I remember the days when a mobile phone was exactly what it said on the tin; my very first mobile was a Nokia 5110 which I purchased shortly after they first came out and at the time it was an incredible phone – ‘lightweight’, ‘well specced’ and ‘user friendly’ although by modern standards it is considered heavy and very under featured. Some of the older generation who remember when a mobile phone weighed approximately the same as a fully grown badger would say that I’m wrong to mock my very first mobile but when I compare it to the models available on the market now I wonder how I was so proud to be seen in public with it.

Fast forward to the year 2004 and we see people carrying the fairly new Nokia N-Gage handset which resembles anything other than a phone; in fact I don’t think Nokia are even calling it a phone but rather a ‘Mobile Game Deck’. The unit weighs in at a fairly hefty 137g including the battery but is really packed with features including a colour screen and a multi-tasking compliant processor and whilst you may be wondering what you’d need these features on a phone for I plan to shed a little bit of light on the situation.

The N-Gage is Nokias latest attempt to target the youth end of the market that require a phone just as much for the ‘cool’ factor as the actual ‘phone’ factor. I remember when I used to work at Carphone Warehouse we used to get 12 year old children coming into the store with two hundred pounds worth of twenties stuffed in their pocket. They’d ask to see the phones and would merely be interested in the games that the handset played rather than the actual features of the phone and once established that the phone could play the game ‘Snake II’ they would stuff the money into my hand and run out the shop completely ignoring the option of insurance. More often than not they’d then come back into the shop a week later with another pocketful of twenties as their first phone had been stolen by their ‘best mate’ who was somewhat jealous of their new toy. I found it remarkable the amount of money that a large proportion of youth of today have access to; it’s clearly a very lucrative market for the phone manufactures.

To target this audience, the Nokia N-Gage has a fully featured games console built integrated into it which you can use to play far more sophisticated games than ‘Snake’ on – In fact it reminds me somewhat of the Sega Megadrive that I used to have as a teenager although slightly smaller. Games such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Tomb Raider and FIFA Soccer can be bought on removable memory cards which slot into the machine for around £30. Two people who both own N-Gages can also play head to head as the units can be linked wirelessly via Bluetooth. It has to be said that compared with modern consoles the games are very primitive but remember this isn’t a modern games console; it’s a phone.

Additional features include an inbuilt MP3 music player (including the ability to make an MP3 your ring tone), stereo music recorder, Voice recorder, FM radio, an XHTML browser, E-mail support, Multimedia Messaging, Bluetooth connectivity and 3.4mg standard memory which is fully upgradeable via memory cards and all of this is managed by the Symbian Operating System. It seems like technology gone mad and also such a shame that 99% of these units will end up in the hands of people who aren’t allowed to buy a lottery ticket legally and have no need to be carrying around that much technology in their pockets.

Having said that all of the above, I’m willing to bet that if you ask me in a couple of weeks then temptation will have probably set in and I’ll own one but ask me again in March and I’ll be sure to admit that it’s next to useless and I’ll wish I’d have stuck with my bulky but trusty 5110.

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