Published by Tzer2 at 17:02 UTC, September 30th 2007
The Next Gen N-Gage platform runs on some of Nokia's most popular smartphones, but they're also fairly pricey. All About N-Gage looks at the options for people who want to try the Next Gen platform but can't afford a Next Gen phone.
One of the criticisms levelled at the Next Gen N-Gage platform by users of the first gen N-Gage is that it seems awfully expensive.
At the end of its lifetime, the N-Gage QD was available new and unlocked for about €100 to €150, whereas the cheapest Next Gen compatible phone is the N73, which still retails for about €300 to €400 new and unlocked. The other Next Gen phones announced so far (N93, N93i, N95, N95 8GB, N81, N81 8GB) are even more expensive, costing up to €700.
However, this isn't quite fair. The original N-Gage launched in 2003 at about €300, the same price as an N73 at the Next Gen N-Gage launch in 2007. The QD launched at about €200 to €250 in 2004. It was only after sustained disappointing sales that the price of the N-Gage and QD were dropped to their lowest levels, but this part of the story seems to have been forgotten by many people.
In contrast, the phones selected for the Next Gen platform have had very good sales. The N73 and N95 are two of the best-selling smartphones ever made, and Nokia's inclusion of the N73 on the platform was no doubt partly because of the huge contribution it would make to the Next Gen N-Gage userbase. Because these phones are selling well, their prices are unlikely to drop very quickly, but (perhaps counter-intuitively) this is a good sign for the Next Gen platform because phones that sell well mean more people buying the games, which means more support from third party publishers.
However, the bottom line is that a lot of people are interested in Next Gen N-Gage who cannot afford to buy a compatible phone to try the platform. What are the options if you're in this position?
Perhaps the largest second-hand phone market in the world is eBay, and because it has so many sellers and buyers, it also gives us a general idea of what kind of second-hand price you could expect to pay for particular phone models. The cheapest Next Gen phone is the N73, as it is the oldest model and also has the lowest specifications. By checking the Completed Auctions section of eBay UK, we can see that an unlocked (sim-free) N73 goes for about £100 on average, which is about €140 or US$200.
€140 is well within the budget of anyone who bought the original N-Gage or QD, even when they were on special offer, although it's worth bearing in mind that a used phone usually comes with no guarantee and you can't take it back if something does wrong a few months down the line. You also have to be careful who you trust on eBay, some sellers will take your money and never send you anything, or they'll send you something faulty. It's important that you read the eBay item description carefully. If you want an unlocked phone, make sure that the description actually says unlocked or sim-free.
Another scam to beware of is the sale of stolen phones, which are physically in working condition but which cannot be used on any phone network because the police have blocked that phone's network access. Some sellers may even sell their own phone, then report it stolen so they can claim on their insurance policy, which means the phone would work at first and then be blocked later on. The best way to avoid these scams is to only deal with sellers that have a good reputation (both high feedback score and high percentage of positive feedback). If a bargain looks too good to be true then it almost certainly isn't real.
If you live in a part of the world where sim-free phones are commonly sold in real life shops, it's well worth looking our for any special bargains. This correspondent managed to get a 30% reduction during a one-day phone sale advertised in a newspaper. Sales advertisements may frequently mention offers on particular models, so keep an eye out for N73s in particular as they're the most likely to get a rock bottom price due to their age.
Online stores are even easier to compare and there are many shopping comparison sites on the internet which let you look at all the current prices of particular items in many different shops at once. This writer uses a service here in Finland from MBnet, which shows the price of a new N73 in Finnish online stores currently varies between €353 and €469 depending on where you buy it: the same unlocked phone with the same 2 year guarantee, but a price difference of over €100.
If you can't afford a Next Gen N-Gage phone at the November launch, there's lots of good reasons for waiting, and these are the same reasons that apply to any games platform:
- If you wait, the hardware will be substantially cheaper with fewer bugs. There will probably also be more hardware versions to choose from, with the older versions at an even cheaper price.
- If you wait, there will be far more games to choose from.
- If you wait, you can get a better idea if the platform is right for you.
This time next year, the N73 on eBay may well cost closer to €100, which is less than the price of any portable gaming system. If you're an original N-Gager who can't afford a Next Gen N-Gage phone right now, things will get a lot easier in a year's time.
The process of manufacturing Symbian-compatible smartphones has recently been simplified and now uses fewer separate microchips, which makes the phones smaller, lighter and cheaper to make. The Next Gen N-Gage compatible smartphones are all based on Symbian, so from a technical point of view it's now possible to make lower price Next Gen N-Gage compatible models. Many of the models such as the N95 and N93 are very expensive, but the high price seems to come from the extra hardware such as their very high quality cameras and GPS receivers. If these extras are left out, the computing part of the phone doesn't actually cost that much to manufacture any more.
The Nokia 6120 Classic smartphone was recently launched for a very low price indeed, just €250 unlocked (plus taxes). Although it's not N-Gage compatible yet, Nokia could easily make it compatible by a simple software update if they wanted to, as the 6120 uses the same S60 3rd Edition software platform as N-Gage compatible phones. Alternatively, Nokia might introduce further lower-priced models that are N-Gage compatible from the very beginning, perhaps using the Nseries brand.