Nokia N-GAGE

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The N-gage is a handheld introduced by mobile phone maker Nokia in 2003. Around the 00’s ever more young people carried both a phone and a handheld in their pocket. In many cases the phone would be a Nokia and the handheld a Gameboy, respectively the largest mobile phone manufacturer and Gaming company in the world by then. Nokia saw a business opportunity in combining the two use cases in one device. The result was the Nokia N-gage. The company thereby set there first steps into the growing gaming market and wanted to seriously compete with Nintendo.

Around the time of N-gages launch, Nintendo introduced there Gameboy Advance. Their long waited successor to the popular, but outdated, Gameboy Colour. The Gameboy Advance was very popular. It sold 81.5 million units. Compared to only 3 million Nokia N-gages.


The N-gage had a particular screen with a portrait aspect ratio in stead of the more common 4:3 screen ratio. Nokia choose for this, because the operating system of the N-gage was Symbian, the same as with their high-end phones. By choosing a standard mobile phone screen ratio the company could port games and software easily to their other mobile phones and vice versa.

Although its relative low sales the N-gage was more powerful than the Gameboy Advance and could produce some simple 3D-graphics. That was the result of the competent ARM920T @ 104 MHz processor accompanied by 3.4 MB RAM. In case of the graphical prowess it stood somewhere between the GBA and the Sony PS1.

N-Gage in use

Setting up the N-gage is far from intuitive. First of all, you can’t use the N-gage without putting in a sim card. This is not only the fact for calling of texting but also for gaming. You simply can’t get into the operating system without placing a sim card into the tray. This tray is located behind the cover plate, next to the game card slot. So secondly this means that every time you want to switch games, you have to pull of the cover plate, insert a game card and, the cover plate back on the device before you can start up a game. This is time consuming and therefore uninviting to swap games regularly.


57 games were launched for the N-gage. Most of those games played fluently although the frame-rate is more graphic intensive games could drop sometimes. I have a dozen games for the system. Most of my favourites are ports of games for other systems like ‘Tony Hawk’s pro skater’ and ‘Rayman 3’.

The buttons on the N-gage were responsive. However for a modern gamer the lack of thump sticks is hard to getting used to. Especially in shooters like ‘Ashen’ and ‘Call of Duty.’ The button layout itself was primarily designed for a phone not being suitable for gaming. Furthermore its resemblance to a taco when used for phone calls, leading to the origin of its mocking “Taco phone” nickname.

Afbeeldingsresultaten voor ngage taco


On May 26, 2004 Nokia introduced the redesigned version N-Gage QD that fixed widely criticised issues and design problems of the original model, however, it was unable to restore it already slightly defiled name. The platform was discontinued on November 26, 2005. Almost 3 years after launch. It was the first and also last attempt of Nokia to make a Phone/Handheld hybrid or any dedicated gaming device howsoever.

Worth300 euro
Prices299 dollar
Units3 million
Games released50+
CPUARM920T @ 104 MHz
Display2.1 inch 176×208 pixels

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