As phone companies, led willfully by Nokia, thrust as much additional cool stuff as they can into their hybrid phones, the point of N-Gage QD is both brilliant and mind-numbingly bewildering. Brilliant because it costs just Rs 11,599 and allows you to hook up via a Bluetooth or GPRS link to N-Gage Arena (http://arena.n-gage.com), where you can hurl yourself into multi-player game sweepstakes with people anywhere in the world, or auto-detect and engage with other N-Gage users 10 metres away (what are the chances).
Bewildering, because - why in hell would you want to do all of that on a screen the size of a cream cracker Even the resolution of the screen leaves huge amounts to be desired.
To be fair, though, that games such as these have been created (and played via nifty memory cards which slip into the phones side) for a platform such as N-Gage says something in itself.
Nokia sent us three games with the test phone, the best of which was Ashen - a 3D shoot out, not unlike Doom or Rise of the Triad. You can buy more games directly from Nokia. One wishes, however, that Nokia could have gone that extra mile to add a tiny woofer to the phone for audio bass - the tiny speaker is a little irksome.
Ok, now about the phone. The phone is a gizmo, one of those things youre meant to grow out of - its functionality takes a while to get used to, and itll probably be about an hour before youve re-oriented yourself to the new menu systems and icons, but its all there.
Theres a full-blown e-mail client, which is rather useful, and an integrated message centre, and a Web browser, now a norm with most phones. The MP3 player application is fairly cool, but without the headset, theres no real point.
One up, however, is the phones price. For under Rs 12,000, you get a very functional phone, and if you travel frequently (and like games) it may fit into your life. However, its bulky to talk directly on, so chances are youll need to get used to the headset.
The phone weighs 137g and is lateral built - and the test specimen Nokia sent us had a copper fascia which was truly awful, with those synthetic 3315 buttons that squeak at the touch. The 4,096 colour screen performed well on games, but got a little jumpy in one of the Spider-man game sequences. The phone has external hot-swap MMC cards for games and additional memory - a true bonus.
We reiterate, the N-Gage compels you to get used to it, and thats not always good in a phone. This is a hybrid - dont buy it if youre looking for a slick mobile phone - settle for an unfussy colour Nokia, now flying off shelves for under Rs 9,000. But if youve got the inclination and time, and want to play professional online golf with your old Filipino buddy, its cheap at the price and has everything the other Nokias have. We think they should have just bunged in a camera for good measure.