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MrMobile Retro Review: Looking back at the Nokia N-Gage

In 2003, Nokia declared war on Nintendo with the N-Gage, a Game Boy Advance lookalike with a Series 60 mobile phone inside. The conflict – to put it mildly – did not go in Nokia's favor. With a cumbersome design that required the owner to remove the battery in order to change games, the N-Gage wasn't exactly user-friendly, and with only a handful of available titles compared to the Game Boy Advance's 1,200, the N-Gage ecosystem hardly justified the device's $299 asking price. Worse still: the phone's earpiece was mounted on its spine, making for a bizarre look and feel when it came to voice calls and leading to the unfortunate nickname "Taco Phone."

Needless to say, Nokia's N-Gage experiment did not go well. The company launched a sequel (the N-Gage QD) in 2004 and eventually repositioned N-Gage as a gaming platform that spanned its Symbian smartphone line, but it never gained the traction Nokia sought and the brand was shuttered in 2010.

Today, the original N-Gage is a monument to the days when new form factors flooded a nascent mobile market, and a still-dominant Nokia led the charge to pack ever more functionality into the humble cell phone. Join MrMobile for the Nokia N-Gage Retro Review – and if you owned one of these (or even if you just wanted one) drop a comment below with your story!

Gettin' social with it!

47 Comments
  • I never owned one, but I definitely wanted one.
  • Same here, I remember seeing them in Gamestop!
  • I wanted one until I played with one and saw how it worked as a phone. Then I decided I was better sticking with my phone and GBA.
  • Ha ha I bought all the crazy Nokia designs including the idiotic 3650/3660
  • Also, my favorite old phone, was actually one that was so stupid that you couldn't talk on it without an ear piece lol.. The Motorola Accompli 009. I did love that device.
  • Yeah I own one. It's around here someplace. It was cool for its time.
  • Never heard of this, but it seems like it was an interesting attempt. Thanks for sharing MrMobile.
  • Here in the UK we called it the pasty phone... Tacos weren't and still aren't as ubiquitous here as they are in the states, much as I wish they were. How about an Xperia play video? That's kind of a ******* child of the N-Gage and Moto rizr. Oh censorship how I loathe thee.
  • i had one and man it was so good had some games and i sold it because it was not really a phone.
  • I wanted this phone so bad when it came out, but never got the chance to own it or use it.. It's funny looking at it now
  • I remember playing with one of these. It was weird. It was awkward at first. But it was so dang cool. I still want one, though just for nostalgia this time. I still have the box for the 3310, but I can't find the actual phone.
  • My best friend had one in 8th grade and he would always rub it my face.
  • Your emo pic is so hilarious. Man back then i had a cell phone store and use to sell the n-gage . So i guess you could say i owned over 100 of those. What a failed experiment. Back then companies took such crazy design risks.
  • Something we don't see much of these days.
  • You're forgetting companies like Apple who are courageously making life more difficult for the loyal zealots.
  • Mmmmmmmmmmmmm Tacos.
  • Ah gameboy.... the days when you payed For complete good games... no dlc, no bullshit, all was love back then, on thread, gaming and mobile are two terms that have been in war For a long time, but considering how quickly tech advances, and the fact that the New Ps4 pro is Just a low-to-mid range pc that in no time Will be obsolete (Again), it makes sense For Developers and companies put Cash on smartphone market, Nintendo is already doing it, the NX apparently (hope not) Will be a tablet like console (Last rumors to now), and if Nintendo is putting Cash on mobile market, that mean than nintendo knows the pottential of mobile market, being an independent company For so long and make Cash without external help is a lot, but time Will tell, from now i think than the console market Will no pass the 10th gen, it is already a horrible industry, not totally cooked games, dlcs that makes the complete games, 70% of current games being ports and remakes and the New games take forever in launching and in some cases incomplete games (MGS5) and in expensive price tags, i can keep all the Day, but my point is, mobile market have the pottential to kill the console market in the future, that is my point thought
  • TL:DR
  • Longest. Sentence. Ever.
  • I and three of my friends had the N-Gage. One had the stupid N-Gage Q. We were always playing Ash and some other game, i don't remember the name. That was great! Good times
  • I still have one and two of the newer models with almost all the games I worked at a GameStop back when this was out got most of the games for free.I still play around with it loved the phone
  • Does anyone remember the Tapwave Zodiac? That thing was definitely ahead of its time. I still have mine and I love it. The only difference is the Zodiac was not a phone but it had a pretty decent touch screen. Came out around the same time too. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tapwave_Zodiac
  • I had the 2nd one to come out. I can't remember what games I had but I bought a 256MB MMC card and this disk full of games and ringtones off eBay and I felt like I had the best phone ever invented.
  • I wanted one so bad, seen it advertised in official xbox magazine but couldn't afford it as a teen lol
  • Same here :) Posted by a Lumia Lover.
  • What makes this guy "Mrmobile"? Why isn't he on his own site if he want to go by a lame tag line? Is he more mobile than the other people on this site? What makes him so special he can't just use a name like the other folks? It's not like his articles and videos are any better. Was there an article explaining this?
  • It's a pen name.
    AC probably pays him to be on their site.
    Yes.
    And a lot of people really like the way he presents these things, myself included. The videos are slick, to the point, fair, and seem to address the issues most of us would be concerned about. If you don't like them fine, lots of other writers out there. I would guess there has been more buzz about his reviews than anything else on AC in awhile, it's practically become part of the brand...
  • aaaw ...
  • Does the name "Michael Fisher" ring a bell? He's a big deal if you know his reviews during his days at Pocketnow
  • 1 - Yes, Mr. Mobile has a name: Michael Fisher.
    I don't like the pen name (Captain 2 phones was cooler) but it's Michael's choice to make, not mine. At any rate, I know who he is and I never ever call him "Mr. Mobile" anyway. It's not even an issue. 2 - Michael Fisher has joined Mobile Nations months ago. There was a post about it (actually more than one I believe). And if you bothered to click the menu button on the top of the website, you'd see him listed on the list of Mobile Nations pages. 3 - He's only YouTube-bound. And he's not OS-bound. Which gives him freedom to review anything and everything and doesn't tie him to Android Central, Windows Central, iSheep Central or any Mobile nations page in particular. 4 - What makes him "special" is that he produces some of the best video reviews out there and often produces full length video reviews which Mobile Nations sites have been decreasing on. So it makes all the sense in the world to have someone connected to Mobile Nations who does mainly video reviews. Believe it or not, not everyone has the time or patience to read written reviews of gadgets.
  • Good response. I know he joined months ago, I just figured at some point he would drop the lame pseudonym. I don't really have a good understanding of what Android central is now. I thought it was a news and review site of things running Android but it's not anymore. Yes i read the article explaining that they are bigger than god now and don't need to be tied to one OS. I guess what I think about MrMobile, is that if he's so awesome and mobile, hwy does he need to be here? Shouldn't he be on MRMOBILE.com and building his own site, status, and viewership? Why would someone come to AC to watch his videos if he's on Youtube? Funny thing about time, it takes me less time to read an article than to watch a video.
  • Nice review and what a flashback! Wanted one of these when it came out too. How bout a palm treo 750 throwback video?
  • I had one, and people used to laugh at me when talking, so I saved on my bills... :P
  • Like holding a taco to your face.
  • Model Railroader.
  • Yep. Still have mine. I have the 2nd gen model. Haven't powered it on in years. Never used it as a phone.
  • I wanted one of those so bad back in the day. Never got one though :(
  • I had one of the first 3g video phones, that too had the voice call gubbins on the phone's edge. I felt like a **** making calls. So I got rid of it.
  • ePicness...
  • God... How ugly were phones then.... Sheesh!!
  • Me and my friends were young teenagers when this came out, this was the time before a lot of us had cellphones and we were all about simple school game trends. Only the rich kids had these and the poor ones just had a gameboy, but it was more about the power than it was about what games you could play. I remember trying it when it was on display at my local game shop and it was so awkward to use, but the idea of having a cellphone that was meant for "serious" gaming was so amazing and earth shattering.
  • I'm going to make a confession...
    ...
    this was the only time I sided with a company other than Nokia.
    The N-Gage was just terrible and I didn't see a reason to drop my Nintendo GameBoy Pocket (not even the Advance, mind you) for it. As a phone, Nokia had WAY better offerings. And as a gaming console, Nintendo had better offerings.
    Admittedly I'm not the sort of guy who likes to mix devices though.
    I don't listen to music on my phone, I have a dedicated music player (which happens to currently be my retired Z3 Compact but that's not the point). I don't handwrite notes on the Surface Pro 3, I use pen and paper. And I don't do mobile games on my phone, I have a dedicated phone for that.
    So everything was always against the N-Gage from my part. I never understood what Nokia was thinking, I still don't understand it. But Nokia is Nokia. They were and still are pretty much the only company bold enough to take these sort of risks. And unlike a certain courageous fruit company, these bold moves by Nokia were never about taking things from devices...they were about putting even more things in devices. In the case of the N-Gage, it was too much. Of course, Nokia would still go one step crazier the year after with the Nokia 7280.
    But let's not even talk about that one...
  • Good lord! Wtf is that 7280!? That might be the craziest design from Nokia.
  • I wanted one badly as well too, lol. I just kept passing it up. I had a few Nokia phones. My favorite being the Nokia 3650, lol. Ahh, those were the days!
  • I had the N-Gage QD.. with a good number of games.. it was just one of the best phones.. still miss the days where we would compete against each other using Bluetooth.. the only problem was that the N-Gage QD was mono when it came to sound and music!!
    Fav Game: Tony Hawk (can't remember the whole name)
  • N-gage QD was my first phone...and i liked it lot......i used to play whole night....WWE,Asphalt,FIFA etc
  • I love this phone endlessly...
    Only thing missing(at that time) was a camera.
    I bought it from cingular(at&t) , an as for the games, I got them all on a cd from ebay, plus load of apps and movies, wallpapers. My favorite game was worms.
    Then got into business life, so I got a Samsung blackjack ...... :(