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Nokia N-Gage QD: Games, Phone, PDA
The QD is Nokia's quick response to criticisms of the first model. The main two of these were that using the phone made some people feel self-conscious as it had to be held side-on to the ear, and the other one was that in order to change the game cartridge, you had to take out the battery.
Now the game cartridge (read-only MMC card) slips into a slot beneath the rubber bumper, and phone use is the standard flat against the ear. The unit has grown a little smaller and lost it's mp3 playing ability as well as its radio.
So, what do we have now? A PDA/phone/console that's a lot of fun, that's what! And also, although We haven't got that far yet, we don't see why it won't be able to be persuaded to play at least some music files ... more of that in a moment.
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First let's look at the games part. The unit has a really nice, bright screen around which are various controls which are easy to manage. The games themselves are sufficiently weighty to put a little distance between them and normal Java phone games. You can, apparently, run these as well, and they are cheap, so a few people might.
Once a game is loaded into the slot, you can go between the game and the phone apps with just a couple of menu operations or, if you get a phone call, you can just answer it from where you are.
Titles include Pandemonium, a 3D platform game, Rayman 3, Splinter Cell, The Sims: Bustin' Out, and sports games such as FIFA football 2004, and Virtua Tennis. We'll be looking at these in our games review section. Clearly, running on this platform, they are not going to be at the cutting edge of gaming but that's not what this is about anyway.
You can play some of these games with friends on a bluetooth net and Nokia is also hopeful that people will play over the Net using the GPRS capabilities.
Next, the phone. Being bigger than a lot of ordinary phones, it's actually easier to heft and less fiddly. The controls are straightforward and the added screen size is nice for seeing more information. The controls feel robust and positive. Audio quality is also fine. One advantage of increased size is that you can do the shoulder holding the phone to the ear thing which frequently isn't possible with a normal small phone.
PIM apps really do want a little more screen size than a normal phone provides and here they get it. There is a calendar, todo list, and notepad. You can use Bluetooth to sync with your computer. One minus for this section is there is no thumb-pad, just the usual phone controls where you have to press a key multiple times or chance your hand at using predictive writing... this last is really the only option if you're writing up something a little longer than a short SMS. Interestingly, Nokia has just announced a miniature Bluetooth keyboard for another phone and are making noises that, in future, this will work with other models.
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Web and Email
As far as the Net goes, you can access webpages through GPRS and sending and receiving emails is also possible. This phone was tested in the UK and we found that if we used the N-Gage Arena as an access point we could get the web and also poll our mail server. We couldn't get our provider's WAP service to work at all. The provider was O2 and the support was annoyingly, tediously, terrible. Our suggestion to them is to actually train staff to do more than read the company manual.
Another potentially interesting world is provided by add-ons. These can either be Java J2ME apps or be written in C++ using the Symbian SDK. Things of interest already done include an enhanced email client, an ftp client, and an Ogg player. Apps can be stored in spare memory on the phone or on MMC cards.
Battery life is hard to comment on without a described work cycle but we found that with some game play and some phone use it looks like lasting between three and four days on average. Intensive Bluetooth gaming would cut this time down quite a lot... and leaving Bluetooth on accidentally doesn't do it much good either, as we discovered.
Should you get this instead of a Blackberry or Handspring Treo? This is not a really serious question, but it does give an idea of the capabilities of the N-Gage QD. And yup, we like it a lot.
Specs at a glance ...
length 118 mm width 68mm thickness 22mm weight 143 g 176x208 pixel screen with 4096 colors dual band GPRS class B Hotswap MMC card Internal antenna 3.4 MByte internal user memory 16 MByte SD RAM headset with dual earphones Bluetooth 1.1 battery: talk - up to 5h, standby - up to 11 days, games - up to 10h enhanced SMS, MMS xHTML browser email: IMAP4, POP3, SMTP, MIME2
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