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Nokia launches new N-Gage gaming device

External MMC card slot helps load games

Nokia has launched a new, curvier and cheaper version of its N-Gage gaming device, hoping to spark interest in the combined mobile phone and game-playing product.

The N-Gage QD has an external MMC (multimedia card) slot, longer battery life, improved controls and a brighter screen, according to Nokia.

"They seem to be picking up on the design faults in the previous version," IDC analyst Jason Armitage said.

One of the main complaints about the previous N-Gage model, according to Armitage, was the difficulty of getting games (cards) in and out of the device. He reckons the external MMC card slot will help, and the new design is also sleeker.

A new N-Gage Arena launcher application, which comes installed on the new device, gives users access to the online N-Gage Arena web community.

Using a GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) connection, they can communicate with other players, download content and look up rankings and statistics, according to Nokia. Users of the current N-Gage will be able to download the Arena launcher software from May.

Shipments worldwide of the N-Gage, launched in October 2003, have been disappointing. The new version will allow Nokia to benefit from a "slight relaunch," Armitage said.

The new deck will support existing N-gage games as well as new games including Ashen, Pathway to Glory and Pocket Kingdom: Own the World, plus The Sims: Bustin' Out, Crash Nitro Kart and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004.

The lower price will also help to boost sales, Armitage said. The N-Gage QD will sell at about €99 on a contract basis, or €199 as an unsubsidized, untaxed retail price, according to Nokia.

Here in the UK the previous version was originally offered at £229 without a contract, although it is currently being sold at a "clearance" price of £139 by UK retailer The Carphone Warehouse or free with a contract through retailer Phones 4U.


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