic, or even the Xiaomi Blackshark, do remember the legendary Nokia N-Gage which conceptualized this idea!
Still interested in the Nokia N-Gage? Check out this video!
Did you ever use the Nokia N-Gage? Do you still have it with you?
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