Where the heck are all the phones?
Published by Tzer2 at 10:36 UTC, September 13th 2007
All About N-Gage ponders why Nokia has excluded most technically compatible phones from its list of Next Gen N-Gage compatible models.
Where the heck are all the phones?
Until the Go Play event on the 29th of August, Nokia had completely avoided ever actually saying exactly which phones would be compatible with the Next Gen N-Gage platform.
At the event, here's what they announced: the Nokia N73, N81, N81 8GB, N93, N93i, N95, N95 8GB.
Seven phones in all:
These phones are all officially compatible with Next Gen N-Gage games
But here's the odd thing, there seems to be no technical reason for these seven to have been chosen while other compatible phones with similar specifications have been left out. The N73 is the oldest phone on the list, and has the weakest hardware. There are quite a few phones released after the N73 which (from a technical point of view) could also run Next Gen N-Gage games, yet are not officially compatible.
In fact there are nineteen Nokia phones which use the same Symbian S60 3rd Edition software platform, with the same screen resolution, and with the same or better hardware than the N73.
Why the heck is Nokia allowing only seven of the nineteen below to work with the games?
These phones are all technically good enough to run Next Gen N-Gage games, but Nokia has excluded most of them from the compatibility list.
So, why are so many owners of technically compatible phones being shut out of Next Gen N-Gage?
Well, for the Eseries devices, perhaps Nokia is worried that making them compatible with a gaming service could damage the Eseries brand's business-oriented image, although Nokia's quite happy to sell these models to ordinary people (and it seems a lot of ordinary people are happy to buy them). That would rule out the E50, E61, E61i, and E65, but that still leaves fifteen phones:
With Eseries gone...
Then, perhaps someone at Nokia thought that for the sake of reliability they ought to thoroughly test the platform only on the most popular existing models. That would rule out the N77 and N92 which have only had a limited release due to the slower-than-expected roll-out of DVB-H mobile television services (these two models have DVB-H compatible television receivers). This leaves us with thirteen phones:
With Eseries and DVB-H phones gone...
So what's the excuse for six of these phones not being able to use Next Gen N-Gage? They have the hardware, they run the same S60 platform, they're intended for consumers, and they've been released properly, what's the problem?
The most baffling phone to leave out is the 6120 Classic which has become a surprise hit for Nokia. All About N-Gage's sister site All About Symbian has consistently had huge numbers of visitors to its 6120 Classic review months after its publication, and even the preview unboxing article drew an incredible amount of attention. It's had excellent reviews, it's launched for a very low price, there's a lot of public interest, and it seems very possible that the 6120 Classic could become the best-selling smartphone in the world.
If it's destined to sell millions or even tens of millions, why is the 6120 Classic being excluded from Next Gen N-Gage?
Is this about internal politics?
One reason for its exclusion might be that the 6120 Classic isn't an Nseries phone, and neither are most of the other phones being excluded. Nseries is a Nokia "sub-brand" given to their more expensive smartphone models, but it is not technically separate from their normal numbered smartphones such as the 6120 or 6110. They all run Symbian S60 3rd Edition, and from a computing point of view a numbered Nokia smartphone is no different to an Nseries Nokia smartphone. In fact they even have similar hardware, with the cheap-as-chips 6120 Classic using a processor that's as fast as the much more expensive N95, and far faster than the ageing N73.
But... Nseries are made by Nokia's Multimedia division, who also developed the Next Gen N-Gage platform. The numbered Nokia smartphones are made by Nokia's Mobile Phones division, who have nothing to do with N-Gage. Is it possible that Nokia Multimedia doesn't want Nokia Mobile Phones to benefit from the Next Gen N-Gage platform? Or is Nokia Mobile Phones being snobbish about N-Gage because it's made by a "rival" division?
If internal company politics is behind the compatibility list, the irony is that all of these divisions are due to merge very shortly, as Nokia is putting all of its manufacturing into one Devices unit, with software development (such as the N-Gage platform) getting its own separate Services unit.
How different will the list look in a year's time?
To be fair to Nokia, they've never said that this list of seven compatible phones was the end of the story. In fact they've always said that the number of compatible phones will expand over time, that this list is just the beginning.
However, it's unclear whether they mean that the list will only expand as new S60 3rd Edition models are launched, or whether they intend to add more existing phone models to the compatibility list.
If they don't eventually add every possible phone though, it would be an odd business strategy to throw away potential customers for no real reason. Why not make every Nokia smartphone with suitable hardware compatible with the platform? What would be the downside of increasing the Next Gen N-Gage's userbase to its technical maximum?
How could it possibly harm Nokia or Next Gen N-Gage to make all technically compatible phones officially compatible?
"They restrict features to sell the more expensive models, don't they?"
The biggest mistake that Nokia's marketing department could make with N-Gage is if they think restricting availability of the Next Gen N-Gage platform is going to help them. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the games market.
It's logical if a manufacturer wants to restrict certain features to certain models to make them sell better, that's how a lot of manufacturing works. This makes sense if we're talking about features like cameras or GPS receivers or video editing software.
However, a gaming platform feature is totally different. For a gaming platform to succeed, it needs one thing above all else, which is as large a userbase as possible, as quickly as possible. The bigger a platform's userbase, the more games it gets, the more people want to get access to that platform, which makes the userbase even bigger. It's imperative to make a platform grow as fast as possible so that this virtuous circle can be brought to life.
If Nokia deliberately restricts the Next Gen N-Gage feature to a few select phones, it will actually diminish the value of the Next Gen N-Gage feature itself. Exclusivity is exactly the wrong approach when building a games platform, it's exactly the opposite of what should be done.
A still from Nokia's Next Gen N-Gage video at the Go Play event
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Categories: Comment, Hardware
I thought it was pretty obvious that only the latest nseries devices have the necessary 3d chip to play the new games. Saying all these devices have the same hardware is a blanket statement and shows that this was not a well-researched article.
As far as I know, N73 has no 3D hardware, and the whole N-Gage thing is now supposed to be about the distribution model, not hardware, right?
Anyway, it looks like Nokia is shooting itself in the foot again. Seen that before. Will see it again in the future, many many times.
N81 and N81 8GB don't have 3D chip either
Most of the phones have a 330mhz processor except the n73 which uses 220Mhz older ARM processor. It's no where near as fast...
The n73 is certainly is the odd one out and should be scrapped... If they focus on making games to be compatible with n73 then it will be nothing special. The other handsets are far more powerful.
Take off the N73 and I would perfectly content with the list, but as the N73 is included, that makes us doubt about all the other phones.
"I thought it was pretty obvious that only the latest nseries devices have the necessary 3d chip to play the new games. Saying all these devices have the same hardware is a blanket statement and shows that this was not a well-researched article."
Before you accuse articles of bad research, you might want to read them carefully yourself.
The whole starting point for my argument is that the N73 (an older phone with no 3D chip and a relatively slow CPU) is part of the Next Gen N-Gage platform. All of the phones I listed are as powerful or more powerful than the N73, so there's no technical reason for them to be excluded.
And as others have pointed out, the N81 doesn't have a 3D chip either.
"The n73 is certainly is the odd one out"
Well, this is why I wrote the article. I think Nokia has two choices for the Next Gen:
1. Go for as big a userbase as quickly as possible, so include all the S60 3rd Editions with a QVGA screen
2. Go for a slightly beefed up standard, so only include models with a 3D chip and/or a fast (300mhz+) processor.
Either of these routes would be logical, but Nokia have gone for a weird compromise by including the N73 but not including all the other S60 3rd Editions with similar specifications.
By the way, Next Gen N-Gage isn't a console, it's not some set-in-stone standard which will remain the same forever. It's much more like the PC gaming scene in terms of how the hardware will evolve.
PC games were originally written for 3.5 mhz machines with 640KB of RAM, but they gradually evolved over time to be written for 1 ghz systems with 512MB of RAM. When PC 3D cards first appeared, a few games used them as an optional extra, but gradually as 3D chips became standard the games started assuming they were there. Eventually PC games started to require a 3D card, even though 3D cards didn't exist when the PC standard was invented.
There were no set generations of PC, they just became a little faster with each new model, and had lots of new models, just like smartphones.
This is what I think will happen with Next Gen N-Gage, in a couple of years time all new S60 phone models will have 3D chips so all the new game releases will use 3D chips.
I'd say there were two possible reasons; one is that they think the ordinary non-technical punter in the street will simply think "This cheaper 6120 does these same N-Gage games, so one big less reason to shell out for an NSeries" - this possibility will put fear into the NSeries marketing dept, and the same logic will apply within NSeries, they will want to avoid possible cannibalisation of individual handset sales.
Second reason is they just haven't finished complete and thorough development and testing of the N-Gage software platform for all the other remaining handsets you mention. The LAST thing they will want is some rushed botch job done on N-Gage for a particular handset, and the huge negative press and image fallout for the brand that that will create.
Could it be though that the minimum spec is based on screen size? I think all those N series phonese have a larger screen. The 6120 is 2". I think the 6290 and the 5700 are 2.2". But the N73 and other N series phones are at least 2.4" right? I'm just thinking that the N-Gage plateform may have a minimum screen-size spec in order to play the games.
I would think that the reason is indeed that they have not yet fully tested the software etc. on all models. I think it is at least conceivable that we are all underestimating slightly how easy it is indeed just to slap the software on just any S60 3rd edition.
Another reason for excluding e.g./in particular the N75 FOR NOW could be marketing and carrier relationship related. Nokia is walking, to some extent, on egg shells here in the US.
The inclusion of N73 in my view actually gives us considerable hope that the platform would eventually extend at least most of N-Series and that they do want to have a very large user base.
However, the negative scenario is that they may indeed not include in the E-series or even non-N-Series S60 phones for product differentation reasons... Whether one could just grab the application and install it oneself is an interesting question of course.
"I'd say there were two possible reasons; one is that they think the ordinary non-technical punter in the street will simply think "This cheaper 6120 does these same N-Gage games, so one big less reason to shell out for an NSeries" - this possibility will put fear into the NSeries marketing dept, and the same logic will apply within NSeries, they will want to avoid possible cannibalisation of individual handset sales."
Well, that's why I wrote the last section of the article, to discuss the idea of feature exclusivity driving sales of higher end phones, and why this is mistaken when it comes to gaming.
Yes, manufacturers do tend to artificially put advanced features in their more expensive models, and it works if you have extras like high res cameras or built-in photo editing software, which are appealing even when small numbers of people buy them. But that's entirely the wrong approach for a gaming platform feature.
Gaming as a feature loses its attraction when its userbase is smaller than it should be. For gaming to be an attractive feature in ANY phone, Nseries or otherwise, it has to have as big a userbase as possible in order to attract both third party software support and an online gamer population.
If the 6120 alone was added to the platform for example, that would probably bring more to the userbase than the original gen N-Gage ever had.
"Second reason is they just haven't finished complete and thorough development and testing of the N-Gage software platform for all the other remaining handsets you mention."
That's a very good point, and I certainly hope that's true. For the sake of the N-Gage platform I hope that my entire article will be proved wrong, and Nokia announce before the launch that a few more handsets are now tested and certified compatible.
Some Nokia people have certainly dropped hints that this might be the case, they keep emphasising that the list will grow in the future, and that it only includes Nseries "for the moment".
"The LAST thing they will want is some rushed botch job done on N-Gage for a particular handset, and the huge negative press and image fallout for the brand that that will create."
I totally 100% agree, the first N-Gage was an example of how not to launch a new gaming platform partly because the exclusive written-for-ngage games and multiplayer online just weren't ready yet. They were great when they arrived, Pathway To Glory got brilliant reviews for example, but by then no one was paying attention to N-Gage any more. If the original N-Gage had launched with PTG, Pocket Kingdom, System Rush, High Seize etc people would have seen the system's real strengths.
I'm sure the delays (Next Gen was originally meant to launch in 2006, and they first unveiled the concept way back in 2005) have been to get this absolutely right.
I'm just puzzled why they didn't have time to test more than the seven phones they did. Even if we go by the sticking-to-Nseries theory, why isn't the N76 included in the platform?
"Could it be though that the minimum spec is based on screen size? I think all those N series phonese have a larger screen. The 6120 is 2". I think the 6290 and the 5700 are 2.2". But the N73 and other N series phones are at least 2.4" right?"
Very very interesting idea, hadn't thought of that at all, the screens of most of the excluded phones are indeed slightly smaller!
From a technical point of view the software only cares about is the resolution, not the physical screen size, so this shouldn't be a technical barrier, although it might be a human barrier if people can't see the text properly.
This depends on the person, but I played games quite a lot on the 6120 when I had it for review and the screen is okay for gaming, I got quite addicted to City Bloxx on that phone. The 6290, 5700 and 6110 have even bigger screens than the 6120 and I'd say they are all definitely big enough for gaming, but that's just my opinion.
It still wouldn't explain the lack of N76 compatibility, it has a 2.4" screen, but in general this is a very interesting theory.
"The inclusion of N73 in my view actually gives us considerable hope that the platform would eventually extend at least most of N-Series and that they do want to have a very large user base."
Yes, I agree, and that's probably why they used the N73 as the reference hardware for game developers. By using a lower spec S60 3rd Edition device, it gave them a broad range of models to include in the platform, it left all their options open for making Next Gen N-Gage very big very quickly.
I just wish that they'd actually use these options! :-)
Although E90 is considered a business smartphone, Nokia did publish Global Race game for it. Why it should then exclude E-series (particularly E90) from Next Gaming Platform is not quite clear.
"Although E90 is considered a business smartphone, Nokia did publish Global Race game for it. Why it should then exclude E-series (particularly E90) from Next Gaming Platform is not quite clear."
Another good point. It's very odd that they published Global Race exclusively for E90 and included 3D graphics hardware on the E90 if they don't intend to allow people to use it for the Next Gen Games. What is the graphics chip there for if not for gaming? It can be used for TV Out as well, but E90 doesn't have TV Out.
And as you say, if they allow E90 why not allow all the Eseries?
They wouldn't have to advertise Eseries being compatible, they could just quietly mention in a spec page somewhere that the N-Gage app is compatible with Eseries, just like S60 games are.
i think that nokia is only just being very careful about what they do. They dont want anything to go technically wrong. Of cause there is no reason why other 3rd edition phones should be excluded. Especially e90. But then the games can also be different from hardware chipped phones to n73 the difference in processors and e61's screen orientation. IMO they are just in the labs. It's a great article. Hope that nokia reads it. And the comments:)
AFAIK, N73 does NOT have a 3D chip. Oh and unregistered, stop trying to be so cool.
"Another good point. It's very odd that they published Global Race exclusively for E90 and included 3D graphics hardware on the E90 if they don't intend to allow people to use it for the Next Gen Games. What is the graphics chip there for if not for gaming? It can be used for TV Out as well, but E90 doesn't have TV Out."
I have to agree! I mean the E90 has the graphics chip, the top of the line prossesor, the angle adjustible (not to mention GINORMOUS) internal screen and qwerty keyboard - allowing for easy gaming (you do have to get used to the directional buttons being on the opposite side for gaming than usual, but still)!
All these charactersitics make the E90 all, but ideal for playing games, and thus the next gen n-gage games platform and yet... I truely hope that it being a business phone is the reason that Nokia arn't officially saying that it's compatible even though it is, otherwise I'll be truley pissed!!
PS: Is there any reason you decided not to include the E90 in your initial list of passed over phones?
"PS: Is there any reason you decided not to include the E90 in your initial list of passed over phones?"
I did seriously think about including it, but it seemed that the unusual resolution of the main screen might look a bit odd with QVGA games, and all the next gen games are being written with QVGA in mind. Games could run at QVGA with a black border round them of course, and I'm sure many E90 gamers could put up with that, but others would think that it look cheap. The E90 does have a QVGA screen on the outside too, but I thought that might be rather small (although I haven't had a chance to try it out in real life, so this may just be my own prejudice).
Having said that, the Global Race driving game included with the E90 is a textbook example of how an S60/N-Gage game can be made compatible with a wide range of resolutions. The horizontal mode works fine on the N93 and N95 despite them having a much narrower screen, as the game automatically moves the status displays nearer to the centre. The dials are a bit too large on a QVGA screen, but that's easy to cure by just making them a bit smaller.
So Next Gen N-Gage games COULD be written for both QVGA and the E90's internal screen, there's nothing to stop that happening from a technical point of view. However, that would make game development more expensive and time consuming, and it may put some publishers off supporting the platform.
If the platform takes off though, and especially if we see some more popular devices with the same internal screen resolution as the E90, then there may be enough of a market for game publishers to take the E90's screen into account.
Like it or not the N73 still rules to this day. Some months ago the N73 was like the best phone eva and now it ranted on because its on Nokia's N-Gage list and your new uber N75 is not :P...One word...N73 is STILL popular...get it...stop your whineing ....maybe Nokia (and im sure they will) add more phones as time goes by...good things come to those who wait. And one more thing...N73 is not a slouch when it comes to symbian games :P...Brothers in arms, Asphalt 2..they rock on it...and some ppl say the pics are better than the N95 5MP uberass camera...pics not vids...rant off.
I think that they dont`t put newer and cheaper models on the commpatible list because they want to sell older models (like N73). Maybe they will publish that models like 5700, 6120 are commpatible, too. (I hope so)
Or maybe it´s that all commpatible devices supports 262...colors.
I'm pretty sure that Nokia knows what they're saying before they announce anything. I believe that the N73 can handle the Next Gen N-Gage graphics. Of course, it is obvious that they tried all these Symbian phones back in the labs. So far, they have only announced 7 devices, leaving the other Symbian users in anticipation (probably a marketing scheme). We'll just have to wait for Nokia to announce the full list of compatible devices. Shall we?
Well i dunno about 3d graphics ,... but my 5700 does have a 369 mhz processor but no graphics chip and boy ,... DOES GLOBAL RACE SUK ON MY FONE !!!. . . it's damn slow but the graphic clarity and display is good , it runs at about 1 fps as compared to the 12-15 fps i got from some benchmark program which tested a helicopter secne( i dont' remember the name ) so guys , tell me whether ngage is an gaming system exclusivelyfor NGAGE fones ???or can my 5700(v3.27) play it ???
Of the 4 only N81 and N81 8GB are supported now, but in their Ngage site it says that N73 and N93 supports are coming soon. Also, if you go to the official Nokia 5310 site, it says in the specifications that it supports Ngage as well. You should know that none of these devices have 3D chip in them. What, Nokia's just going to scrape them all off the list when they finish with the new phones and the new Ngage games?
Oh, and I KNOW for sure that 5700 has the power to run current Ngage games. I have one, too and I've played the full Asphalt 3:SR with no problem whatsoever. In the trial of Creatures of the Deep, it also runs well. I just did a few tinkering to make the N95 Ngage version work with 5700 no problem.
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