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Feature What's Next for the N-Gage? 08/07/2004
Get personal with the QD
N-Gage QD screenForget everything that you've been told about the N-Gage. Just take everything that the gaming press, the retail industry, and especially Nokia themselves have told you about the little handheld that couldn't, roll it into a ball, and leave it somewhere. Now, don't you feel better without all of that negativity? It's not your fault, really, that you felt that way about the system. You're just the result of poor marketing. I feel bad for you.

Since the second that Nokia announced the N-Gage, they tried to convince you that you needed to shell out 300 dollars for a portable gaming system. That didn't go over well, and you said to yourself, "But a Game Boy Advance SP is only one hundred dollars and it has many, many games. Including those starring all of the characters I know and love." Still, Nokia insisted that you buy their gaming system. They screamed it to you in a Nordic accent, and then whispered something about it having other capabilities, something about a phone, but you didn't really catch that part since you were busy being mercilessly sold the most expensive portable in years.

As I said before, you're the victim here. You've been poorly marketed to. If you went into a cell phone store and I offered you a gaming system that kind of worked as a phone and did some other stuff, you'd look at me like I was out of my mind when I tried to make you pay three Franklins for it. However, if I told you about this really kickass phone that not only gave you a bunch of PDA functionality and worked as an MP3 player, but also let you play full-color games of PlayStation quality on the road, you'd probably think I was an all right guy. That's the N-Gage, the really cool phone explained to you all wrong.

Unfortunately, because it was explained to you poorly, you didn't buy it, and neither did a lot of people. Now, we have the N-Gage QD, which is like the original minus a few features like the MP3 capability, and sans the side-talkin'. It's also a hundred dollars cheaper. Is it worth it?

Read on. I insist.

N-Gage QD face

As a Phone
I want to preface this section by mentioning exactly how bad the cellular service in Montana actually is. When Nokia first sent me the N-Gage, it had a dummy SIM card (the card that programs the phone and stores all the phone's information) that was enough to let me turn on the unit and play games on it. However, trying to find a usable SIM card was about as fruitful as trying to find Sasquatch. Thankfully, the kind people at Nokia sent me a preprogrammed card and I was on my way to chatting with my peeps and playing games with other people over N-Gage Arena. I haven't used it all that much as a phone, though, since it's not on my dime and because I'm afraid of a stoic Scandanavian fellow showing up at my door and issuing me a stern warning while kicking me between the legs for running up his bill.

With all that said, the QD is a pretty nice phone. It's loud and as clear as a GSM can possibly be in a very limited coverage area. And since you're not forced to side talk, it's very non-humiliating to use. It's weird getting used to using a phone that's laid out like a GBA, but the buttons have a nice jellybean texture similar to the Black and White buttons on the Xbox controller that makes dialing while distracted easier. The phonebook is well laid out and easy to use and the menu system itself is actually far easier to use and navigate than in most phones, since you have a nice d-pad and the screen is so big and bright.

There's no shortage of menu options either, from basics like changing your ringtone, adding to your phonebook, and Web access to the other N-Gage only stuff, like playing whatever game you have in the card slot or jumping into the Arena. Fortunately, it's all navigable using just the d-pad and the buttons on the left side of the unit, so ease of use is definitely something the QD has to spare. One touch that I really liked is that tapping the power button gives you a shortcut to changing your ringer mode or locking the phone. It's also good that games can be started easily using the left select button. Nokia definitely put some thought into it, because they love you in their own frigid way.

You don't care about that though, you only want badass ringtones. The stock ringtones are stuff you'll easily recognize if you've ever had a Nokia phone and aren't anything terribly special, though there is a QD-specific ringtone which is definitely very, very loud. You're not limited to what you're given, though, since there's a ringtone composer that'll let you make your own music - whether or not you know anything about it, and I have to assume that you can also download tones straight to the phone (I can't where I am).

Besides having a phone that can ring to the Shenmue theme, battery life is also pretty important. Nokia did a good job here as well. According to the official spec sheet, you can get up to ten hours of gaming, five of talk time, and up to eleven days of standby, and for all of the times I've left it on, I believe it. Not bad for a phone with a fully lit color screen. And a durable screen it is, since it's survived many days in my pocket and shown little wear, provided I keep my keys the hell away from it.

N-Gage QD game slot

As an Organizer
You already know that the QD has a nice phonebook that's easy to use, because I already told you and I know you were paying attention. What you don't yet know is that it has an equally good calendar, very similar to what you'd see on Palm handhelds. Input a meeting, memo, or anniversary and the QD will do the remembering for you, even going so far as to remind you ahead of time if you tell it to.

That might sound tedious to anyone who's typed any kind of text with a cell phone, but because the buttons on the QD are nice and rounded it's actually not so bad. Not only that, but the wait time for the cursor to move on to the next character is criminally short, so once you become good at typing you can set up your schedule in no time.

As a Taco
The N-Gage makes a convincing Taco. I've more than once convinced others to bite into it's plastic surface. Ha.

2004 The Next Level