Back in 2003, Nokia put its foot forward into mobile gaming with the N-Gage. Here in the Gulf, it released to massive fanfare and immediately polarised opinion. You either hated it or loved it to bits. I was the latter.
At this point of time in the mobile world, no one had experimented with shapes, sizes and design like Nokia had. The N-Gage, too, was most unique thanks to its design. The phone had a horizontal construction with a eight-directional pad on the left, a 2.1-inch back-lit display with 4,096 colours and the number pad on the right. The design was intended to make mobile gaming easier for users.
Specs-wise, the N-Gage was definitely a powerhouse at the time. It ran a 104MHz ARM 920T CPU with 3.4MB of internal memory and supported external memory through MMC cards. It had Bluetooth and FM radio. It supported video and MP3 playback, as well as full email support (IMAP4, POP3, SMTP and MIME2). The N-Gage came with a 850mAh battery that provided more than enough power to run through a day of gaming, mobile usage, browsing and email. All this for about Dh999 (not adjusted for inflation).
Nokia had tie-ups with all the big names such as GameLoft, THX, EA Sports to develop games for the mobile format. The games came on MMCs that needed to be inserted into the device to play. Nokia itself also developed titles for the N-Gage. The gaming experience was a pleasure and as responsive as could be expected, with an array of titles that provided entertainment value for all ages. Tomb Raider, Rayman 3, Fifa 2004, Call Of Duty, Splinter Cell... all were available to be played on the phone, with some offering Bluetooth multiplayer.
The N-Gage wasn’t exactly the best mobile out there for many reasons. First of all, the earpiece and mic were on the top of the device, which meant you had to hold the phone sideways during calls. The speaker wasn’t exactly the loudest, so it wasn’t exactly an ideal companion in providing an experience during gameplay. The device had a horizontal design but the screen was in portrait format, so the field of view in games was very limited. Finally, the MMC card slot could not be accessed without dismantling the back of the device.
However, all said and done, for better or worse this was one of the best phones I ever had. Mine unfortunately saw an untimely passing under a car but after a month of searching back in 2009, I did find myself an original non-refurbished piece – you might remember the Finland-produced pieces were of great value here in the UAE – and instantly bought it for Dh200.
Should you fancy it, there are a few still available on eBay.